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:


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 
they maligned!"'

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.


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.

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