Our Beloved Nabee Muhammad Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam in dealing with the question of fasting said:
“Know that there is charity for everything, and the charity that you pay for your health is the fast.”
What needs to be understood is that there is most certainly a charity for everything; that is to say, there is something one must give up, donate, expend for everything in life that’s good and agreeable. And, the charity that you pay for your health is the fast. In the physical sense, fasting allows you to gain health Fasting helps you to promote health. Fasting
produces a spiritual state that, in turn, generates the mental state, the proper conduct, the guidance and nderstanding that leads one to think, to eat and to act correctly. This is what is meant by:
“Fasting is good for you, if only you knew.”
Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala has given us a tool. He has blessed us with fasting during the month of Ramadaan so that we can begin to break that cycle, so that we can begin to gain control over our appetites as well as our passions. Almighty Allah Azza Wajjal has commanded fasting as He commanded it upon people before us so that we may learn self-restraint, so that we may “Tattaqoon”- experience Allah-consciousness; that we may guard against evil.
Ramadaan is a month of Jihad, both within and without. It is a month of physical deprivation through hunger and thirst but also of moral and material reward. Every year we fast during the month of Ramadaan. Every year we remember the great Battle of Badr. Every day during this great month of Tilawat and Ibadah we repeat the Most Glorious Qur’an in our homes, our Masaajids and on the airways.
“Fasting that you may learn self-restraint.”
Why is self-restraint important to be successful? Our Beloved Nabee Muhammad Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam said that the strongest man is not he who is the best wrestler, but he who can control his anger. He who can control his anger is able to control his appetite and passions.
“Fasting that you may guard against evil.”
Fasting – that we may increase in our remembrance of Almighty Allah Jallah Wa’ala, for it is through fasting that Muslims give up things that are lawful; Muslims give up food and drink; they give up the conjugal rights they have with their spouses. Yes, Muslims give up all these things during the hours of fasting, to gain Allah-consciousness; to get closer to their Glorious Creator and Sustainer and to come to a deeper understanding of the Din of Almighty Allah Azza Wajjal and the Sunnah of His Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam.
In this manner, a Muh’min increases his or her remembrance of Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala, concentrating on pure and good things. This gives him or her an opportunity to purge themselves from things that are not beneficial. Fasting is a tool – a Divinely ordained program – so that we may learn self-restraint and appreciate what is of real benefit. Our Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam, while on an expedition with some of his companions to a distant land, was asked:
“O Rasullullah! Since we don’t have our wives and mates with us, is castration lawful for us?”
Our Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam answered: “Our castration is fasting. It curbs the passions.”
Almighty Allah Jallah Wa’ala has blessed us with this most wonderful program that enables us to gain mastery over ourselves, to check our appetites and our passions. We need a tool to remove the veil that keeps us away from our Glorious Creator and the tool that will remove the veil is fasting. Islam has played a reformative role of great significance in Fasting. It has made it an easy and pleasant observance, full of social and spiritual benefits and operative throughout the Muslim community. The conception of fasting had undergone a complete transformation in the pre-Islamic times.
We have seen how among the Bani Isra’eel fasting had become symbolic of suffering, defeat and misery. Instead of this gloomy way of looking at it, Islam gave it a new and positive character, animated with faith, hope and earnestness. Islam made fasting into a popular institution, evoking a ready response among its followers. The assurances and happy tidings of Divine Recompense and Good Pleasure are a source of joy and inspiration to all Muh’min’s and they observe fasting cheerfully. The relevant Qur’anic verses and Traditions, with their irresistible appeal to the basic instincts of man, are immensely helpful in imparting to the Muslim Ummah a sense of faith hopefulness. A celestial Tradition, in Hadith Qudsi for example says:
“Fasting is the only thing for which I (Allah) will recompense directly.”
Another Tradition of our Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam: “Liel sa iemie farhataan farhatoen ienda Iftaariehie Wafarhatoen Ienda Liekaa’ee Rabbie’hee.”
“There are two moments of special joy for a person who fasts: one is when he or she breaks the fast and the other will come in the Aghirah when he or she will be presented before Almighty Allah Azza Wajjal.”
Islam has surrounded the Muh’min who fasts with a unique atmosphere of virtue, dignity and sublimity. It is related that our Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam said: “The bad odour emanating from the mouth of a fasting person is more pleasant in the judgement of Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala than the sweet smell of musk.”
This is radically different from the mood of oppression and pessimism prevalent among the Jews. Fasting in Judaism is synonymous with penance and mortification and this is how it has been interpreted generally in its holy Texts. On the other hand, the Islamic Sharia’h holds fasting neither to be a means of self-torture or a form of punishment. There is nothing in the Most Holy and Glorious Qur’an nor in the Traditions to suggest it.
Fasting has been instituted in Islam as a form of Ibadah – the sole aim of which is the propitiation of Almighty Allah Jallah Wa’ala. The regulations laid down for it do not inevitably lead to the mortification of the flesh. They do not place fasting beyond the endurance of man. On the contrary, the Islamic Sharia’h insists on partaking of the pre-dawn meal of Suhuur as a Sunnah and advises its followers to make it as late as possible.
In may ancient faiths (and evidence of it is available even now) fasting was confined to a particular group of people. Among the Hindus, for instance, it was reserved for the Brahmins, and, among the fire-worshippers, for the priests. In ancient Greece only the women folk were required to fast. Islam did away with these classifications and made fasting a universal religious duty. In spite of the discriminatory nature of their injunctions the ancient religions made no concessions to those who were really incapable of fasting due to illness or some other reason.
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Islam exempted them and gave them full protection. In some of the earlier faiths there was such an exaggeration of emphasis on severity that abstention from food was enjoined for forty days in continuation, whereas, in others, leniency was carried to the extend of forbidding only the eating of meat while all other articles of food were allowed.
But the Law of Islam is equally opposed to excessive sternness and excessive leniency. Fasting in Islam is based on fairness and moderation. In it neither mortification is permitted nor slackness. Islam also condoned the lapses made inadvertently while fasting. In it, a fast is not made void by an involuntary act or circumstances beyond one’s control, like vomiting, nose-bleeding and (Ihtilaam) pollution in sleep.
It is related by Hazrat Abu Hurairah Radhiallahu Ta’ala Anhu that our Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam said:
“Anyone who ate or drank due to forgetfulness, let him or her not abandon the fast. It is a feast conferred upon him or her by Almighty Allah Azza Wajjal.”
Imaam Bukhari and Imaam Muslim have also reproduced this Tradition in the following words:
“Whoever forgot that they were fasting and ate or drank anything, he or she should complete his or her fast for it was from Almighty Allah that he or she was offered to eat and drink.”
Ibadah is a Divine discipline imposed by Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala on each of his servants and slaves. Islam therefore treats worship not only as an obligation (Fareedah) to be fulfilled but also a discipline, a means
to nurture the soul and to guide it to maturity. What applies to the individual, moreover, applies to the community, which Islam views as a unified body of the people of faith. Therefore fasting (Siyaam), like Salaat, is also a corporate act of worship. It is in the end the individual who fasts and who must be rewarded for fulfilling this Divine obligation. But the activity of fasting also creates a strong social bond, as anyone who has ever been in a Muslim country during Ramadaan can testify.
Fasting in Ramadaan must remind the person who fasts that there are people in the world who are hungry even without having to fast. It is the responsibility of all concerned Muslims’ to share Almighty Allah’s Bounty with those who are destitute and less fortunate. Fasting is therefore not only a time of privation, Ibadah and hunger, it is a festival of giving
freely, caring and sharing. We read in a Hadith Qudsi that Almighty Allah Jallah Wa’ala declares:
“All the works of the children of Bani Adam are his except fasting.” It belongs to Me and I will reward him for it.” That is to say, in whatever other acts of worship we perform we are fulfilling an obligation. We are, so to speak, building up credit balances for ourselves in the Aghirah. Fasting, however, we do most willingly for Almighty Allah Tabaraqa Wata’ala. Very intimately tied to the obligation of fasting is the feeding of the poor. Those who are old, or chronically ill, or unable to fast must ransom their fasts by feeding the poor if they have the financial means. Hence fasting in Islam is not simply a duty. It is a lesson – although one which we Muslims have not yet fully comprehended.
A person who is blessed with Divine wealth of knowledge and Imaan will become familiar with the history, philosophy and design of fasting in the earlier religions. By observing the conditions of the earlier religions and by comparing it with the Islamic conception and structure of fasting, such a person’s heart is filled with gratitude and the stirring words of praise and thanksgiving which we find in part of verse 43 of Surah Al-A’raf come spontaneously to his or her lips :
“All Praise to Allah, Who hath guided us to this. We could not truly have been led aright if Allah had not guided us.
Verily, the Messengers of our Lord did bring the Truth.”
O Almighty Allah Rabbul Ala’meen! Illuminate our hearts with the light of Your Greatness and Glory. Bless the Muslim Ummah with peace and happiness during this Glorious Month of Tilawat, Ibadah, caring, sharing & Muhabbat.
Purge our hearts of the love for this egotistical and materialistic world. Make our hearts understand the rewards of our good deeds and the results of our evil deeds while the Door of forgiveness and Tawbah is still open to us.
Ameen – Ya Rabbul Ala’meen!
Baarak Allaahu Feekum wa-sal-Allahu wa-salam ‘alaa Nabiyyinaa Muhammad Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam
Sheikh Abdul Hamid Lachporia – Canada