SAUM (FASTING) – A UNIQUE EXERCISE IN SELF-PURIFICATION AND SELF-RESTRAINT
This monograph covers one of the five pillars of Islam, i.e., Saum (popularly called ‘fasting’). Saum, as its place in Islamic faith suggests, is an act of worship. However, people consider Salaat (popularly called ‘prayers’), as the only from of worship in Islam, perhaps due to its regularity, frequency and visibility.
Fasts are observed by adherents of almost all major religions in the world. In that sense, there is nothing unique or special about the Saum prescribed in Islam. However, the spirit behind this arduous exercise is unique. Its aim is to provide an opportunity to the person to tend his faith, renew his resolve to adhere to the tenets of Islam and to feel the pain of poverty. By voluntarily abstaining from routine physical demands of body, from dawn to dusk, even while carrying on with the normal business of life, the person is exercised in self-restraint, discipline and staying away from all that is prohibited in the conduct of day to day affairs throughout his life.
Saum inspires the emergence of pious instincts in a person and suppresses the vicious ones, in order to bring piety in day to day life. As a result, society itself obtains a pious character- an inescapable pre-requisite of a peaceful, progressive and prosperous civilization. Without piety neither an individual nor the society can remain satisfied and peaceful.
By designating a particular month of the Lunar calendar, it ensures uniformity in the observance of fast throughout the world. More importantly, it ensures collective form in worship, which is the hallmark of all forms of Islamic worship. By adding the long Saum prayers (Tarawiyah) during nights, which are offered in congregations, emphasis is laid on the unity of adherents and higher purpose of this life, or else, it would degenerate into a mere ritual of subjecting the body to suffer by denying its legitimate needs, which, by-itself means nothing.
Readers will find this monograph quite informative, not only in practice but also the spirit guiding this aspect of Islamic way of worship. It will be an interesting reading for both, Muslims and Non-Muslims, who wish to know about this annual exercise in which Muslims all-over the world participate with great enthusiasm and fervor.