May 12, 2008, 5:01 AM
Among the means of purifying the soul, fasting occupies the third degree in importance. Sexual desires and that of the stomach are two overpowering desires that incite man to deviate from the straight path.
Fasting helps a Muslim to overcome them both so fasting is counted one of the purification factors for the soul. If patience occupies the highest rank of the virtue, fasting is its means. For this reason, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said as:
“A man of Bano Saleem said: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: Fasting is one half of patience…..”
Our lord Allah has decreed that fasting leads to piety. The Noble Qur’an says: O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was imposed on those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint” (Q2:183)
Piety is Allah’s commandment to His servants. Allah says: “And by the soul, and the proportion and order given to it, and its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right, truly he succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it” (Q91:7-10)
Fasting is of two types, obligatory and supererogatory and its wisdom is not hidden from those who live in Islamic environments, so we limit our study to the manners of the person observing fasting. Here is what Imam Al-Ghazali said in this regard.
Secrets of fasting and its inner conditions.
Please be informed that fasting is of three types: the fasting of the common people, the fasting of the majority, and the fasting of the minority. As to the fasting of the common people, it is abstention from food and sex. The fasting of the majority is debarring the heart from mean concerns and worldly pleasures, as well as distracting one’s heart entirely from others besides Allah. Breaking this kind of fast occurs when the one observing the fasting preoccupies himself with others besides Allah and the Last Day or when he preoccupies himself with the worldly pleasures; expect those that are acquired by legal means. “…Say “Allah” then leave them to plunge in vain discourse and trifling” (Q6:91)
As to the minority fasting, it is the fasting of the righteous people. It is the abstention of the limbs and organs from evil. This has six conditions:
Lowering one’s gaze from unlawful scenes and whatever distracts from the remembrance of Allah. The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:
“The glance is one of Satan’s poisonous arrows. He that abstains from it through fear of Allah, Allah will grant him belief and we will taste its sweetness in his heart.”
Keeping one’s tongue from backbiting, slandering lewdness, and dispute, along with compelling it to silence and preoccupying it with the remembrance of Allah and recitation of the Noble Qur’an. This fasting is related to the tongue. Sofyan said: “Backbiting spoils fasting” Muahed narrated: “Two acts spoils fasting slandering and telling lies.”
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said as: Narrated by Abu-Huraira: ‘Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said: “Fasting is a shield (or a screen or a shelter). So, the person observing fasting should avoid sexual acts and should not behave foolishly or impudently, and if somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should say twice: ‘I am fasting.” The Prophet (PBUH) added: “ By Him in whose Hands my soul is, the smell coming from the mouth of a fasting person is better than the smell of musk in the sight of Allah (Allah says about the fasting person): ‘He has left his food, drink, and desires for My sake. Fasting is for Me. So, I will reward (the fasting person) for it and the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten times.”
A fasting person should avoid hearing to listening to improper speech. The Noble Qur’an equalizes between devouring people’s wealth unlawfully and listening to falsehood through verse 42 of chapter 5. It says about some People of the Book: “(They are fond of) listening to falsehood, of devouring anything forbidden…..” (Q5:42) And “Why do not the rabbis and the doctors of religious Law forbid them from their (habit of) uttering sinful words and eating forbidden things? Evil indeed is their works.” (Q5:63)
A fasting person should keep him limbs (i.e. his hands and feet) from detested actions and his stomach from suspect food. The fast is rendered futile if the fasting person refrains from lawful food but then he breaks his fasting on unlawful food. The similitude of such fasting is like the one who builds a palace but destroys a town. Overeating lawful food harms one’s health, so fasting was imposed to remove such harm. A patient who refuses to take a big dose of medicine through fear of its harm and slips poison instead is stupid, and unlawful objects likewise destroy religion. A small quality of lawful objects is beneficial while a large amount is harmful, thus fasting aims at lessening that harm. The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said as: Narrated by Abu-Huraira: the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: “How many a fasting person whose share of his fasting is mere hunger.”
It was said that the above Hadith refers to a fasting person who breaks his fast with unlawful food. Another opinion is that it is he who abstains from lawful food but backbites and slanders people. A third opinion is that it is he who does not prevent his limbs from sinful deeds.
A fasting person should not overeat when he breaks fast, as overfilling the stomach, even lawful food, is detested by Allah.
It is well known that the objective of the fast is to weaken desires and whims and to help the soul to attain piety. Overfilling stomach strengthens desires and stirs latent desires that become aroused due to overeating. The desired result of fasting is to weaken man’s desires as they are Satan’s vehicle to evil. A moderate meal helps in this regard.
Of the manners of observing fasting is not to sleep for a long time during the day so the fasting person avoids feeling hunger and thirst, in order for his heart to be purified. By so doing, he is able to perform At-Tahajjod prayer. If Satan tried to incite him [to sleep for a long time], he is required to look at the heavens.
Laylatol Qadr is the night when some of the secrets of the unseen were revealed. This is understood from Allah’s statement “We have indeed revealed this (Message) in Magnificent Night. (Q97:1)
He that filled his stomach with food has set a screen between his heart and his chest. And it is not enough for he that empties his stomach to remove that screen, if he does not dedicate himself totally to Allah as this is the supreme end.
A fasting person’s heart should be suspended between hope and fear as he does not know for certain whether his fasting will be accepted. He must feel this in every act of worship. It was narrated that Al-Hasan Al- Basri passed by a group of people who were laughing. He said: “Indeed, Allah has appointed the month of Ramadan as a race for people to vie with one another in obedience. Some have won and others have lost. One wonders at a person who laughs on a day when the winners have won and the losers have lost.”Abu Al-Darda’a said: “Bothe the sleeping and breaking fast of a prudent person are praised. How do they not then defame the fasting and watchfulness of a fool?
To be continued