Patience, tolerance and perseverance are basic to success and happiness. Raising the threshold of these three virtues increases the quality of life. The holy month of Ramadan is the month of patience, as described by RasulullahSAW, and the reward for patience is jannat.
Sawm (fasting) is a condition to be sustained by remaining without food and water and refraining from all sensual pleasures for a specific period of time from early fajr to maghrib. Indeed, it is a condition which transforms every action performed during that time into an act of ‘ibadat (worship). As per Rasulullah’sSAW saying, the least of all actions for survival, that is breathing, which a man does without any effort, becomes tasbeeh, and the least form of inaction, which is sleep, becomes ‘ibadat. If this is the virtue of sawm then it cannot be accomplished by abstaining from food and drink alone; in fact, sawm is not complete till a mumin safeguards each of his senses from immoral deeds. Maulatuna FatemaSA says, “What does a saaim (the one who fasts) achieve if he doesn’t protect his tongue, eyes, ears and limbs from committing sins?” Four acts nullify a fast: eating, drinking, nikaah and geebat (back biting).
Sawm is compared by RasulullahSAW to a junnat (shield). A shield is not used for attacking, but for defence and self-protection. In the same way, sawm acts like a shield and protects a mumin from hellfire.
Allah says in the Quran, “O believers seek strength by performing namaaz and sabr (patience). Indeed Allah is with those who have patience.” The word sabr in this ‘ayat is interpreted as sawm. Fasting is the ultimate manifestation of sabr, (patience) and patience is the key to developing all virtuous characters. The da‘aim (tenets) of Shari‘at and noble character are in fact two sides of the same coin. Every deed of Shari‘at leaves an impression on the soul. Sawm is the source of creating patience. Sawm not only gives moral strength and will power but also bestows physical courage. This can be proved by the fact that Maulana Malek-ul-Ashtar, companion of Maulana AliSA known for his valour, fasted for days when he fought in the battle of Siffeen.
By creating patience, self-denial and tolerance, sawm helps one to develop the two cornerstones of emotional development: delaying gratification and controlling impulse.
Sawm creates humility in a human by making him realize his vulnerability. It reveals to him how weak is a human whose entire survival depends on a droplet and a morsel.
Sawm makes a mumin thankful for the enormous bounties of Allah, when he realises, in his state of hunger, the plight of those who are deprived of food. It is mentioned that Yusuf Nabi would starve himself though he had unlimited access to the treasures of Egypt. When asked for the reason, he would reply, ‘I starve lest I satiate and forget the suffering of poor people.’