Thursday, July 11, 2013
Inner dimensions of Ramadan fasting
It should be known that there are three grades of Ramadan
Fasting: ordinary, special and extra special.
Ordinary Fasting means abstaining from food, drink and sexual
Special Fasting means keeping one's ears, eyes, tongue, hands
and feet - and all other organs - free from sin.
Extra special Fasting means fasting of the heart from unworthy
concerns and worldly thoughts, in total disregard of everything
but God, Great and Glorious is He.
This kind of Fast is broken by thinking of worldly matters, except
for those conducive to religious ends, since these constitute provision
for the Hereafter and are not of this lower world. Those versed in
the spiritual life of the heart have even said that a sin is recorded
against one who concerns himself all day with arrangements for
breaking his Fast.
Such anxiety stems from lack of trust in the bounty of God, Great
and Glorious is He, and from lack of certain faith in His promised
To this third degree belong the Prophets, the true Auliya and
the intimates of God. It does not lend itself to detailed examination
in words, as its true nature is better revealed in action. It consists
in utmost dedication to God, Great and Glorious is He, to the
neglect of everything other than God, Great and Glorious is He.
It is bound up with the significance of His words: 'Say:
"Allah (sent it down)": then leave them to play in their vain discussions.'
[ Holy Quran Surah :Al-An'am, 6:91]
Inward Requirements for Ramadan Fasting As for Special Fasting, this
is the kind practiced by the righteous. It means keeping all one's organs
free from sin and six things are required for its accomplishment:
1. SEE NOT WHAT DISPLEASES ALLAH (SWT):
A chaste regard, restrained from viewing anything that is blameworthy
or reprehensible, or that distracts the heart and diverts it from the
remembrance of God, Great and Glorious is He.
Holy Prophet Mohammad, on him be peace, said: 'The furtive glance
is one of the poisoned arrows of Satan, on him be God's curse.
Whoever forsakes it for fear of God will receive from Him, Great and
Glorious is He, a faith the sweetness of which he will find within his heart.'
Jabir relates from Anas that Holy Prophet Mohammad, on him be peace,
said: 'Five things break a man's Fast: lying, backbiting, gossiping,
perjury and a lustful gaze.'
2. SPEAK NOT...:
Guarding one's tongue from idle chatter, lying, gossiping, obscenity,
rudeness, arguing and controversy; making it observe silence and
occupying it with remembrance of God, Great and Glorious is He,
and with recitation of Holy Quran. This is the fasting of the tongue.
Sufyan Said: 'Backbiting annuls the Fast.' Layth quotes Mujahid as
saying: 'Two habits annul Fasting: backbiting and telling lies.'
Holy Prophet Mohammad, on him be peace, said: 'Fasting is a shield;
so when one of you is Fasting he should not use foul or foolish talk.
If someone attacks him or insults him, let him say: "I am Fasting,
I am Fasting!"'
According to Tradition: 'Two women were Fasting during the time of
Holy Prophet Mohammad, on him be peace. They were so fatigued
towards the end of the day, from hunger and thirst that they were on
the verge of collapsing. They therefore sent a message to Holy Prophet
Mohammad, on him be peace, requesting permission to break their Fast.
In response, Holy Prophet Mohammad, on him be peace, sent them
a bowl and said:
"Tell them to vomit into it what they have eaten." One of them vomited
and half filled the bowl with fresh blood and tender meat, while the other
brought up the same so that they filled it between them.
The onlookers were astonished. Then the Holy Prophet Mohammad,
on him be peace, said: "These two women have been Fasting from what
God made lawful to them, and have broken their Fast on what God,
Great and Glorious is He, made unlawful to them. They sat together
and indulged in backbiting, and here is the flesh of the people
3. HEAR NOT...
Closing one's ears to everything reprehensible; for everything unlawful
to utter is likewise unlawful to listen to. That is why God, Great and
Glorious is He, equated the eavesdropper with the profiteer, in His
words, Great and Glorious is He: 'Listeners to falsehood, consumers
of illicit gain.'
[Holy Quran Surah al-Ma'idah, 5:42]
God, Great and Glorious is He, also said:
"Why do their rabbis and priests not forbid them to utter sin and
consume unlawful profit?'
[Holy Quran, Surah Al-Ma'idah, 5:63]
Silence in the face of backbiting is therefore unlawful.
God, Great and Glorious is He, said:
"You are then just like them."
[Holy Quran Surah al-Nisa, 4:140]
That is why the Holy Prophet Mohammad, on him be peace, said:
'The backbiter and his listener are copartners in sin.'
4. DO NOT...
Keeping all other limbs and organs away from sin:
The hands and feet from reprehensible deeds, and the stomach from
questionable food at the time for breaking Fast. It is meaningless to
Fast - to abstain from lawful food - only to break one's Fast on
what is unlawful.
A man who Fast like this may be compared to one who builds a castle
but demolishes a city. Lawful food injurious in quantity not in quality,
so Fasting is to reduce the former.
A person might well give up excessive use of medicine, from fear of
ill effects, but he would be a fool to switch to taking poison.
The unlawful is a poison deadly to religion, while the lawful is a medicine,
beneficial in small doses but harmful in excess. The object of Fasting is
to induce moderation.
Holy Prophet Mohammad, on him be peace, said: 'How many of those
who Fast get nothing from it but hunger and thirst!' This has been taken
to mean those who break their Fast on unlawful food. Some say it refers
to those who abstain from lawful food, but break their Fast on
human flesh through backbiting, which is unlawful. Others consider
it an allusion to those who do not guard their organs from sin.
5. AVOID OVEREATING
Not to over-indulge in lawful food at the time of breaking Fast, to the
point of stuffing one's belly. There is no receptacle more odious to God,
Great and Glorious is He, than a belly stuffed full with lawful food.
Of what use is the Fast as a means of conquering God's enemy and
abating appetite, if at the time of breaking it one not only makes up
for all one has missed during the daytime, but perhaps also indulges
in a variety of extra foods?
It has even become the custom to stock
up for Ramadan with all kinds of foodstuffs, so that more is consumed
during that time than in the course of several other months put together.
It is well known that the object of Fasting is to experience hunger and
to check desire, in order to reinforce the soul in piety. If the stomach
is starved from early morning till evening, so that its appetite is aroused
and its craving intensified, and it is then offered delicacies and allowed
to eat its fill, its taste for pleasure is increased and its force exaggerated;
passions are activated which would have lain dormant under normal
The spirit and secret nature of Fasting is to weaken the forces which are
Satan's means of leading us back to evil. It is therefore essential to cut
down one's intake to what one would consume on a normal night, when
not Fasting. No benefit is derived from the Fast if one consumes as
much as one would usually take during the day and night combined.
Moreover, one of the properties consists in taking little sleep during
the daytime, so that one feels the hunger and thirst and becomes
conscious of the weakening of one's powers, with the consequent
purification of the heart.
One should let a certain degree of weakness carry over into the night,
making it easier to perform the night Prayers (tahajjud) and to recite
the praises (awrad). It may then be that Satan will not hover around
one's heart, and that one will behold the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Night of Destiny represents the night on which something of
this Kingdom is revealed. This is what is meant by the words of God,
Great and Glorious is He:
'We surely revealed it on the Night of Power.' [Surah Al-Qadr, 97:1]
Anyone who puts a bag of food between his heart and his breast
becomes blind to this revelation. Nor is keeping the stomach empty
sufficient to remove the veil, unless one also empties the mind of
everything but God, Great and Glorious is He. That is the entire
matter, and the starting point of it all is cutting down on food.
6. LOOK TO GOD WITH FEAR AND HOPE
After the Fast has been broken, the heart should swing like a
pendulum between fear and hope. For one does not know if one's
Fast will be accepted, so that one will find favor with God, or
whether it will be rejected, leaving one among those He abhors.
This is how one should be at the end of any act of worship one performs.
It is related of al-Hasan ibn Abil Hasan al-Basri that he once passed
by a group of people who were laughing merrily. He said: 'God, Great
and Glorious is He, has made the month of Ramadan a racecourse,
on which His creatures compete in His worship. Some have come
in first and won, while others have lagged behind and lost.
It is absolutely amazing to find anybody laughing and playing about
on the day when success attends the victors, and failure the wasters.
By God, if the veil were lifted off, the doer of good would surely be
preoccupied with his good works and the evildoer with his evil deeds.'
In too full of joy to indulge in idle sport, while for one who has suffered
rejection laughter will be precluded by remorse.
Of al-Ahnaf ibn Qays it is reported that he was once told: 'You are
an aged elder; Fasting would enfeeble you.' But he replied:
'By this I am making ready for a long journey, Obedience to God,
Great and Glorious is He, is easier to endure than His punishment.'
Such are the inwardly significant meanings of Fasting.
By: Abu Hamid al-Ghazali