In the Holy Book, Quraan, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) mentions the Holy month of Ramadhaan and observing Sawm (Fasting) in it. The Quraan states:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ [البقرة: 183]
“O you who believe! The fasts have been enjoined upon you as they were enjoined upon those before you, so that you may become Allah-fearing (Pious).”
The Sawm (Fasting) is Fardh (Obligatory) upon us, and hence, hunger and thirst are also an act of worship for us. It is further added that this is not the first time that Sawm has been imposed on nations. And since this religion and mankind are going on since ages, Salaah (Prayers), Sawm (Fasting) and other acts of ‘Ibaadah (Worship) have also been continued along. People before us used to observe Sawm and as it was obligatory on them, it is obligatory on us. However, the method of observance of Sawm practiced in the early Umam (Nations), Islam made some reforms and changes in it.
1. One change was that the duration of Sawm was reduced. Earlier, it was permissible to eat and drink before going to bed at night, but as soon as one fell asleep at night, the Sawm began. For us, the Muslims, in the beginning, same was the period of observance of Sawm. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), the Almighty, allowed this facility to the Ummah of His beloved Prophet, Hadhrat Muhammad to exclude the night from Sawm.
On this, the story of an old-age farmer Sahaabi i.e. Companion of Prophet Hadhrat Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) is narrated. He was observing Sawm. After farming all day, he was back in evening. After Salaah, his family asked him to wait for sometime for the meal. Since tired from day-long working in farming field the Sahaabi they fell asleep. As soon as he fell asleep, the next Sawm began. The starvation of last Sawm was already there, and now the next Sawm had begun. The next day he was stumbling. A hardworking man and two days without eating and drinking! The Prophet Hadhrat Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) saw him and asked the reason. The Sahaabi told the matter.
The narrators say that this permission to exclude the night the period of Sawm was revealed by Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), the Almighty after this event. The Sawm then started to begin from dawn.
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) says in the Quraan:
وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا حَتَّى يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ ثُمَّ أَتِمُّوا الصِّيَامَ إِلَى اللَّيْلِ [البقرة: 187]
“…and eat and drink until the white thread of the dawn becomes distinct from the black thread; then complete the fast up to the night.”
It became permissible to eat and drink until the dawn or dawn broke. As dawn breaks, two lines appear on the horizon to the east, one a white line of morning light and the other a black line of night darkness. These two lines that appear separately in the sky are called dawn and this is the actual time of dawn. Therefore, one of the reforms of Islam in the system of Sawm is to reduce its duration and fix the duration of Sawm from dawn to sunset.
Sahoor or Suhoor, also called Sahari, the pre-dawn meal (consumed early in the morning before Sawm) was not only allowed but it was declared as Sunnah, the method way of the Holy Prophet (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam). In this way, in order to make the Sawm in completely accordance with the Sunnah, it becomes necessary to eat Suhoor.
2. Islam made another reform in the system of fasting by making the Fardh Sawm (Obligatory Fasts) specific to Ramadhaan. According to some traditions, the earlier nations also used to observe Sawm during Ramadhaan, but for their own convenience, they changed the days and seasons of observance of Sawm. Celebrated under the title, Islam abolished that change and restored the previous form, the Sawm of Ramadhaan. In Tafseer Mazhari, Qazi Sanaullah Panipati has narrated the traditions that even in the earlier nations, Sawm was obligatory in the month of Ramadhaan.
It is said that Prophet Hadhrat Adam used to observe Sawm on the 14th and 15th of every month, and these are Mustahab (Desirable) for the Ummah of Hadhrat Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) even though it was obligatory for Hadhrat Adam. The people of the Ummah of Hadhrat Nooh (Noah) were very hard tempered and stubborn. In order to treat this ill, his Ummah was commanded to keep Sawm for all year round. Prophet Hadhrat Daawood (David) used to observe Sawm on one day and break it on the second day. Prophet Hadhrat ‘Eesaa (Jesus) used to observe Sawm for two days and break it on the third day. For the Ummah of Hadhrat Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam), the days for Sawm is 29 or 30 days, out of 360 days of Islamic (Lunar) Calendar. (Ma’aalim ul Irfaan by Shaikh Abdul Hameed Sawaati)
The system of time and day in the world is based on the rotation of the sun. While the system of determining the days, in Islam, is based on the rotation of the moon. The year in which the sun revolves is called the solar year comprised of the months of January, February, March, April, etc. The year of the rotation of the moon is called the Lunar year and Muharram, Safar, Rabi-ul-Awwal, Rabi-al-Thaani etc. are the months of the Lunar year. Since Islamic calendar is lunar, the days and months in Islam are calculated according to the moon. But the system of Islamic ‘Ibaadaat (Worships) is related to both rotations, the sun and the moon.
In Islamic law, the days and months are determined by the moon i.e. Lunar Calender. Lailtul BarAt, Lailatu Qadr, Ayyam-e-Baidh, Yaum-e-Aashurah, ‘Eid ul Fitr, ‘Eid ul AdhHaa and Hajj are known according to the lunar months. In the same way, the days of observing Sawm, especially Fardh (Obligatory) ones, are determined by the month of Ramadhaan, which is the month of the Lunar Calendar. In the same way, the days of Hajj are determined according to the Lunar month i.e. Dhul-Hajj. But when we set the times, they depend on the sun. We determine the times of Salaah by the rotation of the sun. The times of Fajr, Zuhr, ‘Asr, Maghrib, ‘Ishaa and other Nafl (Optional) Salaah are related to the rotation of the sun. If the duration of the rotation of the sun increases then the interval between prayers increases, and if the duration of rotation of the sun decreases then the interval between prayers decreases. Therefore, daily Salaah in Islam, are in accordance with the sun. Similarly, the duration of Sawm in Ramadhaan or non-Ramadhaan is according to the Solar Calender. As Sawm begins at dawn and ends at sunset, the actions in Hajj depends on the rotation of the sun like, when to throw small stone towards Jamaraat, when to go to Muzdalifah, when to come from Arafaat, etc.
It is generally believed that in Islam only the moon is taken into account, this is not the case. The moon is observed in determining the days, but in the time of worship we follow the daily rotation of the sun. Thus in our worship both the moon and the sun have equal trust. However, the year of the moon is shorter than the year of the sun. There is a difference of about ten days. The commentators state many wisdoms in it. One wisdom states that the Lunar month completes one cycle every 33 years. That is, in 33 years, the moon completes its rotation in all four seasons (wherever there are four seasons in the world). If a Muslim attains the age of thirty-five years after reaching the age of puberty after reaching the age of maturity, he observes Sawm in every season of the year. He also gets cold Sawm and hot Sawm. Short, medium and long duration of Sawm all combined. The same is true of Hajj. Hajj also completes the rotation of seasons in 33 years. There is one thing worth mentioning here. The Fuqahaa (Jurists) of Islam say that Zakaah should be calculated according to the lunar year and it is necessary to do so according to Shari’ah. Otherwise, if we calculate Zakaah on the basis of Solar year, then one year Zakaah will be paid less in 33 years. And this is not correct behavior in practicing Islam.