Sawm : Fourth pilar of Islam
The Arabic term Sawm means abstaining from many things such as food, drink (including water), any acts of evil, medication, any sexual activity, backbiting, harming oneself or others, smoking, intoxication, impure thoughts, etc. This term describe the act of fasting during the spiritual month of Ramadan from sunrise to sunset. As fasting is the fourth pilar of Islam, it is mandatory for every Muslim to observe fast in the holy month of Ramadan.
O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become the pious.
Qur’an Surah 2:183
When do we need to fast?
The ninth month of Islamic calendar is Ramadan. It's the most blessed and Holy month among all the months of Hijri calendar. It is the month when the obligation of fasting is fulfilled. Quran was also revealed on our Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) during this month thus increases it's spirituality and blessings. It is believed that good deeds weigh 7 times more in Ramadan. Allah said about this blissful month,
The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new phase of the moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and doesn't intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to finish the amount and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and maybe you'll be grateful.
Intension of fasting
It is necessary for every Muslim to have the intension of fast every night before the new fasting day starts. There's no need to pronounce the intension. It should be in heart because it's an act of heart in which tongue is not required. It should be kept between yourself and Allah. It is compulsory to keep fast just for Allah Almighty so that you'll immense rewards of it. Allah said in Quran,
“All the deeds of the son of Adam are for him, except fasting, which is on behalf of me and that i shall reward for it".
Why do Muslims Fast?
It is the religious duty of Muslims to fast in the month of Ramadan. This is commanded by Allah Almighty in Quran. Every Muslim should follow the footsteps of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH). If we take fasting as a religious practice, it provides Muslims a great opportunity to develop self discipline and self control. It is also allows Muslims the opportunity to identify with the needy and the poor people of society, to realise their problems.
Who should not keep fast?
A person having diabetes should not keep fast even for a short interval because it can lead to severe dips and spikes in blood sugar. People having chronic diseases or Women those are pregnant should not keep fast.
Benefits of Fasting
Sawm or fasting in the month of Ramadan reminds the teachings of Quran as Holy Quran is recited most in this blessed month. Fasting also unites the Muslims as they fast together and break their fast at the same time at Aftar. It helps Muslims to focus on their faith and their prayers. It keeps us away from the evil acts and desires of body thus we can give our full concentration to worship. There are also numerous health benefits of fasting listed below,
Cleansing of the Soul
Fasting is a time to remember the spiritual connection with our physical body. By not taking the toxins, we usually put in our bodies, we not only give rest to our physical body but also to our soul.
Fasting is one of the great methods of losing weight. It gives us an opportunity to lose our extra fats that are consumed in our body. Fasting is very much effective in burning those fat cells as compared to our regular diet. Fasting burns your fats without damaging your muscles. This is the reason why most of the athletes keep fast to have low body fat before competition.
Improved Insulin sensitivity
Fasting also played a significant role in improving insulin sensitivity. According to scientific research, it is observed that after a period of fasting, insulin become more efficient of telling the cells to consume glucose from the blood.
Speeding up of Metabolism
Fasting boost up your metabolism in a way that is gives your digestive system a rest. It energizes yours metabolism to burn calories more efficiently. If yours digestive system is poor, fasting can help to improve your digestive system. It also regulate your digestion and help in proper bowel functioning thus improves your metabolic activities.
Improved brain functioning
Fasting has also proved very much beneficial in the functioning of brain cells. It increases the production of protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BNDF activates the brain stem cells to convert it into new neurones and also stimulates many other chemical substances that help in neural functioning. This protein also protects your brain cells from changes that are linked to the diseases named as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Sawm is the fourth pilar of Islam and is obligatory for every Muslim to fast in the blessed month of Ramadan so we should try our level best to observe fast in this spiritual month and enjoy numerous benefits of it.