(Tokyo-NewsHalal, Rabi`I 23, 1437, January 3, 2015) Sawm, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, is the fourth pillar of Islam. Ordained in the Holy Qur’an, the fast is an act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a richer perception of God. Fasting is also an exercise in self-control whereby one’s sensitivity is heightened to the sufferings of the poor.
Ramadan, the month during which the Holy Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), begins with the sighting of the new moon, after which abstention from eating, drinking and other sensual pleasures is obligatory from dawn to sunset.
Fasting is fardh (obligatory) for adult Muslims, except those who are suffering from an illness, traveling, are elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic or going through menstrual bleeding.
Fasting the month of Ramadan was made obligatory (wajib) during the month of Sha’aban, in the second year after the Muslims migrated from Mecca to Medina. Fatwas have been issued declaring that Muslims who live in regions with natural phenomenon such as the midnight sun or polar night should follow the timetable of Mecca.
While fasting from dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations with one’s spouse. Muslims are also instructed to refrain from sinful behavior that may negate the reward of fasting, such as false speech (insulting, backbiting, cursing, lying, etc.) and fighting. Food and drink is served daily, before dawn and after sunset.
Ramadan is also a joyful month. Muslims break their fast at sunset with a special meal, iftar, perform additional nocturnal worship, Tarawih, after evening prayer; and throng the streets in moods that are festive and communal.
The end of Ramadan is observed by three days of celebration called Eid Al-Fitr, the feast of the breaking of the fast. Customarily, it is a time for family reunion and the favored holiday for children who receive new clothing and gifts.