Without doubt the prescription of fasting has a profound purpose.
“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may acquire Taqwa.” (Quran 2:183)
“The term taqwa refers to the state of the heart which reflects the Divine attributes, and as such is ‘protected’ from evil (= the negation of the Divine attributes). ..Taqwa is in fact “a relationship based on awareness of Allah that leads to the sense of awe and awareness of His presence.” [https://amuslimdownunder.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/]
Such awareness of the presence of Allah is part of awareness of the significance if His Creation, and our role as khalifullah in its protection and nurturing. Such awareness should place the Ummah of Muhammad (s) in the forefront of efforts to establish a society in which justice with mercy prevail, where no person is denied their God-given rights to food, clothing and shelter.
What this leads to in everyday life was related by Abu Hurayrah (r). He narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: Allah (mighty and sublime be He) will say on the Day of Resurrection:
O son of Adam, I fell ill and you visited Me not. He will say: O Lord, and how should I visit You when You are the Lord of the worlds? He will say: Did you not know that My servant So-and-so had fallen ill and you visited him not? Did you not know that had you visited him you would have found Me with him? O son of Adam, I asked you for food and you fed Me not. He will say: O Lord, and how should I feed You when You are the Lord of the worlds? He will say: Did you not know that My servant So-and so asked you for food and you fed him not? Did you not know that had you fed him you would surely have found that (the reward for doing so) with Me? O son of Adam, I asked you to give Me to drink and you gave Me not to drink. He will say: O Lord, how should I give You to drink when You are the Lord of the worlds? He will say: My servant So-and-so asked you to give him to drink and you gave him not to drink. Had you given him to drink you would have surely found that with Me.”
(Hadith Qudsi 18, related by Muslim.)
Of interest to Muslims is the fact that a similar position is taken in the Gospel according to Matthew, which makes a startling contrast to the statements and policies of the publicly Christian politicians who dominate our government. In chapter 25 verses 40-46 it states:
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
The attitude so clearly expressed in these verses, so closely compatible with the message of Islam in the Holy Quran, suggest they may well have been the actual words of Jesus (a) which were preserved.
Thus, if indeed fasting is designed to increase us in God-awareness, in piety, in righteousness, to help us exercise self control and to protect us from evil, then it is indeed a great force for good. Social justice is one of the areas in which this taqwa is expressed for the benefit of all creation.
If all we obtain from fasting is hunger and thirst we have failed dismally. If we attain a heightened awareness of the Divine, we have succeeded.