Some scholars believe the origins of Muslim fasting are based on the practices of Jews and Christians of Muhammad’s time, because Quran 2:183 says “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.”
Fasting takes place from sunup to sundown during Ramadan, the ninth month in Islam’s lunar calendar. Muslims believe that Muhammad received the Quran during this special month. Because of the moon’s cycle, Ramadan arrives about 11 days earlier each year. Sometimes Ramadan is in the winter season when the days are short; sometimes it is in the summer when days are very hot and very long. While fasting, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and having sexual intercourse. Some do not even swallow their saliva. Muslims are required to fast once they reach puberty. Exemptions are made for children, the elderly, those who are sick, or pregnant women and nursing mothers. Menstruating women and travelers can make up the fast at a later date.
Fasting is intended to teach Muslims discipline and self-control. Some think that if one can master the basic desires for food, water, and sex, they can master any temptation throughout the rest of the year. It also helps Muslims to grow in their submission to Allah. Ramadan is a focused time of drawing closer to Allah – to let the hunger pangs serve as reminders of a need for God. It is also a time of “reformation” (working hard not to lie or do bad deeds) and “rewards” (earning extra merits and favors). Islam teaches that people can change themselves for the better – as long as they have the discipline to do so. Ramadan is also a time for remembering the poor and sharing with the needy.
For the whole month of Ramadan, life is turned upside down, and people become nocturnal. Life begins when the sun goes down. A big meal (iftar), usually starting with a date, is eaten after sunset and again just before sunrise (suhur). Women are exceptionally busy cooking and cleaning during this time. Some people spend their evenings visiting with family and friends. Some enjoy their favorite soap operas on TV. Others spend their evenings in prayer and reading the Quran. While it is indeed a high and holy month, oftentimes sleep deprivation, dehydration, and low blood sugar levels lead to grumpiness during the day.
The last ten days of Ramadan are very special, and the 27th is called the “Night of Power” (laylat al qadr). Muslims believe this is when Muhammad first received the Quran. On this night, the gates of Paradise are opened, and the gates of hell are locked up tight. Some spend all night in the mosque praying and reading the Quran. If a Muslim genuinely asks for forgiveness on this night, his or her sins are forgiven. It is “one night equal to a thousand months” (Quran 97:3) — and every good intention and deed is multiplied in reward.
Ramadan ends with Eid al Fitr, a huge day of celebration on par with even the biggest holidays. There are new clothes, gifts, donations to the poor, special foods and time spent with family and friends.
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Pray that Muslims would become aware of evil thoughts and desires within that cannot be avoided by fasting.
Pray that Jesus would reveal Himself in visions, dreams, and the Injil (New Testament).
Pray that Muslims would be delivered from the crushing burden of striving to earn God's favor.