Verse 183 in Surah Baqara prescribes fasting for all believers, and at the end of this verse Allah (s.w.t) explains the wisdom behind this command. In the words of Quran commentator Elmalılı Hamdi Yazır: “Fasting has been prescribed on us as it has been prescribed on those before us, so that we may shield ourselves from all sorts of danger and reach the rank of God-consciousness by attaining the faculty of mastering our lower selves and our desires.” For fasting breaks lust, defeats the empty desires of the self and holds one back from ugly works and deeds. It trivializes worldly pleasures, ambitions, and strivings for prestige; it increases the heart’s attachment to God and bestows upon it an angelic sense of pleasure.
The foundation of various types of base desires, which cause all manner of trouble for people, is eating, drinking, and sexuality. The humanity of a human being comes from his/her ability to master these. Fasting converts the demands of these drives from compulsion to choice. In other words, one stops being a toy in the hands of these drives and takes the reins in one’s hands; one stops blindly obeying the demands of one’s physical desires like an animal and instead learns to use them within the limits of permissibility according to one’s particular needs. Especially those of us who live in wealth and stability face the danger of submitting all their freedom to their desires if they don’t observe fasting. Despite the objections of their conscience, they find themselves in shameful situations because they haven’t been able to develop self-control, and they squander themselves in deep conflicts of mind, conscience, religion, and faith.