Fast in History
Since the dawn of history, man did not find any means better than fast to ascend above yielding to his desires and worldly wishes, attain spiritual upliftment, return to spirituality, and renounce contemptible habits to which he became addicted and which led him to perdition. Divinely revealed creeds, non-Muslim societies and former nations have been familiar with the fast. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese and other nations knew and practiced fast for various reasons. Many still do even today. The Greeks came to know about fast and its merits from ancient Egyptians. They used to fast immediately before engaging in a war. The Romans emulated the Greeks not only in mythology, but also in observing the fast, especially when they were attacked, in order to gain victory. They believed that fast strengthened them and taught them patience and perseverance, two prerequisites required to win the battle against internal temptations and external dangers. Ancient Chinese, too, incorporated fast into their doctrines and prescribed it for those who were passing through periods of trials and tribulations. For centuries, Hindus and Buddhists have been observing a somehow more rigid form of fast. Jews and Christians observe certain types of fast. Moses, peace be upon him, observed the fast for forty days at Mount Sinai; see Exodus 24:18. During that period, he was granted the heavy responsibilities embedded in the Ten Commandments. He was commanded in the Torah to fast the tenth day of the seventh month and the ninth of the eighth. Jews used to (and some still do) fast during times of grief and mourning and when exposed to danger. They were also accustomed to fast one day as an act of atonement and whenever they believed that God was angry with them. Nowadays, they fast one week to commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of Nebuchadnezar II (605-562 B.C.) son of Nabopolassar, founder of the Chaldean or Neo-Babylonian empire, on March 16, 597 B.C. They observe fast on other days, too. Jesus of Nazareth (6 B.C.- 30 A.D.), peace be upon him and his virgin mother Mary daughter of Imran (Amram), was reported to have observed the fast on the day of atonement. He and his disciples fasted the forty days observed by Moses before him; see Matthew 4:2. This set the precedence for the pre-Easter fast among some Christians. Other Christian theologians started other types of fast during which they do not eat meat, fish, or eggs.
Name and Derivation
Allah Almighty has said, "Surely the number of months with Allah is twelve in Allah's ordinance since the day He created the heavens and the earth, of these four are sacred; that is the right reckoning; therefore, do not be unjust to your own selves regarding them (Holy Qur'an, 9:36)." These are the lunar months upon the reckoning of which does a Muslim in the east of the earth or the west rely; chronologically arranged, they are as follows: 1) Muharram, 2) Safar, 3) Rabi' I, 4) Rabi' II, S) Jumada I, 6) Jumada II, 7) Rajab, 8) Sha'ban, 9) the month of Ramadan, 10) Shawwal, 11) Thul-Qi'da, and 12) Thul-Hijja. According to astronomy, the lunar calendar cannot be less than 29 days, nor can it be more than 30. It may once be 29 days and another 30, and its average is 29 days and 12 hours and five minutes. The beginning of each lunar month is recognized by the sighting of the new moon, the crescent. The Almighty says, "They ask you concerning the new moons. Say: They are times appointed for the benefit of men, and for the pilgrimage" (Holy Qur'an, 2:189).
In this verse, the Almighty has explained to us how to calculate and determine time by mentioning the word ahilla, which is the plural of the Arabic singular hilal, crescent, when it becomes visible to the naked eye. These crescents set the time for people and help them determine when the pilgrimage is to be performed.
Fast of the month of Ramadan
The lunar calendar of Islam brings the fast of the month of Ramadan eleven days earlier every year. Thus, in a cycle of about thirty-three years, it passes through all the seasons successively. Fast was first prescribed on the second of Sha'ban in the second year of Hijrah (the migration of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his progeny, from Mecca to Medina, corresponding to 622 A.D.).
On p. 59, of al-Saduq's Amali (or Majalis), the faqih mentor and author quotes Ja'fer ibn Ali ibn al-Hassan ibn Ali ibn Abdullah ibn al-Mughirah al-Kufi as saying that his grandfather al-Hassan ibn Ali quotes his grandfather Abdullah ibn al-MugIurah quoting Isma'eel ibn Abu Ziyad quoting Abu Abdullah Imam Ja'fer ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq (as) citing his forefathers, peace be upon all of them, saying that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh)' once asked his companions,
Shall I tell you about something which, if you do it, will distance you from Satan as much as the distance between the east and the west?" They said, "O yes! Please do so," whereupon he (pbuh) said, "It is fast. It darkens his [Satan's] face, while charity breaks his back and the love for Allah's sake and assisting others in doing good deeds cut off his tail and seeking Allah's forgiveness splits his spine. For everything there is a zakat (purification), and the zakat of the bodies is fast.
Fast of the month of Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam. The Arabic word shahr is used for a month due to its being mushtahir, well-known or famous, that is, the knowledge thereof reaches all people, as we are told by Imam Ibn Manzoor, author of Lisan al-Arab on p. 432, Vol. 4. Such knowledge can be attained by sighting its crescent. As to the reason why it has been called the month of Ramadan, it is due to the fact that the Arabs gave the names of the months according to the times during which they occurred, and to the fact that it so happened that the month of Ramadan coincided with the parching days of the summer. Its root word ramd, as the same author tells us on pp. 160-161, Vol. 7, of the same lexicon, means to burn due to excessive sun-heat reflected on the desert sands. The ramda is the burning rock. This is why it was called the month of Ramadan. One may say in Arabic that a man's feet were burnt due to the heat, so he became ramad. It is also said that it was called the month of Ramadan because people become ramad due to their suffering from the combination of hunger and thirst during a very hot month. Arab linguists say that to make something armad is to squeeze it between two soft rocks then to pound it. A person fasting, by analogy, pounds his own nature between two rocks: hunger and thirst.
According to one of his numerous traditions, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is quoted saying, "The month of Ramadan was named so because it tends to ramad the sins, that is, burn them." The righteous at the dawn of Islam used to call it al-midmar, meaning that it emaciates the souls and bodies and helps them get rid of the excesses of evils and sins whereby the souls and bodies were laden. During the life-time of the Prophet (pbuh), the blessed month of Ramadan used to be called al-marzooq, the one full of sustenance, due to the abundance of the blessings of Allah whereby His servants are sustained during it.
In a letter he sent to Jarrah al-Madayini, Muhammad ibn Ya'qub cites Imam Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq (as) saying,
Fast is not only to abstain from eating and drinking. Then the Imam (as) quoted Mary (as) mother of Christ (as), as the Holy Qur'an tells us, saying that she had vowed a fast for the Most Merciful One. The Imam (as) continued to say, "When you fast, you should safeguard your tongues, lower your gaze, and you should neither dispute with nor envy one another.
This is recorded on p. 351, Vol. 94, of Bihar al-Anwar. The Imam (as) is also quoted in the same and following page of the said reference saying,
When you fast, let your hearing and vision abstain with you from anything unlawful, against everything ugly, and leave hypocrisy aside, and do not harm those who serve you. Rather, adorn yourself with the dignity of the fast, and do not make your fasting day any different from the day when you do not fast.
The Niyyat (Intention) to Fast
When the crescent is sighted in your area or country, a niyyat, that is, a silent declaration of intention, should be made to fast during this sacred month to attain nearness to Allah (wajib qurbatan ila-Allah). Just like the five daily prayers, the niyyat of fast is obligatory and mental, and so is the case of every deed according to Islam.
Significance of the month of Ramadan and its Fast
On p. 64, Vol. 2, of Safeenat al-Bihar, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) is quoted saying that Allah Almighty has charged a group of His angels with the task of supplicating for those who observe the fast. On the same page of the same reference, Imam Ja'fer al-Sadiq (as) is quoted saying that if a person fasts during a hot day, and he suffers from thirst, Allah will assign a thousand angels to wipe his face and convey to him glad tidings, and when he breaks his fast, Allah, the most Exalted, the most Glorified, addresses him with these words, "How sweet your smell and soul are! O My angels! Bear witness that I have forgiven him." On page 96 of Thawab al-A'mal wa 'Iqab al- A'mal, and also on page 48 of his book Al-Amali (or pp. 29-32 of old editions), Shaikh Abu Ja'fer Muhammad ibn Ali ibn al-Husain ibn Babawayh al-Qummi al-Saduq (306-381 A.H.) quotes Muhammad Ibn Ibrahim al-Ma'athi saying that Ahmed ibn Jaylawayh al-Jurjani al- Muthakkar] quotes Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Bilal quoting Abu Muhammad quoting Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Kiram quoting Ahmed ibn Abdullah quoting Sufyan ibn 'Ayeenah quoting Mu'awiya ibn Abu Ishaq quoting Sa'eed ibn Jubayr saying,
I asked Ibn Abbas once about the reward of one who fasts during the month of Ramadan knowing its greatness. He said: 'O Ibn Jubayr! Get ready to listen to what your ears have never heard before, nor your heart has ever experienced, nor your soul has ever reckoned regarding that about which you have inquired! What you are seeking is the knowledge of the first generations and the last!
So I left him and prepared myself to meet him again. I returned to him at early daybreak. Having said the fajr prayers (together), I reminded him of the tradition which I had sought, so he turned his face to me and said,
Listen carefully to what I am going to tell you. I have heard the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) saying: 'Had you ever come to know about your rewards during the month of Ramadan, you would surely have thanked the Almighty a great deal more (than you usually do). When the first night is over, Allah, the Almighty and the Exalted One, forgives the sins committed by all members of my nation, the ones committed in secrecy and the ones committed in public, and He elevates your status two thousand degrees and builds you fifty towns in Paradise. On the next day, He rewards you for every step you take during that day with the rewards of one who adored Him for a full year and the reward of one of His prophets, and He will reward you as though you had performed the fast for a full year. On the third day, the Exalted and Dear One grants you a dome in Paradise for each hair on your body, a dome of a white pearl on top of which are twelve thousand light houses and at the bottom of which are twelve thousand houses in each one of which there are one thousand beds and on each bed of which there is a nymph (huri) with large lovely eyes, each served by one thousand servants the head-covering of each one of them is better than this world and everything in it. On the fifth day, He builds you in Paradise a million cities in each one of which there are seventy thousand houses, inside each one of which there are seventy thousand tables, and on each table there are seventy thousand bowls, and in each bowl there are sixty thousand types of food each one of which is different from the other. On the sixth day, He will grant you in the Abode of Peace a hundred thousand towns in each one of which there are a hundred thousand rooms, in each room there are a hundred thousand beds of gold the length of each is a thousand yards, and on each bed is a hun wife with large lovely eyes whose hair has thirty thousand locks braided with pearls and sapphires, and each lock is carried by a hundred concubines. On the seventh day, the Almighty grants you in the Garden of Bliss the rewards of forty thousand martyrs and forty thousand siddeeqs. On the eighth day, Allah Almighty grants you the rewards of the good deeds of sixty thousand worshippers and sixty thousand ascetics. On the ninth day, Allah, the Exalted One, gives you what is equal to what He gives a thousand scholars and a thousand devotees and a thousand warriors fighting for Allah in a foreign land. On the tenth day, He gives you the fulfillment of seventy thousand of your worldly wishes and orders the sun, the moon, the stars, the animals, the birds, the beasts, every rock and every rain-drop, everything wet and everything dry, all fish in the oceans and all leaves on the trees, to pray for your forgiveness. On the eleventh day, the Exalted and Mighty One grants you the rewards whereby He rewards one who performs the pilgrimage and 'umra four times and one who performs the pilgrimage with His prophets and the 'umra with every siddeeq or martyr. On the twelfth day, He takes upon Himself to replace your sins with good deeds, then He multiplies your good deeds many times and gives you the rewards of each of your good deeds a million times. On the thirteenth day, Allah Almighty grants you what He grants the devotees of Mecca and Medina and bestows upon you an intercession for each and every stone and rain drop between Mecca and Medina. On the fourteenth day, He treats you as though you had met and followed in the footsteps of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Solomon [peace be upon all of them], and as though you had worshipped the Almighty Allah in the company of His prophets for two hundred years. On the fifteenth day, He fulfills ten of your worldly wishes and those of the hereafter and grants you what He granted Job (as), then He orders the angels who bear the 'Arsh to pray for your forgiveness and grants you on the Day of Resurrection forty lights: ten on your right, ten on your left, ten before you and ten behind you. On the sixteenth day, the Almighty grants you sixty outfits to wear as soon as you abandon your grave and a she-camel to ride, and He will send a cloud to overshadow you to protect you from the heat of that Day. On the seventeenth day, the Almighty Allah says: 'I have forgiven them and their parents and exempted them from having to undergo the hardships of the Day of Resurrection.' On the eighteenth day, the Praised and Exalted One orders Gabriel, Michael and Israfil as well as the angels who bear the 'Arsh and all archangels to seek forgiveness for the nation of Muhammad (pbuh) till the next year, and He will also grant you on the Day of Resurrection whatever rewards He grants to those who participated in the Battle of Badr]. On the nineteenth day, all angels in the heavens and on earth will have already sought permission of their Lord to visit your graves and to bring you every day a present and a drink [as long as you remain in the barzakh]. So, if you complete your fast for twenty full days, the Almighty Allah sends you seventy thousand angels to protect you from every accursed devil, and He will have granted you for each day of your fast your rewards as though you fasted a hundred years, and He will set a ditch between you and hell and grant you the rewards of all those who recited the Torah, the Gospel, the Psalms and the Holy Qur'an, and will write for you for each feather on Gabriel the reward of a full year and will grant you the rewards of those who glorify Him at the 'Arsh and Kursi and will marry you to a thousand nymphs for each of the verses of the Qur'an. On the twenty-first day, the Almighty expands your grave a thousand parasangs and lifts the darkness and loneliness of your graves and makes your graves look like the graves of the martyrs and your faces like the face of Joseph son of Jacob (as). On the twenty second day, the Almighty dispatches the angel of death as He dispatches him to His prophets to remove your worldly worries and the torment of the hereafter. On the twenty third day, you will pass on the Straight Path in the company of the prophets, the first to follow the prophets, and the martyrs, as if you had fed each orphan and clothed everyone who needed to be clothed. On the twenty-fourth day, you will not leave this life before each one of you sees the place reserved for him or her in Paradise and is given the rewards of a thousand sick and a thousand who go back to their creed and will grant you the rewards of one who freed a thousand captives from the descendants of Ishmael (as). On the twenty-fifth day, Allah will have built you under His 'Arsh a thousand green domes on top of each one of which is a tent of light. The Almighty and Exalted One will then say: 'O followers of Muhammad! I am your Lord and you are My servants! Enjoy the shade of My 'Arsh in these domes and eat and drink with enjoyment, for there will be no fear on you, nor will you grieve. O nation of Muhammad! By My Dignity and Greatness! I shall dispatch you to Paradise in a way which will amaze the first generations and the last, and I shall crown each one of you with a thousand light crowns, and I shall provide for each one of you a she camel whose reins are made of light, and in it are a thousand gold rings, in each is an angel looking after it, in the hand of each angel is a light rod so that he may enter Paradise without a reckoning.' And on the twenty sixth day, Allah will look at you with compassion and will forgive all your sins except those of shedding innocent blood or robbing people's wealth, and He will grant you every day a thousand barriers against backbiting, lying and slandering. On the twenty-seventh day, He will consider you as though you had aided every believing man and woman and clothed seventy thousand naked persons and equipped a thousand soldiers to camp in a foreign land to defend Islam, and as if you have recited every book Allah has revealed to His prophets. On the twenty-eighth day, Allah will have built you in Paradise a hundred thousand light cities and granted you in the garden of bliss a hundred thousand silver mansions and a hundred thousand cities in each one of which there are a thousand rooms, and granted you in the garden of greatness a hundred thousand pulpits of musk inside each one of which there is a thousand saffron houses in each one of which there are a thousand beds of pearls and sapphires and on each bed a wife of the huns with large lovely eyes. So if you complete your fast till the twenty ninth day, the Almighty Allah will grant you a million quarters, inside each quarter is a white dome underneath which is a white camphor bed on which there are a thousand mattresses of green silk on each one of which there is a hun decorated with seventy thousand ornaments and crowned with eighty thousand locks each one of which is decorated with diamonds and sapphires. So if you finish thirty complete days of fast, the Almighty will have granted you for each day the rewards of a thousand martyrs and a thousand foremost believers in His Prophets, and He will have assigned for you the rewards of fifty years of adoration, and He will have decreed a clearance for you from hell and a passage on the Straight Path and a security against the torment. One of the gates of Paradise is called al-Rayyan, and it shall never be opened before the Day of Resurrection. It will be opened for those among the nation of Muhammad (pbuh) who performed the fast. Ridwan, custodian of Paradise, will call out saying: 'O followers of Muhammad! Come to the al-Rayyan gate!' So he will let my nation enter Paradise through that gate. Therefore, if one is not forgiven during the month of Ramadan, in which month can he be forgiven? There is neither will nor strength except from Allah; Allah suffices us, and what a great Helper He is!
This lengthy tradition is also recorded on pp. 183-185, Vol. 8, of Bihar al-Anwar.
On page 92 of his book Thawab al-A'mal wa 'Iqab al A'mal, in a chapter dealing with the glory of the month of Ramadan and the rewards for its fast, Shaikh Abu Ja'fer Muhammad ibn Ali ibn al- Husain ibn Babawayh al-Qummi al-Saduq relies on the authority of Jabir who quotes Imam Abu Ja'fer al-Baqir, peace be upon him, and also in Al-Misbah, where Jabir ibn Yazid quotes Imam Abu Ja'fer, peace be upon him, saying the following to Jabir ibn Abdullah al- Ansari, one of the greatest sahabah (companions of the Holy Prophet, pbuh),
O Jabir! This is the month of Ramadan; whoever fasts during its day, and spends a portion of its night saying prayers and abstaining from eating anything unlawful, safeguarding his modesty against anything unlawful, and withholding his tongue against saying anything unlawful, will leave his sins behind him as the month leaves."
O Messenger of Allah! What a beautiful hadith this is!
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) whereupon said,
And what difficult terms these are!" The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, his progeny and companions, is also quoted saying,
Whoever fasts during the month of Ramadan out of firm belief and a sincere desire to please Allah will have all his past and future sins forgiven.
He (pbuh) is also quoted saying,
The gates of Paradise are opened on the first night of the month of Ramadan, and they remain open till the last night of it.
He (pbuh) is also quoted saying that the Almighty has entrusted seven angels to keep each demon fettered till the end of the month of Ramadan.
On the same page of the same reference, Muhammad ibn al-Hassan is quoted saying that al-Husain ibn al-Hassan ibn Sa'eed has quoted al-Husain ibn 'Alwan quoting 'Amr ibn Shimr citing Jabir who in turn cites Imam Abu Ja'fer al-Baqir (as) saying that whenever the month of Ramadan approached, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) used to come out to the public, face the Qibla and supplicate thus:
O Allah! I invoke You to let this crescent be the harbinger of security and conviction, safety and peace, crowned health, vast sustenance, prevention against all ailments, recitation of the Holy Qur'an, and help in performing the prayers and upholding the fast! O Lord! Safeguard us for the month of Ramadan, safeguard it for us, and safeguard it from us till the month is over and You have forgiven us!
Then he (pbuh) would face the public and address them thus:
O Muslim multitudes! When the crescent of the month of Ramadan appears, the demons among the devils are chained, and the gates of the heavens and Paradise are opened, and so are the gates of His Mercy, while the gates of hell are closed. Pleas are answered and the Almighty releases at the time of iftar a number of residents of hell. In every night, a caller calls: 'Is there anyone who has a plea? Is there anyone who seeks forgiveness? O Almighty Allah! Reward everyone who spends in Your way, and grant perdition to everyone who withholds. And when the month of Shawwal approaches, the believers are called upon to receive their rewards, for that will be their day to receive their rewards.
On page 94 of the reference cited above, Muhammad ibn Musa ibn al-Mutawakkil is quoted saying that Abdullah ibn Ja'fer al- Himyari has said that Ahmed ibn Muhammad ibn Eisa has said that al-Hassan ibn Mahboob al-Zarrad has said that Abu Ayyub has quoted Abul-Ward citing Imam Abu Ja'fer al-Baqir, peace be upon him, saying that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) delivered a sermon on the last Friday of the month of Sha'ban. In it, he praised Allah then said,
O people! You have been shadowed by a month one night of which is better than a thousand months; it is the month of Ramadan during which Allah has enjoined you to fast and equalled the rewards for voluntary prayers during its nights with the rewards due to those who volunteered to say optional prayers for seventy years in other months. He also equalled the rewards of the good deeds of those who do good deeds during it with those who perform one of the obligations enjoined by the Almighty (in other months).
And whoever performs one of the enjoined obligations during it will be rewarded as though he had performed seventy other obligations in other months. It is the month of perseverance, and the reward of perseverance is Paradise. It is the month of consolation, the one wherein Allah increases the sustenance of the believers ... Allah will decrease the hardship of the reckoning of whoever decreases the hardship of his slave during it. It is a month the beginning of which is mercy, the middle of which is forgiveness, and the end of which is acceptance and emancipation from the fire. You cannot by any means take lightly during it four merits with two of which you please Allah, and two others you cannot do without. The two merits whereby you please Allah are: you testify that There is no god except Allah and that I, Muhammad, is the Messenger of Allah; as for the two merits which you cannot do without, these are: you plead to Allah to fulfill your worldly needs and grant you Paradise, and that you plead to Allah during it for your health and well-being, and you seek refuge with Him against the fire.
On pp. 56-57 of al-Saduq's Amali, Sa'd ibn Abdullah is quoted saying that Ahmed ibn Muhammad ibn Eisa ibn Sa'eed quotes Fadal citing Yousuf ibn 'Umayrah quoting 'Ubaydullah ibn Abdullah quoting individuals who heard Abu Ja'fer, peace be upon him, saying that when the month of Ramadan was about to approach, that is, on the twenty-seventh of Sha'ban, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) told Bilal to call upon people to assemble. People assembled, so he (pbuh) ascended the pulpit, praised the Almighty then said,
O people! The month (of Ramadan) has approached, and it is the master of all months wherein one night is better than a thousand months. During it, the gates of hell are closed and those of Paradise are kept open. Whoever lives through it and is not forgiven will be distanced from the mercy of Allah, and whoever during it does not receive Allah's forgiveness while his parents are living will surely be further away from receiving Allah's mercy. And whoever hears my name and fails to send blessings unto me will (likewise) be distanced from Allah's mercy.
Benefits of Fasting
In Islam, the spiritual, social, economic, political and psychological benefits of fast are interrelated, each affecting the other. Rituals regulate the Muslims' social and individual life and bring them closer to their Creator. A combination of fast, prayers, and meditation may be the very best dose for any and all psychological, financial, and spiritual ills from which one may be suffering. They purify the soul, cleanse the intention, and bring about an abundance of good from the Almighty Who is ever-watching over us and Who desires nothing but good for His sincere servants. On p. 353, Vol. 94, of Bihar al-Anwar, al-Majlisi traces a saying of Imam Muhammad al-Jawad (as) saying that if one fasts at the beginning of a month, reciting in the first rek'at the Fatiha once and al-Ikhlas thirty times (i.e., as many as the maximum days of the lunar month), and the Fatiha once and al-Qadr thirty times in the second rek'at, following that with offering the poor something by way of charity, it will dispel everything about which he is apprehensive during the entire month. Two other rek'ats are described in the same reference as having even a greater effect on a believer's life: Imam al-Jawad (as) is quoted saying,
Whoever offers two optional rek'ats at the very beginning of the month of Ramadan, reciting in the first the Fatiha and the Fath, and in the other whatever surah (Qur'anic chapter) he likes, Allah, the most Exalted One, will not let him suffer anything bad during his entire year, and he will remain thus protected till the next year.
During the month of Ramadan, the believers learn to curb their desires and check them against transgression, extravagance, and the yielding to the lower desires, all of which degenerate man and bring him to the pit of self-destruction and annihilation. Fast fosters a strong will, teaches patience and self-discipline, the ability to bear hardship and tolerate hunger and thirst. In short, it brings about a clear victory over one's illicit desires and selfish impulses. It regulates and systemizes the energies of instincts. It trains the body to submit to lofty spiritual impulses. It safeguards the body's health by protecting it against extravagance. It grants its organs a respite so that they may be ready to resume their activities. As medical science has proved, it is a medicine for many bodily and nervous ailments. It is a moral education, a nourishment of supreme virtues. It teaches the believer to abandon vices, to control emotions and instincts, to curb the tongue against saying what is wrong or inappropriate and the conscience against contemplating upon wrongdoing or subversion. It promotes the spirit of unity among members of the fasting commu- nity; it teaches them humility and humbleness and instills within them the feeling of equality before Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. The rich have to observe it as well as the poor, the women as well as the men, the influential and powerful as well as the weak and downtrodden: they all have to observe the fast. It promotes the spirit of charity and compassion towards the poor and the needy, and it reminds each believer of the needs of other believers. Muslims share with each other Allah's blessings unto them. The believers strengthen their ties with the Almighty, since they express through fast a continuous desire to obey His Will and carry out His commandments. They also strengthen their ties with one another, since the month of Ramadan is the month of giving. It is the month for productive social inter- activity. Islam places a great deal of emphasis on moral excellence during this holy month. The holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh) has said,
One who, while fasting, neither guards his tongue from telling lies nor refrains from doing bad deeds does not respect his fast, while Allah does not approve of mere abstention from food... When you fast, you should not speak ill of anybody, nor should you be boisterous or noisy. If anybody speaks ill of you or tries to pick a quarrel with you, do not respond to him in the same manner; rather, simply tell him that you are fasting.
The institute of the fast is one of the signs of the Almighty's mercy on those who adhere to His divine creed, and it is never meant to put a hardship on anybody. The Almighty does not gain any benefit from putting hardship on anyone; on the contrary, He always tries to pave the way of happiness for His servants in this life and the life to come, and sometimes He even "pushes" them to do what is good for them, as is the case with making the fast of the month of Ramadan obligatory on every believing man and woman. But if you afford this great month a sincere and profound welcome, you will receive your rewards in many, many ways both in the short life of this fleeting world and in the eternal abode, Insha-Allah. Page 83, Vol. 1, of the first edition of al-Kulaylu's Al-Kafi, as al-Majlisi tells us on p. 354, Vol. 94, of his own Bihar al-Anwar, citing his own father quoting his mentor Shaykh the renowned faqih Ali ibn Muhammad al-Madayni quoting Sa'eed ibn Hibatullah al-Rawandi quoting Ali ibn Abdel- Samad al-Naisapuri quoting al-Dooryasti quoting Shaykh al-Mufid saying that on the first day of the month of Ramadan, one ought to supplicate thus:
Lord! The month of Ramadan has arrived, and You have required us to fast during it and revealed the Qur'an as guidance to people and a clear distinction of the guidance and the right criteria. O Lord! Help us observe its fast; accept the same from us; receive our fast from and safeguard the same for us in an ease from You and good health; surely You can do everything.
What Breaks the Fast
Any of the following invalidates the fast: eating or drinking, sexual intercourse, telling lies about Allah and or His Messenger (pbuh), immersing the entire head in water, deliberate inhalation of smoke, remaining in the state of janabah (uncleanliness due to seminal discharge) till dawn, masturbating, taking injections whereby nourishing liquids reach the stomach, deliberate vomiting, intention- ally passing an object through the throat or any other natural opening... Travelling, that is, going from your place of residence to a place situated at least eight farasikh (about twenty-seven and a half miles, or fifty miles according to some scholars) requires you to break your fast and to make up for it later on in equal number of days missed. Deliberately breaking the fast requires a kaffara (atonement) which is either the feeding of sixty poor persons, or fasting for sixty consecutive days for each day missed. If the fast is broken acciden- tally, qaza (making up) suffices. Every adult and mentally sound male or female Muslim is required to fast starting twenty minutes before dawn and till sunset. Al-Majlisi, on p. 352, Vol. 94, of his Bihar al- Anwar, cites a number of Shi' a scholars saying that they heard Imam Abu Ja'fer al-Baqir (as) saying, "Telling lies breaks the fast, and so does a second look at another woman, in addition to oppression, be it little or much."
One who misses fasting a number of days during the month of Ramadan due to travelling, forgetfulness, ignorance of the fact that those days were the days of the month of Ramadan, sickness, menstruation or childbirth, are required to make up in equal number of days missed. Those who suffered from temporary insanity or who faint before having the chance to make the intention to fast, those who are afflicted with an ailment which causes them to be constantly thirsty and have no hope of healing, or because of old age that renders them feeble, do not have to make it up, nor do they have to offer kaffara, atonement. One who falls sick during the month of Ramadan and a year passes before being able to fully recover is, of course, not required to make up but to pay the compensation which is providing the needy and deserving poor, or providing one such person, with three quarters of a kilogram of food for each day missed. If one's father dies owing either prayers or fast, his oldest son is required to make up on his father's behalf, but a son is not required to make up on behalf of his deceased mother.
Fast is not accepted without the five daily prayers. Exempted from the fast are children, the mentally retarded, and old rnen and women who find it too hard to observe. If they can fast in other months to make up, it will be best for them. If they cannot make up, then they do not have to offer kaffara either. Women during their menstrual period are not only exempted from fasting, they are forbidden from fasting, but they will have to make it up later on. As soon as their period ends, they must take their ghusul (ceremonial bath) and resume the fast. Women breast-feeding their infants and whose natural milk is not sufficient, as well as women during their prenatal period, may break their fast if it harms their infants. They, too, have to make up for the fast.
History and types of Fast
Imam al-Hasan ibn Ali ibn Abu Talib, peace be upon them, is quoted on p. 49, Vol. 2 of al-Saduq's book Man la Yahdarohu al-Faqih saying that a group of Jews once visited the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and the most learned man among them asked him about several issues one of which was: "Why did the Almighty enjoin fast upon your nation during day-time for thirty days after having required previous nations to fast for a longer period of time?" The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: "When Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, food remained in his stomach for thirty days; therefore, Allah enjoined Adam's offspring to spend thirty days suffering from hunger and thirst, and what they eat during this period of time [during the night] is due only to His own favor upon them just as it was His favor upon Adam. This is why Allah enjoined my nation to fast." Then the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) recited this verse: "Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard (yourselves) against evil. (Fast) for a certain number of days" (Holy Qur'an, 2:182). The Jew, therefore, said, "You have, O Muhammad, said the truth; so, what is the reward of one who fasts?" The Prophet (pbuh) answered, "No believer fasts during the month of Ramadan seeking nearness to Allah without the Almighty granting him seven merits: 1) anything haram (prohibited) in his body will be compressed and extracted; 2) he becomes closer to achieving the mercy of Allah; 3) he will have atoned the sin of his father Adam (as); 4) his death agony will be reduced; 5) he will receive an assurance against undergoing the pain of hunger and thirst on the Day of Resurrection; 6) Allah will grant him a clearance from hell; and 7) Allah will feed him of the good things in Paradise." The Jew said, "O Muhammad! You have surely said the truth." This tradition has been recorded on page 378, Chapter 109, of al-Saduq's book 'Ilal al-Sharai'.
As regarding its types, these vary. They differ according to the differences among the creeds, sects, nations and their respective customs. Its objectives, too, vary, although the most significant of them and the most outstanding is to purify the body and the soul from material and non-material venoms. Among its types is one referred to by the Holy Qur'an as silence and abstention from any vain discourse. An example is the address of the Almighty to Virgin Mary (as) in which He commanded her, when confronted by others who resented the birth of Christ (as), to say: "I have surely vowed [to observe] a fast to the Beneficent God, so I shall not speak to anyone today" (Holy Qur'an, 19:26). Muslims have learned from their Lord, the Praised and the Exalted One, that fast is one of the atonements for: 1) shaving the head during the pilgrimage (while one is still wearing the ihram) due to a valid excuse such as sickness or a head injury, 2) the inability to offer sacrifice (hadi), 3) killing an ally by mistake, 4) violating an oath, 5) hunting while still wearing the ihram, 6) in the case of zihar.
40 Types of Fast
Although the above chapter dealt with the types of fast, we decided to expand this discussion and quote for you from "Bab al-Sawm," chapter dealing with fast, on pp. 52-54, Vol. 2, of Man la Yahduruhu al-Faqih by the nation's mentor Shaikh Abu Ja'fer Muhammad ibn Ali ibn al-Husain ibn Babawayh al-Qummi al-Saduq who indicates the following:
Al-Zuhri (one of the companions of our fourth Imam Ali ibn al-Husain ibn Ali ibn Abu Talib Zaynul-'Abidin al-Sajjad, peace be upon him and his posterity as weD as progeny) is quoted saying, "Ali ibn al-Husain, peace be upon them, asked me once, 'Where did you come from, O Zuhri?' I said, 'From the [Prophet's] mosque.' 'What were you discussing?' he asked me. 'We discussed the fast,' said I, 'and we all agreed that the only obligatory fast is the fast of the month of Ramadan.' He said to me, 'O Zuhri! It is not as you all say. Fast is of forty different types: ten are as obligatory as the fast of the month of Ramadan; ten are prohibited; fourteen are optional: one may fast during them or he may not; add to that the three different kinds of conditional fast. Add also: disciplinary fast, permissible fast, and the fast making up for one who had to go on a journey or who fell sick.' Said I, 'May I be sacrificed for your sake! Please explain them to me."'
The Imam (as) stated the following:
"Obligatory fast includes the fast of the month of Ramadan and of two consecutive months for each one day deliberately missed of the month of Ramadan, and the fast of two consecutive months as an atonement for zihar. Allah, the most Sublime, the most Exalted, says, ' (As for) those of you who put away their wives by likening their backs to the backs of their mothers, these are not their mothers; their mothers are no other than those who gave birth to them, and most surely they utter a hateful word and a falsehood, and most surely Allah is Pardoning, Forgiving. (As for) those who put away their wives by likening their backs to the backs of their mothers then recall what they said, they should free a captive before touching each other; to that you are admonished (to conform), and Allah is Aware of what you do. But whoever has no (such) means, let him fast for two months succesively before they touch each other' (Holy Qur'an, 58:2-4) Another (such type of obligatory fast) is fasting two successive months if a Muslim kills another Muslim by mistake and is unable to free a slave; this is obligatory on account of the verse saying: 'And whoever kills a believer by mistake should free a believing slave, and blood-money should be paid to his people unless they remit it as alms; but if they be from a tribe hostile to you and he is a believer, the freeing of a believing slave (suffices), and if he is from a tribe between whom and you there is a covenant, the blood-money should be paid to his people along with the freeing of a believing slave; but if he cannot find (a slave), he should fast for two months successively: a penance from Allah, and Allah is Knowing, Wise' (Holy Qur'an, 4:92). Another (such obligatory fast) is fasting three days as an act of atonement for breaking an oath if one is unale to feed the needy; Allah, the most Sublime, the most High, says, 'Allah does not call you to account for what is vain of your oaths, but He calls you to account for making deliberate oaths; so, its expiation is the feeding of ten poor men out of the middling (food) whereby you feed your families, or their clothing, or the freeing of a slave; but whosoever cannot find (means), he, then, should fast for three days; this is the expiation of your oaths when you swear' (Holy Qur'an, 5:89). All types of such fast are consecutive, not a day now and a day then.
"And the fast on account of causing an injury to the head while shaving it while performing the pilgrimage rites is also obligatory; Allah Almighty says, 'Whoever among you is sick or has an ailment of the head, he (should effect) a compensation by fasting or offering alms or sacrificing' (Holy Qur'an, 2:196). So he is given in this verse an option: if he chooses to fast, he should fast for three days. And the fast of one who cannot offer a sacrifice at the pilgrimage is also obligatory; Allah Almighty says, 'Whoever benefits by combining the visit with the pilgrimage (should take) what offering is easy (for him) to obtain; but he who cannot find (any offering) should fast for three days during the pilgrimage and for seen days when you return; these (make) ten (days) complete' (Holy Qur'an, 2:196). And the fast of one who hunts while still wearing the ihram is also obligatory; Allah, the most Exalted, the most Sublime, says, ' O you who believe! Do not kill game while you are on pilgrimage, and whoever among you kills it intentionally, the compensation (for it) is the like of what he kills, from the cattle, as two just persons among you shall judge, as an offering to be brought to the Ka'ba or the expiation (of it) is the feeding of the poor or the equivalent of it in fasting so that he may taste the unwholesome result of his deed' (Holy Qur'an, 5:95)."
Then the Imam (as) turned to al-Zuhri and asked him, "Do you know how its equivalent is met by fasting, O Zuhri?" The latter said, "No, indeed, I do not know." Imam Zaynul-'Abidin (as) then said, "The game is first to be estimated, then the estimated value is to be measured by its equivalent in charity, then such a measure is to be weighed, so he should fast one day for each half a measure unit. And the covenant (nathr) fast is obligatory, and so is the fast of i'tikaf. As regarding the prohibited fast, it is forbidden to fast on Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, the three days of tashreeq', and the fast of doubt: Allah ordered us to fast it with the month of Sha'ban and anyone among us is prohibited from singling himself out to fast when everyone else is not sure whether it is the inception of the month of Ramadan or not." I said to him, "May I be sacrificed for you, but if he did not fast during the month of Sha'ban, what should he do?" The Imam (as) said, "He should make the intention on the uncertain night that he is fasting the month of Sha'ban; so, if it turns out to be the month of Ramadan, he will receive his reward, but if it becomes evident that it was, indeed, the month of Sha'ban, he will not have committed any harm." I then asked him, "How can voluntary fast make up for a compulsory one?" He (as) said, "If someone voluntarily fasts one day during the month of Ramadan without knowing that it is the month of Ramadan, then he finds out that it was, should he fast again?! The obligation is regarding the day itself. The wisal fast is prohibitive, and to fast each day of your life is likewise prohibitive.
"As regarding optional fast, it is to fast on Fridays, Thursdays, and Mondays, the white (beed) days, the fast of six days during the month of Shawwal following the month of Ramadan, the fast on the standing day at Arafat, and the day of Ashura; all these occasions are optional; one may or may not fast during them. As regarding the fast by permission, a woman cannot fast an optional fast without the permission of her husband; a slave may not observe an optional fast without the permission of his master; and a guest may not fast an optional fast except with the permission of his host; the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) has said, 'Whoever visits some folks, he should not observe an optional fast except with their permission.' As regarding disciplinary fast, a boy reaching adolescence is ordered to fast when he reaches the age of adulthood, though it is not obligatory on him to do so. Likewise, if one is forced due to a sudden ailment to break his fast at the inception of the day, then he gains his strength thereafter, he should fast the rest of the day as a self-disciplinary act although he is not obligated to do so. Likewise, if a traveller eats at the beginning of the day then reaches home, he should abstain from eating the rest of the day as a self-disciplinary act and not as an obligation. As regarding the fast of one who forgets and eats or drinks, or if he does so only as a measure of taqiya, without doing so on purpose, Allah, the most Exalted, the most Great, has permitted him to do so and will reward him for it. As regarding the fast when travelling or suffering from an ailment, there is a great deal of difference of opinion in its regard. Some people say that he should fast, whereas others say that he should not. As far as we (Ahl al-Bayt [as]) are concerned, we are of the view that one should break his fast during both cases; so, if he fasts during his trip, or when sick, he has to make it up because Allah, the most Exalted, the most Great, says, "And if one of you is sick or travelling, (the fast of) a number of other days (suffices)"
Rewards of Quranic recitation during this month
Taken from: Fast of the Month of Ramadan
Philosophy and Ahkam
By Yasin T. al Jibouri
International Islamic Society of Virginia, Inc.
Imam Ja'fer al-Sadiq (as), as we are told by Shaykh Taqi al-Deen Ibrahim ibn Ali ibn al-Hassan ibn Muhammad ibn Salih al-'Amili-al- Kaf'ami, has made the following statement with regard to the merits of reciting chapters and verses of the Holy Qur'an:
One who recites ten verses in one night will never be written down among the indifferent. One who recites fifty verses will be written down among those who remember Allah often (i.e., thakireen). If he recites a hundred, he will be written down among those who constantly supplicate (qaniteen). If he recites three hundred, he will be written down among the winners (faaizeen). If he recites five hundred verses, he will be written down among those who reach the degree of ijtihad (mujtahideen). And if one recites a thousand verses, he will be rewarded with one kantar which is five thousand mithqals: each mithqal is twenty-four karats the smallest of which [in as far as the weighing in the hereafter is concerned] is as big as the mountain of Uhud, and the largest extends from the earth to the sky.
The Imam (as) has also said, as quoted in the same reference, "If one recites the Qur'an, Allah will let him enjoy his vision, and such recitation decreases the penalty of his parents even if they may be kafirs (apostates)." Imagine, dear reader, what it does to your parents who raised you as a Muslim...
How to Fast all Your life
On p. 258, Vol. 1, of 'Ilal al-Sharai', and also on p. 92, Vol. 94, of Bihar al-Anwar, Imam al-Rida (as) was asked why an optional fast is recommended for the entire year, and he answered by saying that it served to complement obligatory fast. Then he was asked, "Why is there an optional fast for one day out of each ten days?" He (as) said, "It is so because Allah, the Praised and Exalted One, says, 'Whoever does a good deed will be rewarded ten-fold' (Surat al-An'am, verse 16); therefore, one who fasts one day in each ten days will be regarded (according to this verse) as though he had fasted the whole time." Salman al-Farsi, may Allah be pleased with him, used to say, "Fasting three [non-consecutive] days a month equals fasting the whole dahr, the whole time; so, if one can find anything beyond that, let him fast it!" Imam Ja'fer al-Sadiq (as) was asked why a Thursday of the first tenth days is to be fasted, a Thursday of the last, and a Wednesday in-between are the designated days for such fast, and his answer was, "The deeds of each servant of Allah are displayed before Allah on each Thursday; therefore, He wished that it should be done while such servant is observing a fast. "Why another Thursday's fast at the end of the month, then?" the Imam (as) was asked. "It is so because if his deeds for eight days are displayed while he is fasting is more honorable for him and better than if he is not fasting. The reason for choosing a Wednesday in the second (middle) ten days of the month, according to Imam al-Sadiq (as), is due to the fact that Allah, the most Honored, the most Sublime, created hell on that day; it was on it that He annihilated the early generations; it is a day of continuous bad omen; so, He wished that His servants should shun such a bad omen by fasting that day."
Imam Ja'fer al-Sadiq (as) quotes his forefathers (as) saying that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) once asked his companions, "Which one of you fasts the whole time?" Salman al-Farsi, may Allah have mercy on his soul, said, "I do, O Messenger of Allah!" The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) asked them, "Which one of you says prayers the whole night?" Salman al-Farsi, may Allah have mercy on his soul, again said, "I do, O Messenger of Allah!" The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) asked them, 'Which one of you recites the entire text of the Qur'an every day?" Salman al-Farsi, may Allah have mercy on his soul, for the third time said, "I do, O Messenger of Allah!" One of the Prophet's companions became angry and said, "O Messenger of Allah! Salman is a Persian who wants to brag and demonstrate his superiority over us, we men of Quraysh. You asked us, 'Which one of you fasts the whole time?' and he said he does so, while he eats most of the time. And you asked us, 'Which one of you says prayers the entire night?' and he again said he did so, while he sleeps most of the night. And you asked us, 'Which one of you recites the entire text of the Qur'an every day?' and he for the third time said that he did so, while most of the time he is silent." The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) rebuked that man and said, "Keep your silence, so-and-so, for how far you are from Luqman the Wise! Ask him, and he will explain to you," whereupon that companion turned to Salman and asked him thus: "O father of Abdullah! You have claimed that you fast the whole time, haven't you?" Salman answered him in the affirmative, so the companion said, "But I have seen you eating most of the time!" Salman said, "It is not what you say! I fast three days in every month, and Allah, the most Exalted, the most Glorified One, says, 'Whoever does a good deed will be rewarded ten-fold' (Surat al-An'am, verse 16). And I join the month of Sha'ban with the month of Ramadan in my fast, so it is regarded as though I fast the whole time." The man then asked him, "But you claim that you spend your entire night offering prayers, don't you?" Salman answered in the affirmative, whereupon that man said to him, "How so since most of your night you are in bed?" Salman said, "It is not as you say. I have heard my beloved Messenger of Allah (pbuh) say, 'Whoever remains in a state of tahara (purification) during his sleep will be regarded as though he spent the whole night offering prayers,' and I do remain tahir!" The man still asked him, "Have you not claimed that you recite the entire text of the Qur'an every day?" Salman said, "I have." The man then asked him, "But you spend most of the day silent!" Salman said, "It is not as you say, but I have heard my beloved Messenger of Allah (pbuh) telling Ali (as): 'O father of al-Hassan (as)! Your similitude in my nation is like that of Surat al-Ikhlas: whoever recites it once is considered as having recited one third of the entire text of the Qur'an, and whoever recites it twice is considered as having recited two-thirds of the Qur'an, while whoever recites it thrice will be regarded as having recited the entire text of the Qur'an; whoever loves you with his tongue completes one third of his iman (convic- tion), and whoever loves you with both his tongue and heart completes two thirds of his iman, whereas whoever loves you with his tongue and heart and assists you with his hand (i.e. physically with his might and means) perfects his iman. I swear by the One Who sent me with the truth, O Ali! Had all people on earth loved you as those in the heavens do, nobody would have been tormented with the Fire,' and l do recite Surat al-Ikhlas thrice daily." The man then stood up and left as if someone had filled his mouth with a rock (as the Arabs put it). This incident is recorded on pp. 93-94, Vol. 94, of Bihar al- Anwar.
In the same reference cited above, Imam al-Sadiq (as) quotes his forefathers citing the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) saying, "I entered Paradise [during my ascension, mi'raj] and found most of its people to be those who are not evil, who are wise in spending their wealth, and who fast three days a month." Ibn Tareef quotes Ibn 'Alwan quoting Imam al-Sadiq (as) quoting his father Imam al-Baqir (as) saying that Ali (as) used to imitate the fast observed by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), saying, "The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) fasted siyam al-dahr as long as Allah willed, then he stopped doing so and observed the fast of his brother Dawood (as) (David): a day's fast for Allah, and a day for himself (to rest) as long as Allah willed. Then he stopped doing that, too, and started fasting each Monday and Thursday for as long as Allah willed. Then he stopped doing even that and upheld siyam al-beed . Imam Ali (as) concludes his statement by saying that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) continued to do so till he passed away. On p. 102, Vol. 94, of Bihar al-Anwar, the author states that Muhammad ibn Yahya has quoted Hammad ibn 'Uthman quoting Imam Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq (as) saying, 'The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) died while observing a fast of three days a month, saying, 'They equal fasting the whole time, and their fast removes ill intentions and feelings of hostility.' He (pbuh) was asked, 'Why were these specific days chosen for such fast?' He (pbuh) answered by saying, ' Retribution was inflicted upon nations before us during those days;' so, the Prophet (pbuh) observed the fast of those ominous days."
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) is quoted on p. 108, Vol. 94, of Bihar al-Anwar as saying that one who observes the fast of the month of Ramadan and follows it by fasting six days during the month of Shawwal will be rewarded as though he had fasted the entire year.
One may wonder whether offering sadaqa (charity) is more rewarding than fasting. It is. On p. 102, Vol. 94, of Bihar al-Anwar, it is stated that Imam Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq (as) was asked once by Ibrahim al-Muthanna, one of his followers, "I have found it very hard for me lately to fast three days a month; so, is there any way I can make it up by, say, giving one dirham by way of charity for each of these days?" The Imam (as) answered, "One dirham's charity is even better than fasting one day." In the same reference, on p. 106, Salih ibn 'Uqbah said to Imam Ja'fer al-Sadiq (as), "May my life be sacrificed for your sake! I have grown to be an old man, and I feel too feeble to observe the fast of these days." The Imam (as) responded by saying, 'Then offer sadaqa of one dirham (cash equivalent in value to 3.12 grams of silver) for each day." The Imam noticed that the man did not seem to be fully convinced, so he said to him, "Do you think one dirham for each of these days is too little? Feeding one indigent person is better than the fast of a whole month."
The Prophet's (May Allah be well pleased with him, his followers and his progeny) preaching of Ramadan
Muhammad ibn Ibrahim says that Ahmed ibn Muhammad-al- Hamadani says that Ali ibn al-Hassan ibn Fadal quotes his father quoting al-Hassan's father Imam Ali bin Musa al-Rida (as) who in turn quotes his father Imam Musa ibn Ja'fer (as) quoting his father the master of martyrs Imam al-Husain ibn Ali ibn Abu Talib (as) saying that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) delivered a sermon once in which he said:
O people! A month has approached you laden with blessing, mercy and forgiveness; it is a month which Allah regards as the best of all months. Its days, in the sight of Allah, are the best of days; its nights are the best of nights; its hours are the best of hours. It is a month in which you are invited to be the guests of Allah, and you are regarded during it as worthy of enjoying Allah's Grace. Your breathing in it praises the Almighty, and your sleeping adores Him. Your voluntary acts of worship are accepted, and your pleas are answered. Ask Allah your Lord, therefore, in sincere intentions and pure hearts to enable you to fast during it and to recite His Book, for only a wretch is the one who is deprived of Allah's forgiveness during this great month. And let your hunger and thirst during it remind you of the hunger and thirst of the Day of Resurrection. Give alms to the poor and indigent among you; surround your elderly with respect, and be kind to your youngsters. Visit your kin and safeguard your tongues, and do not look at what Allah has prohibited you from seeing, and do not listen to anything your ears are forbidden to hear. Be kind to the orphans of others so that your own orphans will equally receive kindness. Repent your sins to Allah and raise your hands to Him in supplica- tion during the times of your prayers, for they are the best times during which the Almighty looks with mercy to His servants and answers their pleas when they plead to Him. O people! Your souls are pawned by your deeds; therefore, release them by seeking Allah's forgiveness. Your backs are over-burdened by the weight of your sins; therefore, lighten their burden by prolonging your prostration. Be informed that the Exalted and Almighty has sworn by His Dignity not to torture those who perform their prayers and prostrate to Him, and not to terrify them by the sight of the fire when people are resurrected for judgment. O people! Whoever among you provides iftar to a believer during this month will receive a reward equal to one who sets a slave free, and all his past sins will be forgiven.
Having said so, people said to him: "O Messenger of Allah! Not all of us can do that!" He (pbuh), thereupon, responded by saying,
Shun the fire of hell even by half a date! Shun the fire of hell even by a drink of water! O People! Whoever among you improves his conduct during this month will have a safe passage on al-Sirat al-Mustaqeem, (the straight path) when many feet will slip away, and whoever among you decreases the burdens of his slave (or anyone who works for him) will be rewarded by Allah decreasing his reckoning. Whoever among you abstains from harming others will be spared the Wrath of the Almighty when he meets Him. Whoever among you affords generosity to an orphan will be rewarded by Allah being generous to him on the Day of Judgment. Whoever among you improves the ties with his kin will be rewarded by Allah including him in His mercy, and whoever among you severs his ties with his kin, Allah will withhold His mercy from him upon meeting Him. Whoever among you offers voluntary prayers, Allah will decree a clearance for him from the torment of the fire. Whoever among you performs an obligation will receive the reward of one who has performed seventy obligations in other months. Whoever among you increases the sending of blessings unto me, Allah will make the balance of his good deeds weigh heavily when scales will be light. Whoever among you recites one verse of the Holy Qur'an will receive the blessing of one who recites the entire Holy Qur'an in another month. O people! The gates of heaven in this month are kept open; so, pray Allah your Lord not to close them against you, and the gates of the fire are kept closed; so, pray Allah your Lord not to open them for you; and the devils are kept chained; therefore, pray Allah your Lord not to unleash them against you.
Advising the great sahabi Abu Tharr al-Ghifari, may Allah be pleased vvith him, regarding the fast being a protection against the fire, he (pbuh) is quoted saying, "Shall I inform you of a deed which, if you do it, will keep Satan away from you as much as the distance between the east of the earth and the west?" People answered, "O yes, indeed, O Messenger of Allah!" He (pbuh) said, "Fast darkens his (Satan's) face; alms break his back; the desire to please Allah and the giving of assistance to do good deeds cut his tail off, and seeking Allah's forgiveness cuts off his aorta." Then he added, "For everything there is a purification (zakat), and the purification of bodies is the fast." He (pbuh) is also quoted saying, "One who fasts is considered to be adoring his Creator even while sleeping on his bed as long as he does not backbite any Muslim." He (pbuh) has also said, 'There are two merry occasions for anyone who performs the fast: one when he breaks his fast, and one when he meets his Lord, the Exalted, the Almighty. I swear by the One Who controls Muhammad's life, the excess on the mouth of one who fasts is better in the sight of Allah than the sweet smell of musk." He (pbuh) has also said that the Exalted and Almighty has said (in a Qudsi hadith) that all good deeds of a descendant of Adam are His (to reward) "except the fast, for it is mine, and I shall reward for it. All good deeds of the son of Adam are rewarded with ten to seven hundred times except perseverance, for it is mine and I reward for it." So, the knowledge of the rewards of perseverance is with Allah, and "perseverance" means fast.
Regarding the interpretation of His saying (in the Holy Qur'an) "... and seek aid with perseverance," meaning the fast, it is reported that the person who fasts enjoys the gardens of Paradise and the angels keep praying for him till he breaks his fast. If a believer stands during a portion of the night to perform additional optional prayers, then he wakes up fasting, no sin will be recorded against him. Whenever he takes one step, it will be recorded as a good deed for him, and if he dies during daytime, his soul will ascend the heights of heaven. If he lives to break his fast, the Almighty will consider him among those who often return to Him for forgiveness. In the book titled Thawab al-A'mal, relying on the authority of Abu Abdullah who quotes his forefathers, peace be upon all of them, the author, namely Shaikh al-Qummi al-Saduq, quotes one tradition indicating that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) has said, "The sleep of someone fasting is like adoration, and his breath praises the Almighty."
source : http://www.al-islam.org