FASTING: The Spiritual and Social benefits of Islamic Fasting

Friday, May 17, 2019

Fasting (As-Siyam)

As-Siyam generally means “to abstain from something.” For example, a verse in the Qur’an says: “I have vowed to the Merciful to abstain--that is, from speaking.

What is meant here is abstaining from food, drink, and sexual intercourse from dawn until sunset with the explicit intention of doing so (for the sake of Allah).

The Virtues of Fasting 

Abu Hurairah reported the Messenger of Allah, (SAW), saying: “Allah said: ‘Every action of the son of Adam is for him except fasting, for that is solely for Me. I give the reward for it.’ The fast is a shield. If one is fasting, he should not use foul language, raise his voice, or behave foolishly. If someone reviles him or fights with him he should say, ‘I am fasting,’ twice. By the One in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, the [bad] breath of the one who is fasting is better in the sight of Allah on the Day of Resurrection than the smell of musk. The one who is fasting is happy at two times: when he breaks his fast he is happy with it, and when he meets his Lord he will be happy that he has fasted.” This is related by Ahmad, Muslim, and an-Nasa’i. A similar version was recorded by al-Bukhari and Abu Dawud, but with the following addition: “He leaves his food, drink, and desires for My sake. His fasting is for Me... I will give the reward for it, and for every good deed, he will receive ten similar to it.”

‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr reported that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: “The fast and the Qur’an are two intercessors for the servant of Allah on the Day of Resurrection. The fast will say: ‘O Lord, I prevented him from his food and desires during the day. Let me intercede for him.’ The Qur’an will say: ‘I prevented him from sleeping at night. Let me intercede for him.’ And their intercession will be accepted.” Ahmad related this hadith with a Sahih chain.

Abu Umamah reported: “I came to the Messenger of Allah and said: ‘Order me to do a deed that will allow me to enter Paradise.’ He said: ‘Stick to fasting, as there is no equivalent to it.’ Then I came to him again and he said: ‘Stick to fasting.”’ This hadith is related by Ahmad, an-Nasa’i, and al-Hakim who classified it as Sahih.

Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “No servant fasts on a day in the path of Allah except that Allah removes the hellfire seventy years further away from his face.” This is related by “the group,” except for Abu Dawud.

Sahl ibn Sa’d reported that the Prophet said: “There is a gate to Paradise that is called Ar-Rayyan. On the Day of Resurrection it will say: ‘Where are those who fasted?’ When the last [one] has passed through the gate, it will be locked.” This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

Types of Fasting 

There are two types of fasting: obligatory and voluntary. Obligatory can be further subdivided into the fast of Ramadan, the fast of expiation and the fast of fulfilling a vow. Here we shall discuss the Ramadan and voluntary fasts.

The Fast of Ramadan 

The fast of Ramadan, according to the Qur’an, Sunnah and consensus, is obligatory.

The evidence from the Qur’an consists of the following two verses: “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for the people before you in order for you to gain God consciousness, and, “...The month of Ramadan, during which the Qur’an was revealed, a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance and the criterion; and whoever of you is resident, let him fast the month” [al-Baqarah 185].

From the Sunnah we have the following statements of the Prophet: “Islam is built upon [the following] five pillars: testifying that there is no God except Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, the establishment of the prayer, the giving of Zakah, the fast of Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Makkah.” Talhah ibn ‘Ubaidullah reported that a man came to the Prophet and said: “O Messenger of Allah, tell me what Allah requires of me as regards fasting.” He answered, “The month of Ramadan.” The man asked: “Is there any other [fast]?” The Prophet answered: “No, unless you do so voluntarily.”

The whole Muslim nation agrees that the fast of Ramadan is obligatory. It is one of the pillars of Islam, and if one disputes this, he cannot be called a Muslim.

The Virtues of Ramadan and the Deeds Done During It 

Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, (SAW), said: “The blessed month has come to you. Allah has made fasting during it obligatory upon you. During it, the gates to Paradise are opened and the gates to hellfire are locked, and the devils are chained. There is a night [during this month] which is better than a thousand months. Whoever is deprived of its good is really deprived [of something great].” This is related by Ahmad, an-Nasa’i, and al-Baihaqi.

‘Arfajah testifies to this: “We were with ‘Utbah ibn Farqad while he was discussing Ramadan. A companion of the Prophet entered upon the scene. When ‘Utbah saw him, he became shy and stopped talking. The man [the companion] spoke about Ramadan, saying: ‘I heard the Messenger of Allah say during Ramadan: “The gates of Hell are closed, the gates of Paradise are opened, and the devils are in chains. An angel calls out: ‘O you who intend to do good deeds, have glad tidings. O you, who intend to do evil, refrain, until Ramadan is completed.’”

Muslim relates that Abu Hurairah reported the Prophet saying: “The time between the five prayers, two consecutive Friday prayers and two consecutive Ramadans are expiations for all that has happened during that period, provided that one has avoided the grave sins.”

Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: “Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan, obeying all of its limitations and guarding himself against what is forbidden, has in fact atoned for any sins he committed before it.” Ahmad and al-Baihaqi related this hadith with a good chain.

Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: “Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan with faith and seeks Allah’s pleasure and reward will have his previous sins forgiven.” This hadith is related by Ahmad and the compilers of the sunan.

The Consequence of Breaking the Fast of Ramadan 

Ibn ‘Abbas reported that the Prophet said: “The bare essence of Islam and the basics of the religion are three [acts], upon which Islam has been established. Whoever leaves one of them becomes an unbeliever and his blood may legally be spilled. [The acts are:] Testifying that there is no God except Allah, the obligatory prayers, and the fast of Ramadan.” This hadith is related by Abu Ya’la and ad-Dailimi. Azh-Zhahabi called it Sahih.

Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: “Whoever breaks his fast during Ramadan without having one of the excuses that Allah would excuse him for, then even a perpetual fast, if he were to fast it, would not make up for that day.” This is related by Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, and at-Tirmizhi.

Al-Bukhari records from Abu Hurairah in Marfu’ form: “Whoever breaks the fast of Ramadan without having a legitimate excuse or being ill, he cannot make up for that day, even if he were to undertake a perpetual fast.” Ibn Mas’ud has also reported this.

Azh-Zhahabi says: “According to the established believers, anyone who leaves the fast of Ramadan without being sick is worse than a fomicator or an alcoholic. In fact, they doubt his Islam and they suspect that he might be a Zandiqah and one of those who destroy [Islam].

To be continued