Another important Islamic worship act is fasting. A person, who intents to fast, has to, from dawn to sunset (Maghrib), avoid all acts that invalidate fast. Fasting is a worship act and it is performed with intention of proximity of God; and any show off or ostentation invalidates it.
Numerous traditions are recorded with regard to the excellence of fasting:
The Messenger of Allah (s) said: Fasting is a shield against Hellfire.
Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) said: Almighty Allah says: Fasting is My property and I am the reward of fasting.
In the same way, he said: Sleep of the person, who is fasting, is a worship act, his silence is glorification of God, his deed is accepted and his supplication is answered.
The Messenger of Allah (s) said: Allah, the Mighty and Sublime says: All the good deeds are rewarded from ten to seven hundred times, except for patience, which is reserved for Me and I am its reward. Only Allah knows the reward of patience. Patience implies fasting.
Imam Muhammad Baqir (a) said: Islam is based on five pillars: Prayer, Zakat, Hajj, Fasting and Wilayat.
It is obligatory for every Muslim who has reached the age of maturity and who has no legal excuse, to fast in the month of Ramadhan. If he invalidates his fast without a legal excuse, he has committed a greater sin and in addition of making up for it later, he also has to pay the penalty (Kaffarah) of either (1) keeping another sixty fasts or (2) feeding sixty poor persons or (3) freeing a slave in the way of Allah.
Some people are exempt from fasting:
1. Fasting is not obligatory on a sick person for whom it is harmful.
2. A traveler whose return journey is eight or more Farsakhs.
3. A woman going through menses or post natal bleeding.
4. Fasting is not obligatory on a woman in advanced stage of pregnancy, for whom fasting is harmful or for the child she is carrying.
5. If a woman is suckling a child, whether she is the mother or a nurse, or suckles it free, and the quantity of her milk is small, and if fasting is harmful to her or to the child, it will not be obligatory on her to fast.
These five groups of people are exempt from fasting, but after the month of Ramadhan, they must make up for the missed fasts, but no penalty or sin is applicable to them.
Although old women and men who cannot fast or it is difficult for them, they are not bound to keep fast and they are also not required to make up for them later.
That which was mentioned about the excellence of fasting and problems related to it, was according to the verdict of Islamic jurisprudence, but scholars of moral science consider obligatory-ness of abstemiousness during fast to be more extensive. They say: Although the fast may be right from the jurists’ point of view and it removes the responsibility, but for its acceptance, other matters should also be avoided, like avoiding all sins, They say: Fast of a person is perfect and it is accepted only if all the organs of his body have fasted; that is he has refrained his eyes, ears, tongue, hands and legs from sins. Such a fast is called as the fast of the special servants of Allah.
Higher than this fast is the fast of the special of the special servants of God; and it is that the keeper of fast in addition to abstaining from invalidating factors according to jurisprudence and committing of sins, should also restrain his mind from paying attention to anyone other than God; he should consider Almighty Allah to be really present and seeing.
Muhammad bin Ijlan says: I heard Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) say: Fasting is not only refraining from eating and drinking; on the contrary when you fast, your ears and eyes, tongue and stomach and private parts should also be fasting. You should be mindful of your hands and private parts; you should be quiet, except for a good word and during the period of fasting, be moderate to your servant.
Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) said: When you are fasting, keep your ears and eyes aloof from prohibited and evil acts. Avoid useless arguments and torture of servants. Dignity of the fast should be obvious on you. The day you are fasting should not be like the day you are not.
The Messenger of Allah (s) said: One who fasts in silence during the month of Ramadhan and protects his ears, eyes, tongue, private parts and limbs with intention of divine proximity, Almighty Allah makes him near to Himself, in such a way that his feet touch the footsteps of Ibrahim, the Friend of Allah (Khalilullah).
One who is fasting is invited to the feast of Almighty Lord and he should observe the manners of social interaction and should not commit a misdemeanor. He should try to be a real keeper of fast so that he may benefit his balance of deeds with divine blessing and rewards, which are more exalted and more valuable than material rewards.
Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) said: The keeper of fast roams in the gardens of Paradise and enjoys them. Angels pray for him till he ends the fast (Iftar).
Amirul Momineen (a) has narrated from the Holy Prophet (s) that he asked the Almighty Allah on the Night of Ascension (Meraj): My Lord, which is the foremost worship act? He replied: Fasting. He asked: What is the reward of fasting? He replied: Fasting is followed by wisdom and wisdom causes divine recognition and recognition causes certainty. When a person becomes a person of certainty, it does not make any difference whether he is in hardship or ease.
Hasan bin Sadaqah has narrated from Imam Musa bin Ja’far (a) that he said: Sleep for half the day, because Almighty Allah feeds a keeper of fast with food and water when he is sleeping.
Amirul Momineen (a) said: One day the Messenger of Allah (s) delivered a sermon to us and said: O people, the month of Allah is coming to you with blessings and forgiveness. It is the best month in the view of God. Its days are the best days and its nights are the best of nights; and its hours are the best hours. In this best month, you are the guest of Almighty Allah and are recipients of His blessings and kindness. Your breathing is having the reward of divine glorification. Your sleep is considered as worship; your deeds are accepted and your supplications are fulfilled.
Philosophy of Fasting
Fasting is one of the best ways of purification and discipline of the self and wayfaring on way to Allah. If it is performed according divine commands, it removes the rust of carelessness and sins from the heart and makes it clean and illuminated. It removes the satans from the abode of the heart and prepares it for the arrival of angels and brilliance of light, wisdom and certainty. Such fasting is acceptance of invitation of God Almighty and makes one eligible to obtain divine rewards. Without any doubt he would also get favors of the merciful Lord.
The second philosophy of fasting is that rich people who keep fasts experience the hunger usually experienced by the poor and become concerned about those who are mostly facing food shortages and motivate them to render help to them.
Hisham bin Hakam asked Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) about the philosophy of fasting. Imam (a) said: Allah has deemed fasting as obligatory so that the rich and poor become equal, because the wealthy do not at all experience hunger, except in Ramadhan, so that they might be considerate to the poor and Allah desired that they should taste the bitterness of hunger during days of fasting and be considerate to the hungry.
Imam Ali Reza (a) wrote in reply to the question to Muhammad bin Sinan: The reason why fasting is obligatory is that the keeper of fast may experience hunger and thirst, till he faces hardship and indigence and becomes rewarded and patient and that it be a testimony of the hardships of the hereafter, and it be means of suppression of selfish desires, a kind of moral lesson and guidance of the hereafter, so that he may understand the meaning of poverty and depravity of the world and the hereafter.
With the help of the above philosophy of fasting, it is possible to help in solving the problem of hunger in the world to some extent. That is, since the keepers of fasts who live in the world abstain from food on the prescribed days, they save the amount of food and at the end of the month they give that accumulated quantity to the needy persons of their society or country; it would be substantial help of poor. Now if the taxes and charities, which are recommended and emphasized, are added up, it would reach a considerable figure for the poor and hungry. Although it is subject to the condition that it should be in accordance to a proper plan of collection and should be spent in the right way.
The third and the most important philosophy of fasting is discipline of self and inculcating in oneself the habit of avoiding sins and gaining piety. During the month of Ramadhan, the sincere keepers of fasts keep away from sins with absolute determination. On the contrary, they even avoid lawful pleasures like eating and drinking etc. Or with the intention of proximity they continue this physical and spiritual discipline for a month. Such persons develop such strength and determination that even after this month they can remain on piety. The Holy Quran has also hinted this point when it says:
يَأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمْ الْصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
“O you who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard (against evil).” (2:183)
 Al-Kafi, Vol. 4, Pg. 62
 Al-Kafi, Vol. 4, Pg. 63
 Wasailush Shia, Vol. 10, Pg. 401
 Wasailush Shia, Vol. 10, Pg. 404
 Al-Kafi, Vol. 4, Pg. 62
 In addition to the fasts of Ramadhan, there are other obligatory fasts also; in the same way, there a large number of recommended fasts; unlawful and detestable fasts are also there whose details are given in books of Islamic code of law.
 Wasailush Shia, Vol. 10, Pg. 165
 Wasailush Shia, Vol. 10, Pg. 163
 Wasailush Shia, Vol. 10, Pg. 164
 Wasailush Shia, Vol. 10, Pg. 406
 Biharul Anwar, Vol. 77, Pg. 27
 Al-Kafi, Vol. 4, Pg. 65
 Wasailush Shia, Vol. 10, Pg. 313
 Wafi, Vol. 11, Pg. 33
 Wafi, Vol. 11, Pg. 34