O Believers! Fast is prescribed for you as it was for those before you so that you may ward off evil. (Fast) a certain number of days… (Holy Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verses 182-183)
Every year in the ninth lunar month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims around the world abstain from food, drink, vain talk and certain other actions from before sunrise until after sunset.
The Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions all enjoin fasting. Moses observed a fast of forty days at Mount Sinai at the time of the revelation of the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 24:18) Although less common now, it is Jewish tradition to fast when mourning or when in danger. Most practicing Jews still fast on the Day of Atonement and for the one-week commemoration of the destruction of Jerusalem in 597 B.C. Jesus of Nazareth, peace be upon him, also fasted on the Day of Atonement and the forty days of Moses’ fast to ward off Satanic temptation.
The highest level of fasting is to disengage oneself from other than Allāh (SwT). Every thought, speech, action, etc. is solely for Allāh (SwT). The fasting one in this level ensures that not only does he observe the first two levels of fasting, but protects his heart from other than Allāh (SwT). Perhaps this noble dictum of Imām al-Sādiq (‘a) refers to this very station:
أَلْقَلْبُ حَرَمُ اللٌّهِ، فَلاََ تُسْكِنْ فِی حَرَمِ اللٌّهِ غَیْرَ اللٌّهِ.
“The heart is the sanctuary of Allāh; therefore do not make other than Allāh reside in the sanctuary of Allāh.”
The result of such a fast is ‘the Paradise of Divine Encounter’ (Jannat al-Liqā’). If we ponder over the supplications of the Holy month of Ramadān and try to understand what kind of reception and banquet we can anticipate, we would realize that it is this level of fasting that we must struggle to attain.
The name Ramadan is derived from the word Ramda' (رمضاء) which means burning. The Prophet (PBUH) said: "This month (i.e. Ramadan) has been named Ramadan because it burns the sins."
Ramadan is so much virtuous that in the Quran among all months only Ramadan has been alluded to and this allusion in the book of God which has been sent to humanity for all times till the Day of Judgment shows the importance of this holy month. In hadiths Ramadan has been described as the month of God and a divine banquet in which the host is God Almighty himself. He receives his guests in this month with mercy and forgiveness. The Prophet (PBUH) said:"whoever fasts during the whole month of Ramadan, it is obligatory upon God to forgive all his sins, guarantee the rest of his life and spare him from the thirst of the day of judgment".