To the best man who ever walked on earth or ascended to heaven... To the one for whom the whole world was created... To the one whom I never saw yet in whom I firmly believe and whom I passionately love, in whose footsteps I try my best to follow, and who I very much hope to see in the life to come, though I know I am not worthy of it... To the master of mankind and jinns...
To the one who perfected the code of ethics and who was sent as a mercy for all creation: to Muhammad
The prophet and messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his pure and sinless progeny, peace and blessings that shall keep multiplying so long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west...
Hoping he will accept this humble book as a gift and intercede on my behalf on the day of judgment with the judge of judges and lord of lords to forgive my sins, faults, shortcoming, and transgressions, to permit me to meet his prophet and messenger Muhammad and his pure and sinless progeny, to help me stay on the path of righteousness, and to help me guide through the medium of this book as many of my Muslim brethren as he pleases thereto...
Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar!
In the Name of Allh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
There are, no doubt, many books written in English that deal with fast and the month of Ramadhan; however, most of them, from my viewpoint, do not do justice to the institution of fast, to the month of Ramadhan, the greatest of all months, nor to Lailatul-Qadr, the Night of Destiny.
Most available books seem to concentrate on the undeniable individual and social benefits of the fast, providing very little detail of what bliss awaits those who properly observe the fast.
This book emphasizes the rewards such persons may receive as soon as their souls depart from their bodies at the moment of "death." Also, an entire chapter in this book detailing the rewards of reciting each of the 114 Qur'anic chapters is included in order to encourage the believers to recite the Holy Qur'an more often.
One may wonder why heaven, hell, al-Sirat al-Mustaqeem (the Straight Path) are discussed in a book dealing with the fast. Islam emphasizes the significance of regarding this life as no more nor less than a golden and unique opportunity to prepare for the real life to come, the eternal one. Death is briefly discussed in this book because it is an issue which concerns all of us; it is the inevitable end of the existence of our present frail and fragile form and shape; it is the beginning of a new existence the significance of which is not realized by most people.
This is something which we must not forget even for a moment. The grave of a good believer, one who observes the fast and all other obligations, will be a miniature Paradise, whereas that of a disbeliever, or of a believer who did not honor Allah's commandments as he should have, will be a piece snatched out of hell, a place filled with various means of torture; all of this will take place even prior to the Day of Resurrection. This is why there is so much emphasis in this book on the life hereafter.
It is important to inform the discreet reader, especially one who likes to research and verify the contents of this book, that the vast majority of its text is a direct translation into English of excerpts from books written in Arabic. The authors of these books are held in very high esteem by scholars of Islamic studies. Those authors took pains to compile and verify their information before recording it.
The primary source for this book is the edition of Bihar al-Anwar al-Jami’a li Durar Akhbar al-A'immah al-Athar (oceans of inclusive light of precious tales relevant to the righteous Imams) of the great mentor, author, translator, compiler, and philosopher Shaykh Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi (1037 - 1111 A.H.) published in 1403 A.H. (1983 A.D.) by Al-Wafa Foundation (Beirut, Lebanon) in 110 volumes, not counting Vol. 0 (zero) which deals in its entirety with the book itself and with its author. Misbah al-Kaf’ami (al-Kaf’ami's lantern), another major reference, is authored by Shaykh Taqi al-Deen ibn Ibrahim ibn Ali ibn al-Hassan ibn Muhammad ibn Salih-al-’Amili al-Kaf’ami and published in 1412 A.H. (1992 A.D.) by Al-Nu’man Foundation (Beirut, Lebanon).
Another very important reference utilized is Usool al-Kafi (basics of what suffices) by Thiqatul-Islam Muhammad Ya’qoob al-Kulayni (reviewed and verified by Muhammad Ja’far Shams ad-Deen) and published by Dar al-Ta’aruf (Beirut, Lebanon) in 1411 A.H. (1990 A.D.). Two other references consulted are Al-Amali aw al-Majalis and Man la Yahduruhu al-Faqih ([a book written for] whoever has no access to a jurist) by the great mentor Shaykh Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn Babawayh al-Qummi al-Saduq (306 - 381 A.H.).
Both are published by al-A’lami Foundation (Beirut, Lebanon) in 1410 A.H. (1990 A.D.) and in 1406 A.H. (1986 A.D.) respectively. Al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Qur'an (the balance in the exegesis of the Qur'an) by Sayyid Muhammad Husayn al-Tabatabai, who was born in 1321 A.H. (1892 A.D.) and died in 1401 A.H. (1991 A.D.), has also been utilized, and so have scores of other books.
Regaring the Qur'anic verses cited in this book, their English translation employed is the one undertaken by M.H. Shakir, but I have not adhered to such a translation to the letter; rather, I have often edited it wherever I deemed necessary. As a matter of fact, Tahrike-Tarsile-Qur'an (Distribution of Holy Qur'an, Inc.) of New York had commissioned me to edit the sixth U.S. edition (1990) of the said translation, a task which I, Alhamdu-Lillah, accomplished (including typesetting the entire text) in the winter of 1993. Before then, I had finished editing (for the same publisher) the English translations of the Holy Qur'an by Mir Ahmed Ali and by Abdullah Yousuf Ali. Unfortunately, all of these three editions are yet to be printed.
It truly amazes me, as an Arab, to see that all existing translations of the Holy Qur'an were undertaken by non-Arabs. With reference to the three I have edited, M.H. Shakir is Iranian, Mir Ahmed Ali is Pakistani, and Abdullah Yousuf Ali is Indian! Does this mean that Arabs are incapable of translating the book of Allah, which was revealed in their own tongue, into English?! I don't think so.
To the best of my knowledge, the latest such translation, which at the same time is the first done by an American, is Dr. T.B. Irving's (who adopted the Muslim name al-Hajj Ta’lim ‘Ali) and is titled The Qur'an: The Noble Reading. It was published in 1993 by The Mother Mosque Foundation of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and I will always cherish the copy the translator autographed for my family.
The Mother Mosque is supposed to be the very first mosque built in the United States (in 1934), but Gutbi Mahdi Ahmed suggests in The Muslims of America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991) that the "earliest mosque in America" was in Ross, North Carolina, a mosque which was demolished (due to aging and improper maintenance) in 1979, that the mosque in Michigan City, Indiana, was built in 1932, and that Moors in America built their mosques as early as 1919. Speaking of mosques, there are now more than a thousand mosques in the U.S. where an estimated eight million Muslims live.
It may not be out of place here to take a look at the history of various English translations of the Holy Qur'an; so, please allow me to state the following, and please help me find one native speaker of Arabic among these translators:
It was in 1649 when Alexander Ross produced the first English version of the Holy Qur'an, but he did not translate it from Arabic; rather, he relied on Du Ryer's French translation of the Holy Qur'an. In 1734, George Sale's became the very first English translation of the Holy Qur'an from the Arabic, a translation which remained in circulation for 127 years during which it was reprinted at least seventeen times till, in 1861, J.M. Rodwell rendered his own English translation of the Holy Qur'an into poetic prose. In 1880, E.H. Palmer published his own translation.
The year 1905 made history: it witnessed the very first English translation of the Holy Qur'an done by a Muslim. All these translations did not include the original Arabic text till in 1910 when Mirza Abul-Fazl became the first Muslim to include his translation of the Holy Qur'an with the original Arabic text. Abul-Fazl's translation spurred a succession of such translations: twelve in six decades (one translation every five years).
These translators, chronologically arranged, with the year of their works' publication enclosed in parentheses, are as follows: Muhammad Ali (1917), Ghulam Sarwar (1929), Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall (1930), Abdullah Yousuf Ali (1934), Richard Bell (1937), A.J. Arberry (1955), Sher Ali (1955), N.J. Dawood (1956), Abdul Majid Daryabadi (1957), Mir Ahmed Ali (1964), Syed Abdul Lateef (1968), and Zafarullah Khan (1971).
In 1972, I came to the U.S. to pursue a graduate degree in English. Four years later (1976), I met at Atlanta's International Airport Sayyid Hashim Amir Ali who handed me a delux copy of his own English translation of the Holy Qur'an published in 1974 by Charles E. Tuttle Company of Tokyo, Japan. Qur'anic chapters in it are arranged chronologically, that is, according to the sequence of revelation, starting from Surat al-Alaq (Chapter 96) and ending with Surat Bara'at or Tawbah (Chapter 9). This caused an uproar among many Muslim dignitaries, organizations, and governments who were not used to seeing the Holy Qur'an thus arranged.
The translator told me about the financial woes from which he was suffering due to the bad publicity his translation, titled The Message of the Qur'an Presented in Perspective, was then receiving, so I gave it some exposure in Vol. 2, No. 14 (Sha’ban and Month of Ramadhan 1396/August and September 1976) of Islamic Affairs, a publication which I and a couple of Pakistani brethren launched in 1974, months after the establishment of our organization the Islamic Society of Georgia, Inc.
In the same year (1976), Shaikh Muhammad Sarwar, of Quetta, Pakistan, came to the U.S. as the very first Shi’a missionary delegated by His Late Holiness Abul-Qasim al-Khoei (1916 - 1992), the then Ayatullah al-Uzma (Supreme or Grand Ayatullah), to cater to the religious and social needs of the Shi’a community in the U.S. and Canada. Al-Khoei was responding to requests he had received from American converts to Shi’a Islam to send them an ‘alim. One of his instructions was to translate the Holy Qur'an into English. His came to be the least known translation of the Holy Qur'an and the least circulated according to the Publisher himself. It was published in 1979 by the afore-mentioned Tahrike-Tarsile-Qur'an which was founded in 1978 by Aun Ali Khalfan of Dares-Salam, Tanzania.
In 1978, I obtained my graduate degree, and in 1979 I moved from Atlanta, Georgia to Hyattsville, Maryland, then got married in 1982 and moved to Arlington, Virginia, where my wife and I founded the International Islamic Society of Virginia, Inc. primarily to resume the publication and distribution of Islamic Affairs which was suspended after my departure from Atlanta, Georgia. While remaining thus busy editing it, I came to be in direct contact with a man whom I very much admired. He is T.B. Irving whose translation of the Holy Qur'an is, to the best of my knowledge, the very latest and the only one undertaken by an American. It was printed by Amana Publishers of Vermont.
Probably the most impressive are the translator's marvellous style and invaluble textual comments, and the fact that the text is arranged in groups of verses comprising a full thought or theme. In other words, it departs from the usual method of individually numbering each verse.
This may pose a challenge to one who is not familiar with the original Arabic text and who is prone to losing his place and failing to identify where a verse starts and where it ends. And the average reader can be easily intrigued by words which he may not find in other translations: "Diabolis," for example, is used in some verses and Eblis (or Iblis) in others; most proper nouns are anglicized; heavy punctuation is employed, but there are no explanatory footnotes, a glossary, or an index. Irving's seems to me to be more of an attempt to explain than to translate the Holy Qur'an, something which converts to Islam, as well as non-Muslims, can find particularly helpful. But the original Arabic Qur'anic text is missing...
The reason why I have provided the reader with all these details is to make him realize that I did not choose Shakir's translation of the Holy Qur'an arbitrarily; many translations of the Holy Qur'an are available at my library, Alhamdu-Lillah.
Despite all my efforts and the efforts of a select few whose advice and suggestions I solicited and appreciated if the reader nevertheless detects any error in this text, I accept full responsibility for it and admit my ignorance and plead to Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala, and to the reader, to forgive me, since He best knows my limitations, faults, and shortcomings. The sad fact is that most original Arabic text translated, then incorporated into this book, lacks accent marks. Only those who are familiar with Arabic can realize the significance of accentuation in as far as Arabic is concerned.
During the period of more than 7,500 years, Arabic has reached a degree of complexity and wealth of diction which no other language in the history of the world has ever reached - or will ever reach. The problem is compounded when you try to convey the meaning of an Arabic sentence or phrase into a language as young as English, one whose vocabulary, compared to that of Arabic, is quite limited, even sadly poor. Although the meanings of most Arabic words used in this text are either enclosed in parentheses or explained in a footnote, a Glossary is included at the end of this book for the benefit of non-Arab or non-Muslim readers.
We pray Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala to cover our faults, overlook our shortcomings, and enable us to enlighten the readers with knowledge which may benefit them in the life of this world and in the life to come..., especially in the life to come, Allahomma Aameen.
Yasin T. al-Jibouri
Rajab 1415/December 1994
Since the dawn of history, man did not find any means better than fast to ascend above yielding to his desires and worldly wishes, attain spiritual upliftment, return to spirituality, and renounce contemptible habits to which he became addicted and which led him to perdition. Divinely revealed creeds, non-Muslim societies and former nations have been familiar with the fast. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese and other nations knew and practiced fast for various reasons. Many still do even today. The Greeks came to know about fast and its merits from ancient Egyptians. They used to fast immediately before engaging in a war.
The Romans emulated the Greeks not only in mythology, but also in observing the fast, especially when they were attacked, in order to gain victory. They believed that fast strengthened them and taught them patience and perseverance, two prerequisites required to win the battle against internal temptations and external dangers. Ancient Chinese, too, incorporated fast into their doctrines and prescribed it for those who were passing through periods of trials and tribulations.
For centuries, Hindus and Buddhists have been observing a somehow more rigid form of fast. Jews and Christians observe certain types of fast. Moses, peace be upon him, observed the fast for forty days at Mount Sinai; see Exodus 24:18. During that period, he was granted the heavy responsibilities embedded in the Ten Commandments.
He was commanded in the Torah to fast the tenth day of the seventh month and the ninth of the eighth. Jews used to (and some still do) fast during times of grief and mourning and when exposed to danger. They were also accustomed to fast one day as an act of atonement and whenever they believed that God was angry with them.
Nowadays, they fast one week to commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 B.C.) son of Nabopolassar, founder of the Chaldean or Neo-Babylonian empire, on March 16, 597 B.C. They observe fast on other days, too.
Jesus of Nazareth (6 B.C.-30 A.D.), peace be upon him and his virgin mother Mary daughter of Imran (Amram), was reported to have observed the fast on the day of atonement. He and his disciples fasted the forty days observed by Moses before him; see Matthew 4:2. This set the precedence for the pre-Easter fast among some Christians. Other Christian theologians started other types of fast during which they do not eat meat, fish, or eggs.
Allah Almighty has said,
"Surely the number of months with Allah is twelve in Allah's ordinance since the day He created the heavens and the earth, of these four are sacred; that is the right reckoning; therefore, do not be unjust to your own selves regarding them (Holy Qur'an, Surah Tawbah 9:36)."
These are the lunar months upon the reckoning of which does a Muslim in the east of the earth or the west rely; chronologically arranged, they are as follows:
3) Rabi' I,
4) Rabi' II,
5) Jumada I,
6) Jumada II,
9) The month of Ramadhan,
11) Thul-Qi'da, and
According to astronomy, the lunar calendar cannot be less than 29 days, nor can it be more than 30. It may once be 29 days and another 30, and its average is 29 days and 12 hours and five minutes. The beginning of each lunar month is recognized by the sighting of the new moon, the crescent. The Almighty says,
"They ask you concerning the new moons. Say: They are times appointed for the benefit of men, and for the pilgrimage" (Holy Qur'an, Surah Baqarah2:189).
In this verse, the Almighty has explained to us how to calculate and determine time by mentioning the word ahilla, which is the plural of the Arabic singular hilal, crescent, when it becomes visible to the naked eye. These crescents set the time for people and help them determine when the pilgrimage is to be performed.
The lunar calendar of Islam brings the fast of the month of Ramadhan eleven days earlier every year. Thus, in a cycle of about thirty-three years, it passes through all the seasons successively. Fast was first prescribed on the second of Sha’ban in the second year of Hijrah (the migration of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his progeny, from Mecca to Medina, corresponding to 622 A.D.).
On p. 59, of al-Saduq's Amali (or Majalis), the faqih mentor and author quotes Ja’far ibn Ali ibn al-Hassan ibn Ali ibn Abdullah ibn al-Mughirah al-Kufi as saying that his grandfather al-Hassan ibn Ali quotes his grandfather Abdullah ibn al-Mughirah quoting Isma’eel ibn Abu Ziyad quoting Abu Abdullah Imam Ja’far ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq (as) citing his forefathers, peace be upon all of them, saying that the Messenger of Allah (S)1 once asked his companions, "Shall I tell you about something which, if you do it, will distance you from Satan as much as the distance between the east and the west?"
They said, "O yes! Please do so," whereupon he (S) said, "It is fast. It darkens his [Satan's] face, while charity breaks his back and the love for Allah's sake and assisting others in doing good deeds cut off his tail and seeking Allah's forgiveness splits his spine. For everything there is a zakat (purification), and the zakat of the bodies is fast."
Because the reader will come across the name of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (as)2 quite often in this book, we ought to stop here for a moment to introduce this great personality to those who may not be familiar with him. Needless to say, the Imam (as) is very well known to Muslims following the Shi’a Ja’fari Ithna-’Asheri School of Muslim Law; after all, they derive their fiqh from him and regard him as highly as, say, Hanafis regard Imam Abu Haneefah al-Nu’man, or as the Hanbalis regard Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal. But those who are not Shi’as are justified in wondering how Imam al-Sadiq (as) knew the forthcoming information; so, let us introduce them to one of the most knowledgeable men who ever lived on earth:
His full name is Abu Abdullah Ja’far ibn Imam Muhammad al-Baqir ibn Imam Ali al-Azgher Zaynul-’Abidin ibn Imam Husayn ibn Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib, of the clan of Banu Hashim, of the tribe of Quraysh, peace and blessings of Allah be upon all of them and many, many salutations. He was born in the sacred precincts of Medina on the 17th of Rabee’ al-Awwal of 83 A.H., and he died at the age of 65 after being poisoned by the Abbaside caliph Abu Ja’far al-Mansur and was buried at Baqee’, Medina. His mother was a relative of the first caliph Abu Bakr: she was Umm Farwa Fatima daughter of Abdel-Rahman son of Abu Bakr. His father was Abu Ja’far Imam Muhammad ibn Ali al-Baqir (as) (57 - 114 A.H.), grandson of Imam Husayn (as).
If you wish to realize the greatness of Imam al-Sadiq (as), you will see his praise not only by Sunnis but also by non-Muslims as well, especially since his contributions to his contemporary intellectual revolution were invaluable and quite diverse. Not only was he a theologian, he was also a mathematician, a botanist, and alchemist, a scientist, and a man of letters.
To quote what Shi’as say about him may be out of place here. Probably the best compliment the Imam (as) received was from one of his world famous students: Imam Abu Haneefah al-Nu’man, founder of the major Sunni sect, the Hanafis, who was one of tens of thousands of scholars who prided himself in being Abu Abdullah's students. Abu Haneefah said verbatim: "Lawlal sanatan, la halaka al-Nu’man," which means, "Had it not been for those couple of years, al-Nu’man would have perished," a reference to two years which he spent in Baghdad as a student of Imam al-Sadiq (as) during al-Mansur's caliphate.
In his Musnad Abu Haneefah, Abul-Qasim al-Baghghar quotes al-Hasan ibn Ziyad as saying, "Abu Haneefah was asked once in my presence, ‘Who is the most outstanding faqih you have ever seen?' and he answered by saying, ‘Ja’far ibn Muhammad. When-al-Mansur brought him [from Medina to Baghdad], he sent for me and said, ‘O Abu Haneefah! People are enchanted by Ja’far ibn Muhammad, so you should prepare some of your most difficult questions for him.' I prepared forty questions for him, then his [al-Sadiq's] father was brought from Heera. I visited him, greeted him, and sat at his place of meeting.
Then he turned to him and said, ‘O Abu Abdullah! This is Abu Haneefah.' 'Yes, I know him,' he responded. Then he turned to me and said, ‘Ask Abu Abdullah some of your questions,' so I kept asking him, and he answered all my questions, telling me our answers to them as well as those of the people of Medina..., till I finished asking him all the forty questions which I had prepared. He fully answered all of them.'" Then Abu Haneefah said, "Is not one who best knows people's different views the most knowledgeable among them?"
Where did Imam al-Sadiq (as) get his knowledge from? Let us answer this question not from the Shi’a but from the Sunni viewpoint in order to satisfy the curiosity of, and perhaps convince, some skeptical readers of this book. On p. 221, Vol. 2, of the original Arabic text of al-Bukhari's Sahih, the author makes a reference to one particular saheefa, a parchment type scroll, which was being written by Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib (as) during the revelation of the Holy Qur'an, I.e., during more than two decades, reaching in the end a total length of seventy yards. As he was writing it, Imam Ali (as) used to tie its pieces, one at a time, to his sword's scabbard as a protective measure. This signifies how much he esteemed it.
It consisted of ahadith of the Holy Prophet (S), be they his own or those which he narrated about the Almighty and which he learned from archangel Gabriel (as), I.e. Qudsi ahadith. Al-Bukhari on the said page quotes al-A’mash quoting Ibrahim al-Tameemi quoting his father quoting Imam Ali (as) as saying that all they (Ali and his family) had were "The Book of Allah and this saheefa from the Prophet (S)."
On p. 36, Vol. 1, of al-Bukhari's Sahih, the author quotes al-Sha’bi] quoting Abu Juhayfa asking Ali (as), "Do you have any book?" Ali (as) said, "The Book of Allah, (what we have learned from) some knowledge bestowed upon a Muslim, and this saheefa." "What is written in this saheefa?" asked Abu Juhayfa. Ali (as) said, "It contains reason, [injunctions such as] the freeing of captives, and that no Muslim should kill another Muslim."
On p. 143 of Basair al-Darajat, Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (as) is quoted as saying, "We have the saheefa; it is dictated by the Messenger of Allah (S) and hand-written by Ali (as); nothing permissible or prohibitive except that it is recorded in it, and nothing people need, nor any issue, except that it contains it, even the penalty for slightly scratching one's cheek." Other references to this saheefa exist on pages 67 and 69, Vol. 4, and on p. 144, Vol. 8, of al-Bukhari's Sahih, as well as on p. 115, Vol. 4, of Muslim's Sahih. Another name for this saheefa is al-jami’a, the book which includes or contains all knowledge.
In Arabic, a university is call jami’a, a place where knowledge and those who learn it gather, a gathering place of knowledge and scholarship. If you are fortunate enough to be in possession of a copy of Usool al-Kafi by Muhammad ibn Ya’qub al-Kulayni published in 1990 by Dar al-Ta’aruf of Beirut, Lebanon, read pp. 294-298 of its first volume to learn numarous details about not only this saheefa but also about Fatima's Mushaf, the copy of the Holy Qur'an kept by Fatima (as) daughter of the Messenger of Allah (S) many years before Othman ibn ‘Affan asked Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib (as) to help compile the text of the Holy Qur'an.
There are other references to this "university of knowledge," but we think this much suffices to let the reader know that the section of this book dealing with the rewards one receives from reciting a particular chapter of the Holy Qur'an is derived from one of the most ancient, if not the very most ancient, books written in the history of Islam.
Fast of the month of Ramadhan is the fourth pillar of Islam. The Arabic word shahr is used for a month due to its being mushtahir, well-known or famous, that is, the knowledge thereof reaches all people, as we are told by Imam Ibn Manzour, author of Lisan al-Arab on p. 432, Vol. 4. Such knowledge can be attained by sighting its crescent.
As to the reason why it has been called the month of Ramadhan, it is due to the fact that the Arabs gave the names of the months according to the times during which they occurred, and to the fact that it so happened that the month of Ramadhan coincided with the parching days of the summer. Its root word ramd, as the same author tells us on pp. 160-161, Vol. 7, of the same lexicon, means to burn due to excessive sun-heat reflected on the desert sands. The ramda is the burning rock. This is why it was called the month of Ramadhan.
One may say in Arabic that a man's feet were burnt due to the heat, so he became ramad. It is also said that it was called the month of Ramadhan because people become ramad due to their suffering from the combination of hunger and thirst during a very hot month. Arab linguists say that to make something armad is to squeeze it between two soft rocks then to pound it. A person fasting, by analogy, pounds his own nature between two rocks: hunger and thirst.
According to one of his nUmarous traditions, Prophet Muhammad (S) is quoted saying, "The month of Ramadhan was named so because it tends to ramad the sins, that is, burn them." The righteous at the dawn of Islam used to call it al-midmar, meaning that it emaciates the souls and bodies and helps them get rid of the excesses of evils and sins whereby the souls and bodies were laden. During the life-time of the Prophet (S), the blessed month of Ramadhan used to be called al-marzooq, the one full of sustenance, due to the abundance of the blessings of Allah whereby His servants are sustained during it.
In a letter he sent to Jarrah al-Madayini, Muhammad ibn Ya’qub cites Imam Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq (as) saying, "Fast is not only to abstain from eating and drinking." Then the Imam (as) quoted Mary (as) mother of Christ (as), as the Holy Qur'an tells us, saying that she had vowed a fast for the Most Merciful One. The Imam (as) continued to say, "When you fast, you should safeguard your tongues, lower your gaze, and you should neither dispute with nor envy one another." This is recorded on p. 351, Vol. 94, of Bihar al-Anwar.
The Imam (as) is also quoted in the same and following page of the said reference saying, "When you fast, let your hearing and vision abstain with you from anything unlawful, against everything ugly, and leave hypocrisy aside, and do not harm those who serve you. Rather, adorn yourself with the dignity of the fast, and do not make your fasting day any different from the day when you do not fast."
1. This acronym stands for "peace be upon him and his family."
2. Acronyms for Alahis-Salam, peace be upon him.
When the crescent is sighted in your area or country, a niyyat, that is, a silent declaration of intention should be made to fast during this sacred month to attain nearness to Allah (wajib qurbatan ila-Allah). Just like the five daily prayers, the niyyat of fast is obligatory and mental, and so is the case of every deed according to Islam.
Significance of the Month of Ramadhan and its Fast
On p. 64, Vol. 2, of Safeenat al-Bihar, the Messenger of Allah (S) is quoted saying that Allah Almighty has charged a group of His angels with the task of supplicating for those who observe the fast. On the same page of the same reference, Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (as) is quoted saying that if a person fasts during a hot day, and he suffers from thirst, Allah will assign a thousand angels to wipe his face and convey to him glad tidings, and when he breaks his fast, Allah, the most Exalted, the most Glorified, addresses him with these words, "How sweet your smell and soul are! O My angels! Bear witness that I have forgiven him."
On page 96 of Thawab al-A’mal wa ‘Iqab al-A’mal, and also on page 48 of his book Al-Amali (or pp. 29-32 of old editions), Shaikh Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn Babawayh al-Qummi al-Saduq (306-381 A.H.) quotes Muhammad Ibn Ibrahim al-Ma'athi saying that Ahmed ibn Jaylawayh al-Jurjani al-Muthakkar] quotes Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Bilal quoting Abu Muhammad quoting Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Kiram quoting Ahmed ibn Abdullah quoting Sufyan ibn ‘Ayeenah quoting Mu’awiya ibn Abu Ishaq quoting Sa'eed ibn Jubayr saying, "I asked Ibn Abbas once about the reward of one who fasts during the month of Ramadhan knowing its greatness.
He said: ‘O Ibn Jubayr! Get ready to listen to what your ears have never heard before, nor your heart has ever experienced, nor your soul has ever reckoned regarding that about which you have inquired! What you are seeking is the knowledge of the first generations and the last!' So I left him and prepared myself to meet him again. I returned to him at early daybreak.
Having said the fajr prayers (together), I reminded him of the tradition which I had sought, so he turned his face to me and said, ‘Listen carefully to what I am going to tell you. I have heard the Messenger of Allah (S) saying: ‘Had you ever come to know about your rewards during the month of Ramadhan, you would surely have thanked the Almighty a great deal more (than you usually do). When the first night is over, Allah, the Almighty and the Exalted One, forgives the sins committed by all members of my nation, the ones committed in secrecy and the ones committed in public, and He elevates your status two thousand degrees and builds you fifty towns in Paradise.
On the next day, He rewards you for every step you take during that day with the rewards of one who adored Him for a full year and the reward of one of His prophets, and He will reward you as though you had performed the fast for a full year. On the third day, the Exalted and Dear One grants you a dome in Paradise for each hair on your body, a dome of a white pearl on top of which are twelve thousand light houses and at the bottom of which are twelve thousand houses in each one of which there are one thousand beds and on each bed of which there is a nymph (huri) with large lovely eyes, each served by one thousand servants the head-covering of each one of them is better than this world and everything in it. On the fifth day,
He builds you in Paradise a million1 cities in each one of which there are seventy thousand houses, inside each one of which there are seventy thousand tables, and on each table there are seventy thousand bowls, and in each bowl there are sixty thousand types of food each one of which is different from the other. On the sixth day, He will grant you in the Abode of Peace a hundred thousand towns in each one of which there are a hundred thousand rooms, in each room there are a hundred thousand beds of gold the length of each is a thousand yards, and on each bed is a huri wife with large lovely eyes whose hair has thirty thousand locks braided with pearls and sapphires, and each lock is carried by a hundred concubines.
On the seventh day, the Almighty grants you in the Garden of Bliss the rewards of forty thousand martyrs and forty thousand siddeeqs. On the eighth day, Allah Almighty grants you the rewards of the good deeds of sixty thousand worshippers and sixty thousand ascetics. On the ninth day, Allah, the Exalted One, gives you what is equal to what He gives a thousand scholars and a thousand devotees and a thousand warriors fighting for Allah in a foreign land.
On the tenth day, He gives you the fulfillment of seventy thousand of your worldly wishes and orders the sun, the moon, the stars, the animals, the birds, the beasts, every rock and every rain-drop, everything wet and everything dry, all fish in the oceans and all leaves on the trees, to pray for your forgiveness.
On the eleventh day, the Exalted and Mighty One grants you the rewards whereby He rewards one who performs the pilgrimage and ‘umra four times and one who performs the pilgrimage with His prophets and the ‘umra with every siddeeq or martyr. On the twelfth day, He takes upon Himself to replace your sins with good deeds, then He multiplies your good deeds many times and gives you the rewards of each of your good deeds a million times.
On the thirteenth day, Allah Almighty grants you what He grants the devotees of Mecca and Medina and bestows upon you an intercession for each and every stone and rain-drop between Mecca and Medina. On the fourteenth day, He treats you as though you had met and followed in the footsteps of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Solomon [peace be upon all of them], and as though you had worshipped the Almighty Allah in the company of His prophets for two hundred years.
On the fifteenth day, He fulfills ten of your worldly wishes and those of the hereafter and grants you what He granted Job (as), then He orders the angels who bear the ‘Arsh to pray for your forgiveness and grants you on the Day of Resurrection forty lights: ten on your right, ten on your left, ten before you and ten behind you. On the sixteenth day, the Almighty grants you sixty outfits to wear as soon as you abandon your grave and a she-camel to ride, and He will send a cloud to overshadow you to protect you from the heat of that Day.
On the seventeenth day, the Almighty Allah says: ‘I have forgiven them and their parents and exempted them from having to undergo the hardships of the Day of Resurrection.' On the eighteenth day, the Praised and Exalted One orders Gabriel, Michael and Israfil as well as the angels who bear the ‘Arsh and all archangels to seek forgiveness for the nation of Muhammad (S) till the next year, and He will also grant you on the Day of Resurrection whatever rewards [He grants to those who participated in the Battle of Badr].
On the nineteenth day, all angels in the heavens and on earth will have already sought permission of their Lord to visit your graves and to bring you every day a present and a drink [as long as you remain in the barzakh].
So, if you complete your fast for twenty full days, the Almighty Allah sends you seventy thousand angels to protect you from every accursed devil, and He will have granted you for each day of your fast your rewards as though you fasted a hundred years, and He will set a ditch between you and hell and grant you the rewards of all those who recited the Torah, the Gospel, the Psalms and the Holy Qur'an, and will write for you for each feather on Gabriel the reward of a full year and will grant you the rewards of those who glorify Him at the ‘Arsh and Kursi and will marry you to a thousand nymphs for each of the verses of the Qur'an.
On the twenty-first day, the Almighty expands your grave a thousand parasangs and lifts the darkness and loneliness of your graves and makes your graves look like the graves of the martyrs and your faces like the face of Joseph son of Jacob (as). On the twenty-second day, the Almighty dispatches the angel of death as He dispatches him to His prophets to remove your worldly worries and the torment of the hereafter. On the twenty-third day, you will pass on the Straight Path in the company of the prophets, the first to follow the prophets, and the martyrs, as if you had fed each orphan and clothed everyone who needed to be clothed.
On the twenty-fourth day, you will not leave this life before each one of you sees the place reserved for him/her in Paradise and is given the rewards of a thousand sick and a thousand who go back to their creed and will grant you the rewards of one who freed a thousand captives from the descendants of Ishmael (as).
On the twenty-fifth day, Allah will have built you under His ‘Arsh a thousand green domes on top of each one of which is a tent of light. The Almighty and Exalted One will then say: ‘O followers of Muhammad! I am your Lord and you are My servants! Enjoy the shade of My ‘Arsh in these domes and eat and drink with enjoyment, for there will be no fear on you, nor will you grieve.
O nation of Muhammad! By My Dignity and Greatness! I shall dispatch you to Paradise in a way which will amaze the first generations and the last, and I shall crown each one of you with a thousand light crowns, and I shall provide for each one of you a she-camel whose reins are made of light, and in it are a thousand gold rings, in each is an angel looking after it, in the hand of each angel is a light rod so that he may enter Paradise without a reckoning.'
And on the twenty-sixth day, Allah will look at you with compassion and will forgive all your sins except those of shedding innocent blood or robbing people's wealth, and He will grant you every day a thousand barriers against backbiting, lying and slandering. On the twenty-seventh day, He will consider you as though you had aided every believing man and woman and clothed seventy thousand naked persons and equipped a thousand soldiers to camp in a foreign land to defend Islam, and as if you have recited every book Allah has revealed to His prophets.
On the twenty-eighth day, Allah will have built you in Paradise a hundred thousand light cities and granted you in the garden of bliss a hundred thousand silver mansions and a hundred thousand cities in each one of which there are a thousand rooms, and granted you in the garden of greatness a hundred thousand pulpits of musk inside each one of which there is a thousand saffron houses in each one of which there are a thousand beds of pearls and sapphires and on each bed a wife of the huris with large lovely eyes.
So if you complete your fast till the twenty-ninth day, the Almighty Allah will grant you a million quarters, inside each quarter is a white dome underneath which is a white camphor bed on which there are a thousand mattresses of green silk on each one of which there is a huri decorated with seventy thousand ornaments and crowned with eighty thousand locks each one of which is decorated with diamonds and sapphires.
So if you finish thirty complete days of fast, the Almighty will have granted you for each day the rewards of a thousand martyrs and a thousand foremost believers in His Prophets, and He will have assigned for you the rewards of fifty years of adoration, and He will have decreed a clearance for you from hell and a passage on the Straight Path and a security against the torment.
One of the gates of Paradise is called al-Rayyan, and it shall never be opened before the Day of Resurrection. It will be opened for those among the nation of Muhammad (S) who performed the fast. Ridwan, custodian of Paradise, will call out saying: ‘O followers of Muhammad! Come to the al-Rayyan gate!' So he will let my nation enter Paradise through that gate. Therefore, if one is not forgiven during the month of Ramadhan, in which month can he be forgiven? There is neither will nor strength except from Allah; Allah suffices us, and what a great Helper He is!'" This lengthy tradition is also recorded on pp. 183-185, Vol. 8, of Bihar al-Anwar.
On page 92 of his book Thawab al-A’mal wa ‘Iqab al A’mal, in a chapter dealing with the glory of the month of Ramadhan and the rewards for its fast, Shaikh Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn Babawayh al-Qummi al-Saduq relies on the authority of Jabir who quotes Imam Abu Ja’far al-Baqir, peace be upon him, and also in Al-Misbah, where Jabir ibn Yazid quotes Imam Abu Ja’far, peace be upon him, saying the following to Jabir ibn Abdullah al-Ansari, one of the greatest sahabah (companions of the Holy Prophet, S),
"O Jabir! This is the month of Ramadhan; whoever fasts during its day, and spends a portion of its night saying prayers and abstaining from eating anything unlawful, safeguarding his modesty against anything unlawful, and withholding his tongue against saying anything unlawful, will leave his sins behind him as the month leaves." Jabir said, "O Messenger of Allah! What a beautiful hadith this is!" The Messenger of Allah (S) whereupon said, "And what difficult terms these are!"
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, his progeny and companions, is also quoted saying, "Whoever fasts during the month of Ramadhan out of firm belief and a sincere desire to please Allah will have all his past and future sins forgiven." He (S) is also quoted saying, "The gates of Paradise are opened on the first night of the month of Ramadhan, and they remain open till the last night of it." He (S) is also quoted saying that the Almighty has entrusted seven angels to keep each demon fettered till the end of the month of Ramadhan.
On the same page of the same reference, Muhammad ibn al-Hassan is quoted saying that al-Husayn ibn al-Hassan ibn Sa’eed has quoted al-Husayn ibn ‘Alwan quoting ‘Amr ibn Shimr citing Jabir who in turn cites Imam Abu Ja’far al-Baqir (as) saying that whenever the month of Ramadhan approached, the Messenger of Allah (S) used to come out to the public, face the Qibla and supplicate thus:
O Allah! I invoke You to let this crescent be the harbinger of security and conviction, safety and peace, crowned health, vast sustenance, prevention against all ailments, recitation of the Holy Qur'an, and help in performing the prayers and upholding the fast! O Lord! Safeguard us for the month of Ramadhan, safeguard it for us, and safeguard it from us till the month is over and You have forgiven us!
Then he (S) would face the public and address them thus:
O Muslim multitudes! When the crescent of the month of Ramadhan appears, the demons among the devils are chained, and the gates of the heavens and Paradise are opened, and so are the gates of His Mercy, while the gates of hell are closed. Pleas are answered and the Almighty releases at the time of iftar a number of residents of hell. In every night, a caller calls: ‘Is there anyone who has a plea? Is there anyone who seeks forgiveness? O Almighty Allah! Reward everyone who spends in Your way, and grant perdition to everyone who withholds. And when the month of Shawwal approaches, the believers are called upon to receive their rewards, for that will be their day to receive their rewards.
On page 94 of the reference cited above, Muhammad ibn Musa ibn al-Mutawakkil is quoted saying that Abdullah ibn Ja’far al-Himyari has said that Ahmed ibn Muhammad ibn Eisa has said that al-Hassan ibn Mahboob al-Zarrad has said that Abu Ayyub has quoted Abul-Ward citing Imam Abu Ja’far al-Baqir, peace be upon him, saying that the Messenger of Allah (S) delivered a sermon on the last Friday of the month of Sha’ban.
In it, he praised Allah then said, ‘O people! You have been shadowed by a month one night of which is better than a thousand months; it is the month of Ramadhan during which Allah has enjoined you to fast and equalled the rewards for voluntary prayers during its nights with the rewards due to those who volunteered to say optional prayers for seventy years in other months.
He also equalled the rewards of the good deeds of those who do good deeds during it with those who perform one of the obligations enjoined by the Almighty (in other months). And whoever performs one of the enjoined obligations during it will be rewarded as though he had performed seventy other obligations in other months. It is the month of perseverance, and the reward of perseverance is Paradise.
It is the month of consolation, the one wherein Allah increases the sustenance of the believers... Allah will decrease the hardship of the reckoning of whoever decreases the hardship of his slave during it. It is a month the beginning of which is mercy, the middle of which is forgiveness, and the end of which is acceptance and emancipation from the fire. You cannot by any means take lightly during it four merits with two of which you please Allah, and two others you cannot do without.
The two merits whereby you please Allah are: you testify that There is no god except Allah and that I, Muhammad, is the Messenger of Allah; as for the two merits which you cannot do without, these are: you plead to Allah to fulfill your worldly needs and grant you Paradise, and that you plead to Allah during it for your health and well-being, and you seek refuge with Him against the fire.'"
On pp. 56-57 of al-Saduq's Amali, Sa’d ibn Abdullah is quoted saying that Ahmed ibn Muhammad ibn Eisa ibn Sa’eed quotes Fadal citing Yousuf ibn ‘Umayrah quoting ‘Ubaydullah ibn Abdullah quoting individuals who heard Abu Ja’far, peace be upon him, saying that when the month of Ramadhan was about to approach, that is, on the twenty-seventh of Sha’ban, the Messenger of Allah (S) told Bilal to call upon people to assemble. People assembled, so he (S) ascended the pulpit, praised the Almighty then said,
"O people! The month (of Ramadhan) has approached, and it is the master of all months wherein one night is better than a thousand months. During it, the gates of hell are closed and those of Paradise are kept open. Whoever lives through it and is not forgiven will be distanced from the mercy of Allah, and whoever during it does not receive Allah's forgiveness while his parents are living will surely be further away from receiving Allah's mercy. And whoever hears my name and fails to send blessings unto me will (likewise) be distanced from Allah's mercy."
1. In Arabic, the word "million" does not exist; instead, Arabs use "a thousand thousands."
In Islam, the spiritual, social, economic, political and psychological benefits of fast are interrelated, each affecting the other. Rituals regulate the Muslims' social and individual life and bring them closer to their Creator. A combination of fast, prayers, and meditation may be the very best dose for any and all psychological, financial, and spiritual ills from which one may be suffering.
They purify the soul, cleanse the intention, and bring about an abundance of good from the Almighty Who is ever-watching over us and Who desires nothing but good for His sincere servants.
On p. 353, Vol. 94, of Bihar al-Anwar, al-Majlisi traces a saying of Imam Muhammad al-Jawad (as) saying that if one fasts at the beginning of a month, reciting in the first rek’at the Fatiha once and al-Ikhlas thirty times (I.e., as many as the maximum days of the lunar month), and the Fatiha once and al-Qadr thirty times in the second rek’at, following that with offering the poor something by way of charity, it will dispel everything about which he is apprehensive during the entire month.
Two other rek’ats are described in the same reference as having even a greater effect on a believer's life: Imam al-Jawad (as) is quoted saying, "Whoever offers two optional rek’ats at the very beginning of the month of Ramadhan, reciting in the first the Fatiha and the Fath, and in the other whatever surah (Qur'anic chapter) he likes, Allah, the most Exalted One, will not let him suffer anything bad during his entire year, and he will remain thus protected till the next year."
During the month of Ramadhan, the believers learn to curb their desires and check them against transgression, extravagance, and the yielding to the lower desires, all of which degenerate man and bring him to the pit of self-destruction and annihilation. Fast fosters a strong will, teaches patience and self-discipline, the ability to bear hardship and tolerate hunger and thirst. In short, it brings about a clear victory over one's illicit desires and selfish impulses.
It regulates and systemizes the energies of instincts. It trains the body to submit to lofty spiritual impulses. It safeguards the body's health by protecting it against extravagance. It grants its organs a respite so that they may be ready to resume their activities. As medical science has proved, it is a medicine for many bodily and nervous ailments.
It is a moral education, a nourishment of supreme virtues. It teaches the believer to abandon vices, to control emotions and instincts, to curb the tongue against saying what is wrong or inappropriate and the conscience against contemplating upon wrongdoing or subversion. It promotes the spirit of unity among members of the fasting community; it teaches them humility and humbleness and instills within them the feeling of equality before Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala.
The rich have to observe it as well as the poor, the women as well as the men, the influential and powerful as well as the weak and downtrodden: they all have to observe the fast. It promotes the spirit of charity and compassion towards the poor and the needy, and it reminds each believer of the needs of other believers. Muslims share with each other Allah's blessings unto them.
The believers strengthen their ties with the Almighty, since they express through fast a continuous desire to obey His Will and carry out His commandments. They also strengthen their ties with one another, since the month of Ramadhan is the month of giving. It is the month for productive social inter-activity. Islam places a great deal of emphasis on moral excellence during this holy month.
The holy Prophet of Islam (S) has said, "One who, while fasting, neither guards his tongue from telling lies nor refrains from doing bad deeds does not respect his fast, while Allah does not approve of mere abstention from food... When you fast, you should not speak ill of anybody, nor should you be boisterous or noisy. If anybody speaks ill of you or tries to pick a quarrel with you, do not respond to him in the same manner; rather, simply tell him that you are fasting."
The institute of the fast is one of the signs of the Almighty's mercy on those who adhere to His divine creed, and it is never meant to put a hardship on anybody. The Almighty does not gain any benefit from putting hardship on anyone; on the contrary, He always tries to pave the way of happiness for His servants in this life and the life to come, and sometimes He even "pushes" them to do what is good for them, as is the case with making the fast of the month of Ramadhan obligatory on every believing man and woman.
But if you afford this great month a sincere and profound welcome, you will receive your rewards in many, many ways both in the short life of this fleeting world and in the eternal abode, Insha-Allah. Page 83, Vol. 1, of the first edition of al-Kulayni's Al-Kafi, as al-Majlisi tells us on p. 354, Vol. 94, of his own Bihar al-Anwar, citing his own father quoting his mentor Shaykh the renowned faqih Ali ibn Muhammad al-Madayni quoting Sa’eed ibn Hibatullah al-Rawandi quoting Ali ibn Abdel-Samad al-Naisapuri quoting al-Dooryasti quoting Shaykh al-Mufid saying that on the first day of the month of Ramadhan, one ought to supplicate thus:
Lord! The month of Ramadhan has arrived, and You have required us to fast during it and revealed the Qur'an as guidance to people and a clear distinction of the guidance and the right criteria. O Lord! Help us observe its fast; accept the same from us; receive our fast from and safeguard the same for us in an ease from You and good health; surely You can do everything.
Any of the following invalidates the fast: eating or drinking, sexual intercourse, telling lies about Allah and/or His Messenger (S), immersing the entire head in water, deliberate inhalation of smoke, remaining in the state of janabah (uncleanliness due to seminal discharge) till dawn, masturbating, taking injections whereby nourishing liquids reach the stomach, deliberate vomiting, intentionally passing an object through the throat or any other natural opening... Travelling, that is, going from your place of residence to a place situated at least eight farasikh (about twenty-seven and a half miles, or fifty miles according to some scholars) requires you to break your fast and to make up for it later on in equal number of days missed.
Deliberately breaking the fast requires a kaffara (atonement) which is either the feeding of sixty poor persons, or fasting for sixty consecutive days for each day missed. If the fast is broken accidentally, qaza (making up) suffices. Every adult and mentally sound male or female Muslim is required to fast starting twenty minutes before dawn and till sunset.
Al-Majlisi, on p. 352, Vol. 94, of his Bihar al-Anwar, cites a number of Shi’a scholars saying that they heard Imam Abu Ja’far al-Baqir (as) saying, "Telling lies breaks the fast, and so does a second look at another woman, in addition to oppression, be it little or much."
One who misses fasting a number of days during the month of Ramadhan due to travelling, forgetfulness, ignorance of the fact that those days were the days of the month of Ramadhan, sickness, menstruation or childbirth, are required to make up in equal number of days missed. Those who suffered from temporary insanity or who faint before having the chance to make the intention to fast, those who are afflicted with an ailment which causes them to be constantly thirsty and have no hope of healing, or because of old age that renders them feeble, do not have to make it up, nor do they have to offer kaffara, atonement.
One who falls sick during the month of Ramadhan and a year passes before being able to fully recover is, of course, not required to make up but to pay the compensation which is providing the needy and deserving poor, or providing one such person, with three quarters of a kilogram of food for each day missed. If one's father dies owing either prayers or fast, his oldest son is required to make up on his father's behalf, but a son is not required to make up on behalf of his deceased mother.
Fast is not accepted without the five daily prayers. Exempted from the fast are children, the mentally retarded, and old men and women who find it too hard to observe. If they can fast in other months to make up, it will be best for them. If they cannot make up, then they do not have to offer kaffara either. Women during their menstrual period are not only exempted from fasting, they are forbidden from fasting, but they will have to make it up later on. As soon as their period ends, they must take their ghusul (ceremonial bath) and resume the fast. Women breast-feeding their infants and whose natural milk is not sufficient, as well as women during their prenatal period may break their fast if it harms their infants. They, too, have to make up for the fast.
On p. 232, Vol. 7, of Wasail al-Shi’a, and also on p. 69, Vol. 4 (old edition), of Al-Kafi, Imam Abu Ja’far al-Baqir (as) is quoted saying, "Do not say ‘this is Ramadhan,' or ‘Ramadhan has gone,' or ‘Ramadhan has approached,' for Ramadhan is one of the Names of Allah, the most Exalted, the most Great, and He neither comes nor goes; things that die come and go. Instead, you should say ‘the month of Ramadhan, for [in this case] the month will simply be identified, whereas the Name belongs to Allah, Exalted is His mention, whereas the month wherein the Qur'an was revealed is made by Allah a month for hopeful anticipation as well as of stern warnings."
Al-Majlisi quotes the same in his Bihar al-Anwar, citing Ibn Babawayh al-Qummi's Thawab al-A’mal wa ‘Iqab al-A’mal. Imam al-Baqir (as) here is simply repeating what the Messenger of Allah (S) had said as quoted by Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib, peace be upon him, thus: "Do not say ‘Ramadhan,' for you do not know what Ramadhan really is; instead, you should say just as the Almighty Allah has said in His Glorious Book ‘the month of Ramadhan,' and whoever says ‘Ramadhan' [only], let him both pay sadaqa (alms) and kaffara (atonement) so that his sin may be forgiven."1
1. Al-Saduq, in his Connotations of the News, quoting Hisham ibn Salim. Also in Basaair al Darajat by Sa`d ibn Abdullah.
Imam al-Hasan ibn Ali ibn Abu Talib, peace be upon them, is quoted on p. 49, Vol. 2 of al-Saduq's book Man la Yahdaruhu al-Faqih saying that a group of Jews once visited the Messenger of Allah (S) and the most learned man among them asked him about several issues one of which was: "Why did the Almighty enjoin fast upon your nation during day-time for thirty days after having required previous nations to fast for a longer period of time?"
The Messenger of Allah (S) said: "When Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, food remained in his stomach for thirty days; therefore, Allah enjoined Adam's offspring to spend thirty days suffering from hunger and thirst, and what they eat during this period of time [during the night] is due only to His own favor upon them just as it was His favor upon Adam. This is why Allah enjoined my nation to fast." Then the Messenger of Allah (S) recited this verse:
"Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard (yourselves) against evil. (Fast) for a certain number of days" (Holy Qur'an, 2:182).
The Jew, therefore, said, "You have, O Muhammad, said the truth; so, what is the reward of one who fasts?" The Prophet (S) answered, "No believer fasts during the month of Ramadhan seeking nearness to Allah without the Almighty granting him seven merits:
1) anything haram (prohibited) in his body will be compressed and extracted;
2) he becomes closer to achieving the mercy of Allah;
3) he will have atoned the sin of his father Adam (as);
4) his death agony will be reduced;
5) he will receive an assurance against undergoing the pain of hunger and thirst on the Day of Resurrection;
6) Allah will grant him a clearance from hell; and
7) Allah will feed him of the good things in Paradise." The Jew said, "O Muhammad! You have surely said the truth."
This tradition has been recorded on page 378, Chapter 109, of al-Saduq's book 'Ilal al-Sharai’.
As regarding its types, these vary. They differ according to the differences among the creeds, sects, nations and their respective customs. Its objectives, too, vary, although the most significant of them and the most outstanding is to purify the body and the soul from material and non-material venoms. Among its types is one referred to by the Holy Qur'an as silence and abstention from any vain discourse.
An example is the address of the Almighty to Virgin Mary (as) in which He commanded her, when confronted by others who resented the birth of Christ (as), to say:
"I have surely vowed [to observe] a fast to the Beneficent God, so I shall not speak to anyone today" (Holy Qur'an, 19:26).
Muslims have learned from their Lord, the Praised and the Exalted One, that fast is one of the atonements for: 1) shaving the head during the pilgrimage (while one is still wearing the ihram) due to a valid excuse such as sickness or a head injury, 2) the inability to offer sacrifice (I.e., hadi), 3) killing an ally by mistake, 4) violating an oath, 5) hunting while still wearing the ihram, 6) in the case of zihar.1
1. "Your back," an Arab during Jahiliyya may say to his wife, "looks to me like the back of my mother!" Striking such a similitude is called zihar.
Forty Types of Fast
Although the above chapter dealt with the types of fast, we decided to expand this discussion and quote for you from "Bab al-Sawm," chapter dealing with fast, on pp. 52-54, Vol. 2, of Man la Yahduruhu al-Faqih by the nation's mentor Shaikh Abu Ja’fa