The Meaning of Fasting in Islam and the People Exempted from Fasting

Fasting is the abstinence from eating, drinking, sex and other pleasurable activities from dawn to dusk in devotion and supplication to Allah.

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In this post, we shall examine the meaning of fasting in Islam, its types, the benefits of fasting, and finally, the categories of people exempted from fasting during Ramadan. So, at the end of this lesson, you are expected to be able to:

  • define fasting;
  • state the types of fasting;
  • mention the benefits of fasting; and
  • identify the set of people exempted from fasting during Ramadan.

What is fasting?

Fasting is the abstinence from eating, drinking, sex and other pleasurable activities from dawn to dusk in devotion and supplication to Allah (SWT). Fasting, otherwise known as Sawm, is one of the five cardinal pillars of Islam. The others are faith (Iman), prayer (Solat), charity (Zakat), and pilgrimage (Hajj).

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Muslim faithful usually abstain from pleasurable activities as stipulated by the Qur’an from the period of Fajr prayer to the time of Maghrib prayer.

What are the types of fasting?

There are basically two types of fasting in Islam. This categorisation is done on the basis of the compulsion. The two types are obligatory fasting and voluntary fasting.

Image Credit: Florentina Tilvic on Unsplash.

The obligatory fasting is the one made compulsory for all Muslims to observe during the glorious month of Ramadan of the Islamic Lunar Calendar. Allah has commanded Muslims to fast during the blessed month of Ramadan. The length of Ramadan fasting is usually between twenty-nine and thirty days.

The voluntary fasting is non-obligatory in that there are no consequences if one chooses not to observe them. It is only recommended and is usually in line with the deeds and actions of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). For example, it is the sunnah of the Holy Prophet to fast on Mondays and Thursdays. While it is recommended to imbibe this practice, there is no compulsion about it.

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What are the benefits of fasting?

  1. Fasting allows rich Muslims to feel what the poor Muslims in the society are feeling. It places both the rich and the poor on the pedestal of equality.
  2. The fasting period is one when even the rich give to the poor. There is a lot of giving and material exchanges between the rich and the poor during fasting and through Zakat Fitri.
  3. Fasting allows for the remission of sins.
  4. It is also a time to ask for Allah’s blessings, mercy and favour.
  5. Fasting also has health benefit. Within the stipulated fasting period of Ramadan, a Muslim is free from the excesses of overweight, overeating, etc.
  6. Fasting allows for the purification of soul and brings man closer to his Maker.

Who are the people exempted from fasting during Ramadan?

While Allah has made Ramadan fasting compulsory for Muslims, there are some categories of people exempted from fasting. The following are the people exempted from fasting:

  1. Menstruating women
  2. Extremely aged person
  3. A traveller on a long journey
  4. A critically sick person
  5. A nursing mother
  6. A pregnant woman
  7. A mentally ill person.

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