Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat
Why do we fast?
In the name of Allah, with peace and blessing on the Messenger of Allah.
Obligation and Motivation
The above question can be answered from two perspectives: what obliges us to fast, and what makes us want to fast?
The obligation comes from the verse “O believers! Fasting is prescribed for you—as it was for those before you—so perhaps you will become mindful [of Allah].” [Quran, 2:183]
We understand from this verse that it is a stressed obligation as the verse uses the Arabic word “kutiba.” Rhetorically, this indicates the command was so strong that it was written to preserve it.
For a Muslim, this is sufficient to call one to implement the command. It is a natural consequence of faith in Allah’s divinity and authority. With this faith, a Muslim recognizes Allah to be his Master, and so, he obeys the commands of the Master as best he can.
Counting on a Reward
The above is sufficient as the source of the obligation and as a form of motivation.
However, the Messenger of Allah also gave us further motivation as this makes enduring hardships easier – and fasting is intrinsically difficult. The words “alaykum” in the Arabic above indicate that the matter is weighty and hard.
Fasting poses many challenges for people, from hunger and thirst to disrupted sleep patterns and more. Each is part of the struggles that were made obligatory on us so we may learn, develop, and grow through them.
These difficulties do not go unnoticed by Allah, and we are told to be actively aware of them so we can expect a generous reward for them from Him. This is understood from the words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), “Whoever fasts [throughout] Ramadan out of faith (iman) and an expectation of a reward (ihtisab) all his past sins will be forgiven. [Bukhari]
This beautiful hadith covers both of the above motivations – obedience due to faith and expectation of Allah’s generous reward – and adds a further promise: the forgiveness of all past sins. This provides the Believer with great hope. Forgiveness of past mistakes that would otherwise have been the source of regret is a great gift. When coupled with the many other promised rewards, it is a very strong motivator for fasting.
That is why we fast.
May Allah grant us the full reward and benefit from our fasts.
[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim Reasat
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani