The only connection between fasting and economics for most of us is the market pick-up particularly in the food sector as Ramadan approaches. As if they have waited for the opportunity for 11 months, Muslims roll up their sleeves and naturally enliven the markets. Just like the writing materials and school clothing markets pick up with the opening of school every fall.
Undoubtedly, it is much more important for us to comprehend the spiritual connection between fasting and economics. In his famous work The Revival of Religious Sciences, Imam Ghazali makes an impressive calculation based on two hadiths: "Patience is half of faith. Fasting is half of patience. In that case, fasting is one-fourth of faith." What a great calculation! Think of an act of worship with which you complete one-fourth of your faith. What's left?
Fasting is a door opening to purification. There is no purification without accounting. The essence of accounting is not government or company accounting, but accounting of our nafs (ego). It is a person's calling to account his own nafs before exiting from accounting. (Just like "Internal Auditing.") A Muslim should be the accountant of his own nafs; he should carry the responsibility of warning others, together with his own nafs, and his warnings should be clear.
Islam is accounting. In Islamic society an accountant is an inspector in relation to both belief and economics. He is a person responsible for "commanding the good and prohibiting the bad" in economics. The first accountant was the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Once visiting brokers in the market, the Prophet addressed them with a better name and said: "Hey group of traders! A lot of oath-swearing and empty words are spoken in business exchanges; for this reason, embrace charity!" Two of the five accountants the Prophet appointed were women. This means that there were many female "traders" in the market.
The Ramadan fast was first made mandatory in the 2nd year of the Hijra in three steps. When the Prophet came to Medina, he fasted three days a month and on Ashura day. Then Allah made fasting obligatory for him and revealed this verse: "O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint. Fasting is for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (with hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent" (2:183-84). After this verse those who wanted to, fasted while those who wished, fed a needy person, and they saw this as sufficient compensation for fasting.
Later Allah revealed: "But he that will give more, of his own free will, it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew. Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur'an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it fasting, but if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later." (2:184-185). Now for those who were not traveling and healthy, fasting was obligatory. However, permission not to fast was given to the sick and travelers. Fasting is migration. Every great transformation takes place after migration, and fasting creates the effect of a real migration by taking the nafs under control. A fasting person has migrated to his Lord, if only for a certain number of hours. "And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew." You can make a poor person happy with compensation, but your spirit which has not migrated will remain poor.
Spiritual poverty, even if it is amidst economic wealth, makes people unhappy. In spite of high incomes and earnings, most of us have to admit that our hearts are not satisfied. Even if we do not call it disturbance, we live in restlessness. Even if materialist man's desire for things is quiet from time to time, a believing person's heart is restless. Why?
Actually the reason is not an unknown to anyone, because we live a life of exile in this world. The real homeland of man is heaven. Because he did not listen to divine advice, he was sentenced to exile in this world. The Prophet Muhammad said, "Religion is good advice!" In other words, if we listen and do what is necessary, we can return to our homeland.
The main formula for return to heaven for all people who have come to this world since Adam and Eve until now was indicated in the verse on fasting: "O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint." Yes, the condition for returning to heaven is learning self-restraint, and fasting is the most powerful lever on this path for man.