The Inner Secrets of Fasting

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Know, that in the fast (Sawm) is a special quality that is not found
in anything else. And that is its close connection to Allah, such
that He says:

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 “ “The fast (Sawm) is for Me and I will reward it.”
[Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Muslim]

This connection is enough to show the high status of fasting.
Similarly, the Ka`bah is highly dignified due to its close
connection to Him, as occurs in His statement:

  “And sanctify My House.” [Sûrah al-Hajj:26]

Indeed, the fast is only virtuous due to two significant concepts:

The first: It is a secret and hidden action thus, no one from the
creation is able to see it. Therefore riyâ’ (showing off) cannot
enter into it.

The second: It is a means of subjugating the enemies of Allah. This
is because the road that the enemies (of Allah) embark upon (in
order to misguide the Son of Âdam) is that of desires. And eating
and drinking strengthens the desires.

There are many reports that indicate the merits of fasting, and they
are all well known.

The recommended acts of fasting

The pre-dawn meal (suhûr) and delaying in taking it are preferable,
as well as hastening to break the fast and doing so with dates.

Generosity in giving is also recommended during Ramadân, as well as
doing good deeds and increasing in charity. This is in accordance
with the way of the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu `alayhi wa
sallam).

It is also recommended to study the Qur’ân and perform I`tikâf
during Ramadân, especially in the last ten days, as well as
increasing upon the exertion (towards doing good deeds) in it.

In the two Sahîhs, `Â’ishah said:

 “ “When the (last) ten days (of Ramadân) would come, the Prophet
would tighten his waist-wrapper (izâr), spend the night in worship,
and wake his family up (for prayer).” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and
Muslim]

The scholars have mentioned two views concerning the meaning
of “tighten his waist-wrapper (izâr)”:

The first: It means the turning away from women.

The second: It is an expression denoting his (sallallahu `alayhi wa
sallam) eagerness and diligence in doing good deeds.

They also say that the reason for his (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam)
exertion in the last ten days of Ramadân was due to his (sallallahu
`alayhi wa sallam) seeking of the Night of Al-Qadr (Lailatul-Qadr).

An explanation of the inner secrets of fasting and its
characteristics

There are three levels of fasting: The general fast, the specific
fast, and the more specific fast.

As for the general fast, then it is the refraining of the stomach
and the private parts from fulfilling their desires.

The specific fast is the refraining of ones gaze, tongue, hands,
feet, hearing and eyes, as well as the rest of his body parts from
committing sinful acts.

As for the more specific fast, then it is the heart’s abstention
from its yearning after the worldly affairs and the thoughts which
distance one away from Allah, as well as its (the heart’s)
abstention from all the things that Allah has placed on the same
level.

From the characteristics of the specific fast is that one lowers his
gaze and safeguards his tongue from the repulsive speech that is
forbidden, disliked, or which has no benefit, as well as controlling
the rest of his body parts.

In a hadîth reported by Al-Bukhârî:

 “ “Whosoever does not abandon false speech and the acting upon it,
Allah is not in need of him leaving off his food and drink.” [Sahîh
al-Bukhârî, Abu Dawûd, at-Tirmidhî and Ibn Mâjah]

Another characteristic of the specific fast is that one does not
overfill himself with food during the night. Instead, he eats in due
measure, for indeed, the son of Âdam does not fill a vessel more
evil than his stomach.

If he were to eat his fill during the first part of the night, he
would not make good use of himself for the remainder of the night.
In the same way, if he eats to his fill for suhûr, he does not make
good use of himself until the afternoon. This is because excessive
eating breeds laziness and lethargy. Therefore, the objective of
fasting disappears due to one’s excessiveness in eating, for what is
intended by the fast, is that one savors the taste of hunger and
becomes an abandoner of desires.

Recommended Fasts

As for the recommended fasts, then know that preference for fasting
is established in certain virtuous days. Some of these virtuous days
occur every year, such as fasting the first six days of the month of
Shawâl after Ramadân, fasting the day of `Arafah, the day of
`Âshûrâ, and the ten days of Dhul-Hijjah and Muharram.

Some of them occur every month, such as the first part of the month,
the middle part of it, and the last part of it. So whoever fasts the
first part of the month, the middle part of it, and the last part of
it, then he has done well.

Some fasts occur every week, and they are every Monday and Thursday.

The most virtuous of the recommended fasts is the fast of Dawûd
(`alayhis salâm). He would fast one day and break his fast the next
day. This achieves the following three objectives:

The soul is given its share on the day the fast is broken. And on
the day of fasting, it completes its worship in full.

The day of eating is the day of giving thanks and the day of fasting
is the day of having patience. And Faith (îmân) is divided into
two halves – that of thankfulness and that of patience. [Note: the
hadîth with a similar stament is unauthentic, see adh-Dha`îfah:
625]

It is the most difficult struggle for the soul. This is because
every time the soul gets accustomed to a certain condition, it
transfers itself to that.

As for fasting every day, then it has been reported by Muslim, from
the hadîth of Abu Qatâdah, that `Umar (radhiallahu `anhu) asked
the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam):

 “ ‘What is the case if one
were to fast every day?’ So he (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam)
said: “He did not fast nor did he break his fast – or – he did not
fast and he did not break his fast.” [Sahîh Muslim]

This is concerning the one who fasts continuously, even during the
days in which fasting is forbidden.

Characteristics of the most specific fast

Know that the one who has been given intellect, knows the objective
behind fasting. Therefore, he burdens himself to the extent that he
will not be unable to do that which is more beneficial than it.

Ibn Mas`ûd would fast very little and it is reported that he used
to say:

  “When I fast, I grow weak in my prayer. And I prefer the
prayer over the (optional) fast.

Some of them (the Sahâbah) would weaken in their recitation of the
Qur’ân while fasting. Thus, they would exceed in breaking their
fast (i.e. by observing less optional fasts), until they were able
to balance their recitation. Every individual is knowledgeable of
his condition and of what will rectify it.

There were a slight modification to the article by the editor, such
as the exclusion of the couple of statements.


Mukhtasar Minhâj ul-Qâsidîn (pp. 38-41)
Hudâ, Ramadhân 1419
Translated by Ismâ`îl Ibn al-Arkân and edited by Abu Khaliyl.

(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)



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