(part 1 of 2)
Most of us who have declared war on our bellies have already experimented with some forms of fasting, such as pure fruit fasting, water fasting or sugar-free fasting, whatever we call it. But what many may find rather strange and surprising is that a whole community of people – be it men or women, old or young, rich or poor – completely refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to sunset; for a whole month: Ramadhan. What is the meaning of Ramadhan apart from reduced working hours? Isn’t it a very strict practice? Is it just a time when Muslims sleep and fast all day and hardly work; and eat, drink, enjoy and stay awake all night? What is the real spirit of Ramadhan?
Fasting – a requirement in all religions
In German, „fasting“ means voluntarily abstaining from eating or from certain foods out of observance of a holy day or as a sign of grief, grief or remorse.  This practice can be found in most of the major world religions. For example, in Hinduism fasting in Sanskrit is called upavaasa. Deeply religious Hindus fast on special occasions as a sign of respect for their personal gods or as part of their penance. Most religious Indians fast on a regular basis or on special occasions such as holidays. On such days, they eat nothing at all, eat once or only fruit, or they make a special diet from simple foods.  For Jews it is the day of Yom Kippur („Day of Atonement“), the last day of the Ten Days of Repentance, the 10th of Tishri. It is forbidden to eat, drink, wash, wear leather or have intercourse on these days. In addition, there are prohibitions to work, similar to those that apply to the Sabbath.  It should also be noted that the Torah tells of Moses (peace be upon him) that he fasted.
„And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights, eating no bread and drinking no water.“ (Exodus 34:28)
For Catholic Christians, Lent is when they imitate the forty days of Jesus (peace be upon him). In the fourth century, six weeks of Lent were observed before Easter or before Holy Week. It was corrected in most places on forty days of real fast in most places.  Jesus (peace be upon him) is reported in the Gospels as fasting like Moses.
„And since he had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was starving.“ (Matthew 4: 2 & Luke 4: 2)
In this context, God says in the Quran:
„Oh you, who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those who were before you. Maybe you will fear (God). ” (Quran 2: 183)
Of the Best Righteous Deeds
Although fasting in most religions is a penance or atonement for sins, Islam’s primary purpose is to bring one closer to God, as the verse just quoted shows. Since awareness of God is the prerequisite for righteousness, fasting is very strongly emphasized in Islam. Therefore, we are not surprised to find out that the Prophet Muhammad, God’s blessing and peace, was upon him when asked,
„What is the best deed?“ replied, „Fasting, because there is nothing equivalent.“ (An-Nasa’i)
There are as many levels of fasting as there are aspects of being human. Proper fasting should encompass all dimensions of human existence to produce the result God intended. Some of the main stages of fasting follow.
The stages of fasting
The ritual stage
This level of fasting requires that the basic rules of fasting be followed; these are the eating, drinking and intercourse between dawn and sunset on 29 or 30 days each year. At this level, one follows the laws of fasting without paying particular attention to the spirit of fasting. This is the entry level that must be completed for fasting to be Islamic correct, but the other levels must be added for fasting to have a real impact on the fasting person. Fasting at this level alone will have no spiritual benefit except for submission to the divine instructions if you follow this ritual consciously and not purely by tradition.
The physical level of fasting
on the „physical“ level causes the fasting person to experience the pain of hunger if he observes the fasting of the Prophet (Sunnah). The Prophet Muhammad used to eat a very light meal before dawn (Suhuur) and a modest meal after sunset (Iftaar) to break the fast, avoiding to fill his belly too much. He is said to have said:
“The worst container a person can fill is his stomach. A few bites of food are enough to keep a person’s back straight. But when his desire overcomes him, let him eat a third, drink a third, and let a third breathe. ” (Ibn Majah)
The prophet used to break his fast with a couple of fresh or dried dates and a glass of water just before the prayer after sunset.  This level allows the fasting person to feel the pain of hunger and thereby develops affection for the hungry and thirsty in other parts of the world.
On the physical level, fasting affects some chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters that transmit messages and cause feelings. Fasting favors the endorphine neurotransmitter system, which is related to well-being and euphoria, it stimulates the production of more endorphin, which makes us feel „better“. This is a similar effect to movement (but without the physical effort). Medical experts have also found that fasting promotes physical health in many ways. For example, when fasting, our body uses up stored cholesterol (fat), which is often stored in the blood system and the body’s fat reserves. So it helps us to keep the body firm and reduces the risk of heart attacks. The difference between ritual level 1 and physical level 2 is that someone who observes ritual fasting can eat sumptuous meals before the start of fasting and immediately after fasting is over, and therefore does not feel hungry or thirsty throughout the month. If the fasting person does not accept the other levels of fasting, then for him the fasting is only physical exhaustion. The Prophet said:
„Perhaps a fasting person gains nothing but hunger and thirst from fasting.“ (Ibn Majah)
 Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language (Webster’s new twentieth-century English dictionary), p. 665.
[2 ] Saranam.com/Hindu Encyclopedia.
 Dictionary of World Religions (Dictionary of World Religions), p. 817.
 Dictionary of World Religions (Dictionary of World Religions) p. 425.
 Abu Dawud
(part 2 of 2)
The level of the sex drive
The sexual instinct and sex drive (libido) are restrained at this level of fasting. In these times when the media continuously alludes to sexual desires to advertise and sell products, the ability to control these strong desires is a tremendous asset. Fasting reduces sexual desire and the fact that the fasting person should avoid anything that could stimulate him psychologically helps him to reduce his sex drive. The Prophet Muhammad, God’s blessings and peace be upon him, said:
“O boys, whoever of you is able to marry should do it, because it holds back and protects the sex. Those who are unable to get married should fast because it is a protective shield. ” (Sahieh Al-Bukhari)
By abstaining from the sexual acts that are allowed to you, it is easier for the fasting person to stay away from prohibited sexual acts if he is not fasting.
The emotional level
Fasting at this level involves controlling many negative emotions that are simmering in the human soul and mind. One of the most destructive feelings, for example, is anger. Fasting helps control these feelings. The Prophet Muhammad said:
“If one of you fasts, you should stay away from indecent acts and unnecessary talk, and when someone starts to speak indecent or try to start an argument, you should simply say to him: ‚I am fasting‘ ”(Sahieh Al-Bukhari)
Therefore, all negative emotions that could challenge the fasting person should be avoided at this level. You have to stay away from indecent conversations and heated discussions. Even if you are right, it is better to refrain from doing so and to keep fasting on an emotional level. Accordingly, the negative feeling of jealousy of the main denominator of abstention is dampened; no one is superior to another in this regard.
The Psychological Level
This level helps the fasting person to control bad thoughts and trains him or her, to a certain extent, how to overcome stinginess and avarice. It is reported that the Prophet said:
„Allah does not need the hunger and thirst of a person who does not stop telling lies and acting on them, even if he is fasting.“ (Sahieh Al-Bukhari)
In this instant of gratification, where things in this world are used to meet people’s needs and desires almost immediately when they occur, the ability to delay fulfillment is an important skill. What lies between immediate satisfaction and delayed satisfaction is patience. During fasting, believers learn patience and its benefits.
From a psychological perspective, it’s good to be a certain distance from things in the world. There is nothing wrong with living a good and fulfilling life – in fact, one can and should expect it. However, it is important that we humans are able to detach ourselves from material things so that they do not become the most important part of our lives. Fasting gives you an opportunity to overcome many of the tendencies that have become part of modern life. Eating brings comfort and joy to many people, and the ability to break free gives psychological benefits to fasting people knowing that to a certain extent they are in control of what they do and what they don’t.
The spiritual level
In order to reach this highest and most important level of fasting, the level of God consciousness, the Prophet made it necessary to renew the intention to fast before each day of fasting. It is said that he said:
„Whoever does not intend to fast before Fağr (dawn) does not fast.“ (Abu Dawud)
The daily renewal of intent helps to achieve a spiritual basis of sincerity that is essential for the cleansing effects of fasting to come. Sincere fasting cleanses and expences from sins, as the Prophet said:
„Those who fast Ramadhan out of sincere faith and hope for the reward from God will be forgiven their previous sins.“
He is also reported to have said, „From one Ramadhan to the next is the atonement for the sins in between.“ Sincere fasting brings you closer to Allah and you get a special reward. The Prophet told us that in Paradise there is a special gate called Rayyaan that is reserved for the fasting. And he also said,
„When Ramadhan comes, the gates of paradise are open.“ (Sahieh Al-Bukhari)
Fasting is primarily between the person and God, because no one can be sure that anyone is actually fasting. The Prophet quoted Allah saying,
„Every deed of the children of Adam is for them, except fasting, that is for me alone, and I alone will give the reward for it.“ (Sahieh Muslim)
In conjunction with the previous levels of fasting, this level changes a person from within. It strengthens, revitalizes and renews the spirituality of the fasting person and radically changes her or his personality and character. These are the precious results of an elevated state of God consciousness.
On the first day of the following month, when the other new moon has been seen, there is a special festival called Id al-Fitr. A lot of a staple food is donated to the poor (Zakat al-Fitr), everyone has bathed and put on their best new clothes, and community prayers are held early in the morning, followed by celebrations and visits to friends and relatives.
There are other fasting days in the year. Muslims are encouraged to fast six days in Shawwal, the month after Ramadhan, on Mondays and Thursdays, and on the ninth and tenth or tenth and eleventh of Muharram, the first month of the year. The tenth day, called Ashura, is also a day of fasting among the Jews (Yom Kippur) and God commanded the Muslims to fast for two days to distinguish themselves from the people of the Book.
While fasting is recommended in itself, continuous fasting, celibacy and other ways of withdrawing from the real world are banned in Islam. Fasting is absolutely forbidden on the two festival days, Id al-Fitr and Id al-Adha, the festival of Hağğ.