Siyam in Arabic means abstaining. Termly, it means abstaining from things that break the fast, from dawn until sunset, having first made the intention (niyyah) to fast.
The Muslim Ummah is agreed that fasting the month of Ramadan is obligatory, the evidence for which is in the Qur’an and Sunnah. Allah says:
O you who believe! Observing al-sawn (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become al-muttaqûn (the pious).” (Al-Baqarah 2:183)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Islam is built on five [pillars]…” among which he mentioned fasting in Ramadan. (Al-Bukhari). Whoever breaks the fast during Ramadan without a legitimate excuse has committed a serious major sin, The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, describing a dream that he had seen:
“… until I was at the mountain, where I heard loud voices. I asked, ‘What are these voices?’ They said, ‘This is the howling of the people of Hellfire.’ Then I was taken [to another place], and I saw people hanging from their hamstrings, with the corners of their mouths torn and dripping with blood. I said, ‘Who are these?’ They said, ‘The people who broke their fast before it was the proper time to do so,’ i.e., before the time of iftar.” (Sahih At-Targhib)
Al-Hafiz al-Dhahabi (may Allah have mercy on him) said,
“It is well-established among the believers that whoever does not fast in Ramadan without a valid excuse is worse than an adulterer or drunkard; they doubt whether he is even a Muslim at all, and they regard him as a heretic and profligate.”
The Virtues of Fasting
The virtues of fasting are great indeed, and one of the things reported in the authentic hadiths is that Allah has chosen fasting for Himself, and He will reward it and multiply the reward without measure, as He says [in the hadith qudsi]:“Except for fasting which is only for My sake, and I will reward him for it.” (Al-Bukhari).
– Fasting has no equal (An-Nisa’i), and the du`a’ of the fasting person will not be refused (Al-Bayhaqi).
– The fasting person has two moments of joy: one when he breaks his fast and one when he meets his Lord and rejoices over his fasting (Muslim).
– Fasting will intercede for a person on the Day of Judgment, and will say, “O Lord, I prevented him from his food and physical desires during the day, so let me intercede for him.” (Ahmad).
– The smell that comes from the mouth of a fasting person is better with Allah than the scent of musk. (Muslim).
– Fasting is a protection and a strong fortress that keeps a person safe from the Fire. (Ahmad).
– Whoever fasts one day for the sake of Allah, Allah will remove his face seventy years’ distance from the Fire. (Muslim).
– Whoever fasts one day seeking the pleasure of Allah, if that is the last day of his life, he will enter Paradise. (Ahmad).
– In Paradise there is a gate called Ar-Rayyan, through which those who fast will enter, and no one will enter it except them; when they have entered it will be locked, and no-one else will enter through it.” (Al-Bukhari).
– Ramadan is extremely significant in Islam; the Qur’an was revealed in this month, and in it there is a night that is better than a thousand months. “When Ramadan begins, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are put in chains.” (Al-Bukhari).
– Fasting Ramadan is equivalent to fasting ten months (Ahmad). “Whoever fasts Ramadan out of faith and with the hope of reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Al-Bukhari).
– At the breaking of every fast, Allah will choose people to free from Hellfire. (Ahmad).
The Benefits of Fasting
There is much wisdom and many benefits in fasting, which have to do with the taqwa mentioned by Allah in the ayah:
… that you may become pious. (Al-Baqarah 2:183)
The interpretation of this is that if a person refrains from permissible things hoping to earn the pleasure of Allah and out of fear of His punishment, it will be easier for him to refrain from doing the impermissible things.
If a person’s stomach is hungry, this will keep many of his other faculties from feeling hunger or desires; but if his stomach is satisfied, his tongue, eye, hand and private parts will start to feel hungry. Fasting leads to the defeat of Shaytan; it controls desires and protects one’s faculties.
When the fasting person feels the pangs of hunger, he experiences how the poor feel, so he has compassion towards them and gives them something to ward off their hunger. Hearing about them is not the same as sharing their suffering, just as a rider does not understand the hardship of walking unless he gets down and walks.
Fasting trains the will to avoid desires and keep away from sin; it helps a person to overcome his own nature and to wean himself away from his habits. It also trains a person to get used to being organized and punctual, which will solve the problem that many people have of being disorganized, if only they realized.
Fasting is also a demonstration of the unity of the Muslims, as the Muslim ummah fasts and breaks its fast at the same time.
Fasting also provides a great opportunity for those who are calling others to Allah. In this month many people come to the mosque who are coming for the first time, or who have not been to the mosque for a long time, and their hearts are open, so we must make the most of this opportunity by preaching in a gentle manner, teaching appropriate lessons and speaking beneficial words, whilst co-operating in righteousness and good deeds. The dai’yah should not be so preoccupied with others that he forgets his own soul and becomes like a wick that lights the way for others while it is itself consumed.
Source: Taken from the author’s Rulings Pertaining to Ramadan.