3. The Fast

After the prayer and zakāh, the fast is the next important worship ritual of Islam. In the Arabic language, the word used for it is صَوْم (sawm), which literally means “to abstain from something” and “to give up something”. As a term of the Islamic sharī‘ah, it refers to the state of a person in which he is required to abstain from eating and drinking and from marital relations with certain limits and conditions. A person expresses himself through deeds and practices; hence when his emotions of worship for the Almighty relate to his deeds and practices then these emotions, besides manifesting in worshipping Him, also manifest in obeying His commands. Fasts are a symbolic expression of this obedience. While fasting, a person, at the behest of His Lord, gives up things which are originally allowed to him to win His pleasure; he thus becomes an embodiment of obedience and through his practice acknowledges the fact that there is nothing greater than the command of God. So if the Almighty forbids him things perfectly allowed by innate guidance, then it is only befitting for a person who is the servant of his Creator to obey Him without any hesitation whatsoever. A little deliberation reveals that this state of a person in which he experiences and acknowledges the power, magnificence and exaltedness of the Almighty is also a true expression of gratitude from him. On this very basis, the Qur’ān says that the fast glorifies the Almighty and is a means through which gratitude can be shown to Him: The Qur’ān says that for this very purpose the month of Ramadān was set apart because in this month the Qur’ān was revealed as a guide for human intellect having clear arguments to distinguish right from wrong so that people could glorify God and express their gratitude to Him. The excellence a person can attain in this ritual of worship is that while fasting he imposes certain other restrictions on himself and confines himself to a mosque for a few days to worship the Almighty as much as he can. In religious terminology, this is called اِعْتِكَاف (i‘tikāf). Though this worship ritual is not incumbent upon the believers like the fasts of Ramadān, it occupies great importance viz-a-viz purification of the soul. The cherished state which arises by combining the prayer and the fast with recitals of the Qur’ān and the feeling of being solely devoted to the Almighty having no one around helps achieve the objective of the fast in the very best way.
i. History of the Fast
Like the prayer, the fast is also an ancient ritual of worship. The Qur’ān says that fasting has been made obligatory for the Muslims, just as it was made so for earlier peoples. Consequently, this is a reality that as a ritual of worship which trains and disciplines the soul, it has existed in various forms in all religions.
ii. Objective of the Fast
The objective of the fast as delineated by the Qur’ān is that people adopt the taqwā of God. In the terminology of the Qur’ān, taqwā means that a person should spend his life within the limits set by Allah and should keep fearing Him from the depth of his heart that if ever he crosses these limits, there will be no one except God to save him from its punishment.
iii. Sharī‘ah of the Fast
Following is the sharī‘ah of the fast: a. The fast is abstention from eating and drinking and from having sexual intercourse with the wife with the intention that a person is going to fast. b. This abstention is from fajr to nightfall; hence eating and drinking and having sexual intercourse with the wife during the night is permitted. c. The month of Ramadān has been fixed for fasting; hence it is obligatory for every person who is present in this month to fast. d. If owing to sickness, travel or any other compelling reason a person is not able to keep all the fasts of Ramadān, it is incumbent upon him to make up for this by keeping in other months an equal number of the fasts missed. e. Fasting during the menstrual and puerperal cycles is forbidden. However, the fasts missed as a result must be kept later. f. The pinnacle of the fast is the i‘tikāf. If a person is given this opportunity by God, he should seclude himself from the world for as many days as he can in a mosque to worship the Almighty and he should not leave the mosque except because of some compelling human need. g. During i‘tikāf, a person is permitted to eat and drink during the night but he cannot have sexual intercourse with his wife. This has been prohibited by the Almighty.

4. Hajj and ‘Umrah

In the religion of Abraham (sws), these two rituals are the pinnacle of worship. Their history begins with the proclamation made by Abraham (sws) after building the House of God that people should come here to ceremonially devote themselves and revive their commitment to the belief of tawhīd. This is the highest position a person can attain in his zeal for worshiping the Almighty: he is ready to offer his life and wealth for Him when he is called for this. Hajj and ‘umrah are symbolic manifestations of this offering. Both are an embodiment of the same reality. The only difference is that the latter is compact and the former more comprehensive in which the objective for which life and wealth are offered becomes very evident. The Almighty has informed us that Satan has declared war on the scheme according to which He has created Adam in this world since the very first day. Consequently, his servants are now at war with their foremost enemy till the Day of Judgement. This is the very test on which this world has been made and our future depends on success or failure in it. It is for this war that we dedicate our life and devote our wealth. This war against Iblīs has been symbolized in the ritual of hajj. The manner in which this symbolization has been done is as follows: At the behest of Allah, His servants take time out from the pleasures and involvements of life and leave aside their goods and possessions. They then proceed to the battlefield with the words لَبَّيْك لَبَّيْك and just like warriors encamp in a valley. The next day they reach an open field seeking the forgiveness of the Almighty, praying and beseeching Him to grant them success in this war and listening to the sermon of the imām. Giving due consideration to the symbolism of waging war against Iblīs, they shorten and combine their prayers and then after a short stay on the way back reach their camps. Afterwards they fling stones at Satan and symbolically offer themselves to God by sacrificing animals. They then shave their heads and to offer the rounds of vow come to the real place of worship and sacrifice. Then they return to their camps again and in the next two or three days fling stones at Satan in the manner they had done earlier. Viewed thus, the ihrām worn in hajj and ‘umrah symbolizes the fact that a believer has withdrawn from the amusement, attractions and involvements of this world and like a monk wearing two unstitched robes, bare-headed and to some extent bare-footed too has resolved to reach the presence of the Almighty. The talbiyah is the answer to the call made by Abraham (sws) while standing on a rock after he had re-built the House of God. This call has now reached every nook and corner of this world and the servants of God while acknowledging His favours and affirming belief in His tawhīd respond to it by reciting out these enchanting words: اَللّهُمَّ لَبَّيْك لَبَّيْك. The rounds of tawāf’ are the rounds of vow. This is an ancient tradition of the Abrahamic religion. According to this tradition, animals which were to be sacrificed or devoted to the place of worship were made to walk to and fro in front of it or in front of the altar. The istilām of the hajar-i aswad symbolizes the revival of the pledge. In it, a person while symbolizing this stone to be the hand of the Almighty, places his own hand in His and in accordance with the ancient tradition about covenant and pledges by kissing it revives his pledge with the Almighty. As per this pledge, after accepting Islam he has surrendered his life and wealth to Him in return for Paradise. The sa‘ī is in fact the tawāf of the place where Ishmael (sws) was offered for sacrifice. Abraham (sws) while standing on the hill of Safā had observed this place of sacrifice and then to fulfill the command of Allah had briskly walked towards the hill of Marwah. Consequently, the tawāf of Safā and Marwah are the rounds of vow which are first made before the Ka‘bah and then at the place of sacrifice. ‘Arafāt is a surrogate for the Ka‘bah where the warriors gather to battle against Satan, seeking forgiveness for their sins and praying to God to grant them success in this war. Muzdalifah is the place where the army stops and spends the night and the warriors once again pray and beseech the Lord when they get up in the morning on their way to the battlefield. The ramī symbolizes cursing Iblīs and waging war against him. This ritual is undertaken with the determination that a believer would not be happy with anything less than the defeat of Iblīs. It is known that this eternal enemy of man is persistent in implanting evil suggestions in the minds of people. However, if resistance is offered in return, his onslaught decreases gradually. Doing the ramī for three days first at the bigger Jamarāt and then at the smaller ones symbolizes this very resistance. Animal sacrifice symbolizes that one is willing to sacrifice one’s life for the Almighty and shaving the head symbolizes that the sacrifice has been presented and a person with the mark of obedience and eternal servitude to the Almighty can now return to his home. It is evident from the foregoing details how grand and extra-ordinary the ritual of hajj is. It has been made incumbent once in the life of a Muslim who has the capacity to undertake it.
i. Objective of Hajj and Umrah
The objective of hajj and umrah is the same as its essence and reality viz. acknowledgement of the blessings of the Almighty, affirmation of His tawhīd and a reminder of the fact that after embracing Islam we have devoted and dedicated ourselves to Him. It is these things whose comprehension and cognizance are called the benefits (manāfi‘) of the places of hajj. This objective is very aptly depicted in the utterances which have been specified for this ritual. It is evident that these expressions have been selected so that this objective is highlighted and fully implanted in the minds. Hence after wearing the ihrām, these words flow from every person’s mouth:
لَبَّيْكَ اللَّهُمَّ لبيك لَبَّيْكَ لَا شَرِيْكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ إِنَّ الحَمْدَ وَ النِّعْمَةَ لَكَ وَ المُلْكَ لَا شَرِيْكَ لَكَ I am in your presence; O Lord I am in Your presence; I am in Your presence; no one is Your partner; I am in Your presence. Gratitude is for You and all blessings are Yours and sovereignty is for You only and no one is Your partner.
ii. Days of Hajj and Umrah
No time has been fixed for ‘umrah. It can be offered throughout the year whenever people want. However, the days of hajj have been fixed from 8th to 13th Dhū al-Hajj and it can be offered in these days only.
iii. Methodology of Hajj and ‘Umrah
The methodology which has been fixed for hajj and ‘umrah by the sharī‘ah is as follows:
a. ‘Umrah
First the ihrām should be put on with the intention of doing ‘umrah: Those coming from outside Makkah should put on the ihrām from their respective mīqāt; locals whether they are Makkans or are temporarily staying in Makkah should put it on from some nearby place located outside the limits of the Haram. And for those who live outside the limits of Haram but are located within the mīqāt their mīqāt is their place of residence. They can put the ihrām from their homes and begin reciting the talbiyah. The recital of the talbiyah should continue till a pilgrim reaches the Baytullāh. The tawāf of the Baytullāh should then be offered. Then the sa‘ī should be offered between the Safā’ and the Marwah.1 If the animals of hadī accompany a pilgrim, they should then be sacrificed. After sacrifice, men should shave their heads or have a hair-cut and women should cut a small tuft from the end of their hair and then take off their ihrām. The ihrām is a religious term. It signifies that pilgrims will not indulge in lewd talk; they will not use any adornments like perfume; they will not cut their nails nor shave or cut any body hair; they will not even remove any dirt or filth from them so much so they will not even kill any lice of their body; they will not hunt nor wear stitched cloth; they will expose their heads, faces and the upper part of their feet; they will wear one sheet as loin cloth and enfold another around themselves. Women, however, can wear stitched clothes and even cover their heads and feet. They are only required to expose their hands and faces. Certain places have been appointed before the limits of Haram begin which can only be crossed in a state of ihrām by those who want to offer hajj and ‘umrah. In religious terminology, they are called mīqāt and are five in number. For those coming from Madīnah, the mīqāt is Dhū al-Hulayfah, for those coming from Yemen, it is Yalamlam, for those coming from Syria and Egypt, it is Juhfah, for those coming from Najd, it is Qarn al-Manāzil and for those arriving from the East, it is Dhātu ‘Irq. The talbiyah implies the constant recital of these words: لَبَّيْكَ اللَّهُمَّ لبيك لَبَّيْكَ لَا شَرِيْكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ إِنَّ الحَمْدَ وَ النِّعْمَةَ لَكَ وَ المُلْكَ لَا شَرِيْكَ لَكَ It begins right after putting on the ihrām and continues till a pilgrim reaches the Baytullāh. This is the only recital which the Almighty has prescribed for hajj and ‘umrah. The tawāf refers to the seven rounds which are made around the Baytullāh in a state of cleanliness. Each of these rounds begins with the hajar-i aswad2 and ends with it and the istilām of the hajar-i aswad is done at the beginning of each round. It means kissing the hajar-i aswad or touching it with the hands and then kissing the hands. If the place is crowded, a pilgrim can just raise his hands in its direction or even point a stick or something similar towards it. The sa‘ī refers to the tawāf of the Safā and Marwah. This also consists of seven rounds which begin with Safā. A complete round extends from Safā to Marwah. The last round ends on Marwah. Like animal sacrifice, the sa‘ī between the Safā and Marwah is optional. It is not an essential part of the ‘umrah. The ‘umrah is complete without it as well. The hadī refers to the animals which have been specifically reserved to be sacrificed in the Haram. In order to make them distinct from other animals, their bodies are marked and collars are tied around their necks.
b. Hajj
Like the ‘umrah, the hajj too begins with the ihrām. Consequently, the first thing that a pilgrim must do is to put on the ihrām with the intention of offering hajj. Those coming from outside Makkah should put on the ihrām from their respective mīqāt; locals whether they are Makkans or are temporarily staying in Makkah or live outside the limits of the Haram but are located within the mīqāt should put it on at their place of residence. This is their mīqāt. They can put the ihrām from their homes and begin reciting the talbiyah. Pilgrims should go to Minā on the eighth of Dhū al-Hajj and reside there. They should go to ‘Arafāt on the ninth of Dhū al-Hajj. At ‘Arafāt, the imām will deliver the sermon before the zuhr prayer and the prayers of zuhr and ‘asr shall be offered by combining and shortening them. After the prayer, pilgrims should celebrate the glory of their Lord and express their gratitude to Him, declare His exaltedness and oneness and invoke and beseech Him as much as they can. They should set off for Muzdalifah after sunset. After arriving at Muzdalifah, the pilgrims should offer the prayers of maghrib and ‘ishā by combining and shortening them. The night must be spent in the field of Muzdalifah. After the fajr prayer, the pilgrims for some time should celebrate the glory of their Lord and express their gratitude to Him, express His exaltedness and oneness and invoke and beseech Him – just as they did at ‘Arafāt. Then they should leave for Minā and once they reach the Jamrāh ‘Aqabah they should stop reciting the talbiyah and pelt this Jamrah with seven stones. If the pilgrims have brought forth the hadī or if it has become incumbent upon them to sacrifice animals which have been devoted or which are a means of atonement, then these should be sacrificed. After sacrifice, men should shave their heads or have a hair-cut and women should cut a small tuft from the end of their hair and then take off their ihrām. After that, the pilgrims should set off for the Baytullāh and offer the tawāf. With this, all restrictions which the ihrām entails shall be lifted. After that, if a pilgrim wants, he can offer the sa‘ī of the Safā and the Marwah – though this is optional. Then they should go back to Minā and stay there for two or three days and then everyday pelt first the first Jamrah, then the middle one and then the last one with seven stones each. Ever since the times of Abraham (sws), these are the rites (manāsik) of hajj and ‘umrah. The Qur’ān has made no change in them; it has only explained certain issues which arose – issues about which there was no clear directive given previously. The first of them is that showing reverence to whatever has been declared sacred by the Almighty regarding hajj and ‘umrah is a requirement of faith. This should be expressed and followed at all costs. If some other group violates this sanctity, Muslims too have the right to retaliate on equal footings. The reason is that keeping intact the sanctities ordained by the Almighty is a two way practice. One member of the pact cannot just maintain it on its own. The second issue is that in spite of the permission for war, Muslims cannot take any initiative in violating the sanctities. These are the sanctities ordained by God and taking the initiative in violating them is a grave sin. In no circumstances should this happen. The third issue is that the prohibition of hunting while a pilgrim is wearing the ihrām is only for animals of the land. Hunting sea animals or eating sea animals which have been hunted by others is allowed. However, this permission does not mean that people wrongfully benefit from it. The prey hunted on land is prohibited in all circumstances. So if a person deliberately commits such a sin, he must atone for it. There are three ways for this atonement: A household quadruped similar animal to that which has been hunted should be sent to the Baytullāh for sacrifice. If this is not possible, then the price of such an animal should be calculated and the amount spent to feed the poor. If even this is not possible, then a person should fast; the number of these fasts should be equivalent to the number of poor a person has become liable to feed. As far as the decision is concerned regarding the type of animal to be sacrificed in return, or if this is not possible then the determination of the price of such an animal or the number of poor which should be fed or the number of fasts which should be kept, it shall be made by two trustworthy Muslims so that no chance remains for the sinner to succumb to a wrong judgement. The fourth issue is that if the pilgrims are not able to reach the Sacred House and are stranded somewhere they can send a camel, cow or a goat for sacrifice or if even this is not possible they should slaughter them at the place they are stranded and after shaving their heads they can take off their ihrām. This will complete their hajj and ‘umrah. However, this much should remain clear that whether the sacrifice is offered at such a place or in Makkah or Minā, shaving the head is not permissible before it. The only exception to this is if a person is sick or he has some ailment in his head and he is forced to shave his head before animal sacrifice. The Qur’ān has allowed the pilgrims to do so in such circumstances but they should atone for this in the form of keeping fasts, or spending in the way of God or sacrificing an animal(s). The amount and quantity of these acts of atonement are left to their own discretion. The fifth issue is that if those who have come from outside want to combine the hajj with the ‘umrah in one journey, they can do so. The way to do this is that they should first take off the ihrām after offering the ‘umrah. Then they should again wear it on the eighth of Dhū al-Hajj and then offer hajj. This is a mere concession which the Almighty has provided the pilgrims to save themselves of the bother of two journeys. Thus they will atone for benefiting from this lenience. There are two ways for this: They should offer the sacrifice of whatever animal is available to them from a camel, cow or goat. If this is not possible, then they should fast for ten days: three during their hajj stay and seven when they return. It is evident from the above explanation that what is pleasing in the sight of God is that one should make separate journeys for hajj and ‘umrah. Thus the Qur’ān has clarified that this lenience is not for those whose houses are near the Sacred Mosque. The sixth issue is that pilgrims can return from Minā on the 12th of Dhū al-Hajj and can also stay on till the 13th. The Almighty has said that both cases will incur no sin. The reason for this is that the extent of stay does not hold real significance; what does hold real significance is whether the time of stay however much it be was spent in the remembrance of God or not.

5. Animal Sacrifice

In all ancient religions of the world, the ritual of animal sacrifice has remained a great means of attaining the nearness of the Almighty. Its essence is the same as that of the zakāh, but it should not be regarded as analogous to wealth; it is essentially a vow of pledging one’s life and is fulfilled by the animal we sacrifice on behalf of our life.
i. History of Animal Sacrifice
The history of sacrifice begins with Adam (sws). According to the Qur’ān, when two of his sons (Abel and Cain) presented their offerings to the Almighty, one of them was accepted and the other was not. It is explicitly mentioned in the Bible that Abel on this occasion had offered the sacrifice of some first born of his flock of goats and sheep. This practice quite evidently must have continued later also. Consequently, there exist signs and remnants in all ancient religions which corroborate this fact. However, the way this worship ritual has increased in its importance, grandeur and scope after the sacrifice of Abraham (sws), it has become unprecedented. When he was asked to sacrifice an animal in place of his son, the Almighty said that He ransomed Ishmael (sws) by a great sacrifice. This meant that the sacrifice offered by Abraham (sws) had been accepted and in order to commemorate this incident the ritual of sacrifice was instituted as a great tradition to be carried out generation after generation. It is this optional worship of sacrifice which we offer with fervour and enthusiasm on the occasions of hajj and ‘umrah and on ‘īd of al-adhā.
ii. Objective of Animal Sacrifice
The objective of sacrifice is to express gratitude to the Almighty. When we offer our life symbolically to the Almighty by offering the sacrifice of an animal, we are in fact expressing our gratitude on the guidance of submission which was expressed by Abraham (sws) by sacrificing his only son. On this occasion, the words uttered to declare the exaltedness and oneness of the Almighty are done so for this very objective. Viewed thus, animal sacrifice is the pinnacle of worship. When we make an animal stand or bow down in the direction of the Baytullāh and also direct our own face towards the House of God and present the sacrificed animal as an offering to God by saying: بِسْمِ اللهِ وَ اللهُ اَكْبَرْ, we are actually offering our ownselves to God.
iii. Sharī‘ah of Animal Sacrifice
The sharī‘ah regarding animal sacrifice can be stated thus: a. All four legged animals which are cattle can be sacrificed. b. Sacrificial animals should not be flawed and should be of appropriate age. c. The time of animal sacrifice begins after offering the ‘īd prayer on the 10th of Dhū al-Hajj (yawm al-nahr). d. The days fixed for animal sacrifice are the same as have been appointed for the stay at Minā once the pilgrims return from Muzdalifah. In religious parlance, they are called “the days of tashrīq”. Besides animal sacrifice in these days, the Sunnah has been instituted that takbīrs should be declared at the end of each congregational prayer. Being an absolute directive, the words of the takbīr have not been fixed. 5. The meat of sacrificial animals can also be eaten without any hesitation by those who have had them slaughtered and can also be used to feed others.