Fasting: A Magnificent Righteous Deed
Umar Sulaiman Al-Ashqar
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks are due to Allāh, the Lord of the al-ā’lamīn. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, sallallāhu alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger.
Prologue: Fasting (Sawm or Siyam) is a deed that elevates and sublimes the soul , a deed that motivates toward gaining virtue and protects against corruption; a deed that strengthens the will power, rectifies the intention, reforms the body, heals weakness and brings the ‘abd [worshiper] closer to his Lord; a deed by which sins are forgiven, evil doings are reconciled, merit is increased, and the rank of its performer is elevated before Allāh Subhānahu Wa Ta’ala to be among the closest and the chosen upon Resurrection.
1. Fasting Embed Piety into the Heart.
Allāh Subhānahu Wa Ta’ala defines the merits of Siyam as:
"O Believers! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may have taqwa (piety)."
Siyam has been ordained in order for us to develop piety in our hearts and it is for piety that Allāh honors the 'abd [worshipers]. Allāh does not regard the importance of physical beauty of the worshipers; rather He looks into their piety hearts and into their deeds that they have performed on the basis of piety. Allāh distinguishes between people according to their piety:
"The most honored by Allāh amongst you are those with the highest piety"
The goal of fasting is to acquire taqwa. Taqwa means refraining from that are haram, and in the general terms include both doing what is commanded and abstaining from what is forbidden. This is also the goal of all other acts of obedience and worship, as is stated by Allāh:
"O Mankind! Worship your Lord Who created you and those before you, that you may have taqwa"
Taqwa is all what Allāh Subhānahu Wa Ta’ala concerns of our deeds:
"The sacrifices' flesh and blood reach not Allāh, but the taqwa is what reaches Him from you"
Taqwa includes when the worshipers identification his Lord by His Names and Attributes, knows His Greatness, His Omnipotence and His Power and this leads him to fear Him, and to beware of disobeying Him. Also, the worshipers realize Allāh's Mercy, Forgiveness, countless bounties, and the great rewards that He has in store for the believers, and this makes him hasten to please Him. However, the worshipers will only attain taqwa by being persistent in obedience, fulfilling the required acts of worships, and increasing the voluntary ones - always keeping within the boundaries established by Allāh and acting in compliance with the Sunnah of the Messenger (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam).
One of the apt definitions of taqwa is as defined by Talq bin Habib (rahimahullāh): "At-taqwa is to act in obedience to Allāh, on a light (guidance) from Allāh seeking Allāh's reward, and to refrain from disobeying Allāh, on a light from Allāh, fearing His punishment."
The means of attaining taqwa is through the Ihsan (perfection of deeds), which means:"... To worship Allāh as if you see Him, for even though you do not see Him, He truly sees you"
The Qur’an stated that those who have piety are the successful. Allāh proclaims:
"These (who possess the qualities of taqwa) are on (true) guidance from their Lord, and it is these who will be successful"
Siyam demonstrates compliance with the orders of Allāh Subhānahu Wa Ta’ala, promptness to please Him, and renunciation of the desires and the needs of the individual. It is done without any supervision except that of Allāh Subhānahu Wa Ta’ala. This act implants taqwa in the heart. Once the heart is rectified, the deeds will be righteous. With this goodness of the heart and deeds, the Ummah (Nation) appointed by Allāh Subhānahu Wa Ta’ala to lead humanity will then be righteous and will provide guidance to the path of integrity and righteousness.
2. The Reward of Fasting.
Since fasting is kept secret between the ‘abd and his Lord, his sincerity in this deed is known only to his Creator. Therefore the reward is not based on the general recompensation rule mentioned by the Messenger (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam):
"The good deed is multiplied tenfold" [Al-Bukhari]
Only Allāh is capable of appraising the reward for the fasting person. The Messenger (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, quoting Allāh in a Qudsi (holy) hadith:
"All the doing of the son of Adam is for himself except for fasting: it is for Me and I reward it accordingly
This is because fasting is a form of perseverance, and those who persevere will be rewarded with no limits, as the Qur’an tells us. Say: "O ye My servants who believe! Fear your Lord. Good is (the reward) for those who do good in this world. Spacious is Allāh's earth! Those who patiently persevere will truly receive a reward without measure!" [Az-Zumar, 39:10]. The Salaf (Early Righteous Muslims) used to name the Month of Fasting as the Month of Patience.
3. Fasting Protects from the Sin
Siyam is a shield and a protection. It protects the 'abd from committing sins or disobeying Allāh. It prevents him from uttering obnoxious words and from doing evil deeds. This way the `abd protects himself from the Fire.
The Messenger (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said:
"Fasting is a protection when one of you is fasting, he should avoid disgraceful speech and indecent behavior, and he should avoid quarreling"
Thus Siyam is a strong fortress sheltering the person from the deception of satan, and protecting him from slipping into dirt and sins. Furthermore, if someone behaves toward the fasting person in an evil manner, the Messenger (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) directs him to the excellent behavior of not to respond similarly he says:
"If someone fight or quarrel with him, he should say: I am a fasting! I am a fasting!”
This reveals the misunderstanding of many Muslims who ignorantly think that fasting is a good excuse for bad behavior and short temper. This is indeed a mistake resulting from ignorance about the Deen (Religion.
4. An Important Wisdom.
During the rest of the year, the body gets accustomed to a certain frequency and norm of meals. A person drinks water whenever he feels the need, and copulates with his wife at all times permissible by Allāh. These habits, in the long run, make him a slave of his desires and passions they cause him to forget the ultimate objective of his creation: to worship Allāh only. Allāh Subhānahu Wa Ta’ala provides for him the food, drink, and intimacy to help him accomplish this objective. However, when these things preoccupy him and become his obsession, he becomes their captive and humiliated slave. He becomes truly pictured by the Hadith:
"Miserable is indeed the slave of the dinar (a gold coins), and miserable is the slave of the dirham (a silver coin, about one tenth of a dinar) ... miserable and vanquished is he! Let there be no one to help him in as much as pulling a thorn that he would step on"
The great scholar Al-Manawi (rahimahullāh), in his book Faydh Ul-Qadir, beautifully explained this wisdom as follows:
Fasting was only legislated to shatter the desires of individuals and to eliminate the causes of captivity, slavery, and worship of created things. If they ceaselessly pursue their physical needs, they soon become enslaved to them and this would detach them from Allāh. Fasting would eliminate the motive to be enslaved to anyone else. It frees the person from the slavery of his desires, because true freedom is to possess material things without letting them possess him. Allāh appointed the human being as the honored khalifah in His Kingdom. If he lets his desires enslave him, he would be opposing Allāh's wisdom, making his desires superior to him, and making himself inferior to them:
"Am I to seek for you a god other than Allāh, although He has favored you above all other creatures?"
Many people worship their desires and fasting would free them from this imprudent slavery and devotion to other than Allāh. In Ramadhan, a person breaks his habits and rejects many of his desires this may be hard, but it is of definite benefit and value.
Allāh Subhānahu Wa Ta’ala Says:
"You may hate a thing that is better for you"
And: "That you fast is better for you if you did know"
Siyam, therefore, fortifies the will power. And physicians prescribe it in many cases because it helps remedy some severe illnesses.
5. Special Merits for Fasting
i.The Smell of their Breath
One of the wonders and virtues of fasting is that, contrary to people, Allāh loves the smell of the breath of fasting people:
"By Him in whose Hand is my soul, the smell of the breath of a fasting person is better to Allāh than the smell of musk"
Allāh Subhānahu Wa Ta’ala honors the fasting people by reserving a special gate for their entrance to the Jannah.
The Messenger (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said:
"In the Jannah is a gate called Ar-Rayyan (Thirst Quencher) through which only the fasting people will enter. Once they all get in, it will be shut forever"
They suffered from thirst in this life, and they will be rewarded by permanent thirst-quenching in the Hereafter.
iii. Opening the Gates of Jannah.
Ramadhan is the best of all months, and good deeds are better in it (they earn more rewards). When this month arrives: "The gates of the Jannah (the Garden of Paradise) are opened wide, the gates of Hell are shut and the devils are chained down"
Chaining the devils reduces the influence of evil, and this allows the heart to seek its way to light and guidance with little interference. This explains why many wrong-doers repent and come back to their Lord in this month.
iv.The Month of Forgiveness.
Glad tidings for one of the best rewards for fasting as the Messenger (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: "He who fast Ramadhan out of Iman (Belief in Allāh and His promises) and ihtisab (Expectancy of Allāh's reward), all his past sins will be forgiven"
The Conditions for Forgiveness.
We should notice though that the Prophet (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) has set two conditions (Belief and Expectancy) without which one would not deserve this reward of forgiveness. Belief and Expectancy are what distinguishes between habits and acts of worship. Without these two conditions, fasting would be a mere custom and an imitation that would hardly push one to do good or prevent him from committing evil. Fasting will not benefit the one whose fasting is based neither on Belief nor on Expectancy, but on show-off and customs, and Allāh Subhānahu Wa Ta’ala does not need it:
"Whoever does not give up lying and practicing falsehood, Allāh is in no need of his giving up food and drink"
[Al-Bukhari and others]
One the other hand, the one who fasts because he believes that his Lord has ordained fasting, and who hastens to obey Him expecting His reward, will certainly be granted the forgiveness, and his sins will be atoned.
The Messenger (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: "The five daily prayers, the Jumu‘ah prayer to the following Jumu‘ah, and Ramadhan to the following Ramadhan will all atone the sins committed in between as long as one avoids The Major Sins (Kaba'ir)"
So those who fast with true Belief and Expectancy have the good tidings of a pleasant ending, and a happy meeting with Allāh Subhānahu Wa Ta’ala on the Day of Judgment:
"A fasting person is happy twice: when he breaks his fast he is happy for completing his fast (successfully), and when he meets with his Lord he will be happy with his fast (because of its great rewards)"
[Bukhari and Muslim]
[EXERPTED FROM THE ALLĀHUAKBAR, TRANSLATED BY MUHAMMAD AL-JIBALY]