The Reality of Fasting
The crescent of a noble month has been sighted, marking the start of a blessed season. The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam used to give glad tidings to his companions upon the arrival of this month.
O, Believers! Therefore, glad tidings to you for the month of Ramadhan, the month in which Allah ordained fasting and revealed the Qur’an. He made this month a season of worship and hard work, a season of goodness and blessings. He made it a time of action and striving for four things: fasting, Qur’an, worship, and other righteous deeds – these are the most obvious gifts and features of this month. I shall talk about these four things during the coming Fridays of this month, Allaah willing.
Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “When Ramadhan arrives, the gates of Heaven… (and in another narration) …the gates of Paradise… open, the gates of the Hellfire are sealed, and the Shayaateen (devils) are chained.” (Bukhaari & Muslim). He sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam also said: “On the first night of Ramadhan, the Shayaateen and the leaders of the Jinn are chained.” (Ibn Maajah). This means that their ability to tempt people is diminished during this month. Evil and disobedience decrease, because, although the causes of disobedience are many, the greatest factor of all is the whispers of Satan. However, not all Shayaateen are chained during this month for other narrations prove that only the leaders of the Shayaateen are chained. That is why, even though evil and disobedience diminish during this month, it does not come to a complete halt.
There are many other sources of evil that still remain, one of them is the human soul, which is naturally inclined toward evil and accompanies one at all times. Human devils are another reason for immorality in addition to man’s own lusts and desires. Yet another reason is that the remaining soldiers of the devils that do not get chained continue to misguide people. Nevertheless, all of these reasons and causes have a lesser effect on fasting people because fasting bestows upon them a certain blessing.
O Muslims! This is the value of Ramadhan, the month of fasting. Allah ordained fasting during this month whereby people refrain from food, drink, and conjugal relations from dawn until sunset. When the sun sets, a fasting person can eat and drink and have marital relations. The nations that came before us were not allowed to touch their spouses, even at night, and if a person from them fell asleep before he had the chance to eat or drink anything, then it was forbidden for him to eat or drink after that; he had to continue fasting until the end of the next day.
However, Allah has made it easy for this Nation. It is from Allah’s mercy that He made all of this permissible, thus releasing the believers from the heavy burdens that were upon the previous nations. As soon as the sun sets, it becomes lawful for the fasting person of this Nation to eat, drink, and to have relations with his/her spouse. Allah says that which means: “… Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to magnify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you, and perhaps you will be grateful.” (Al-Baqarah: 185).
Moreover, in another verse, to demonstrate to this Nation His favors upon it, Allah says that which means: “It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your women [for sexual relations]….” (Al-Baqarah: 187). This means, in other words, that this was not lawful for the people before you but now it is lawful for you, O Nation of Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
Of the signs of ease of this religion and the mercy that Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam came with is that the ill person and the traveler can break his fast and make it up at a later time after Ramadhan. Also, the elderly who cannot bear fasting, as well as people who have no hope of a cure (i.e., the chronically ill), can feed the needy and they do not have to make up for their missed fasting. It is not righteous to fast while traveling, nor is it better for the ill to fast if it is difficult for them to do so. In these cases, they are to make use of the permission that Allah has furnished them with because He likes it when people take heed of the mercy that He has endowed.
O Muslims! Know that fasting is a protection from wrongdoing. This month is an opportunity for you to purify yourselves and release yourselves from the effects of sins, so take advantage of it. During Ramadhan, a Muslim has fewer burdens as his desires are diminished and he acquires more goodness from being involved in fasting; one can rid himself of bad habits, such as overdoing matters which are lawful, such as overeating, talking too much, and being over indulgent in sexual relations with one’s spouse; we must stop the awful habit of going to extremes in fulfilling these desires.
Some people fail to understand the reality of fasting. They refrain from eating and drinking in the daytime but do not abstain from sin or oppression. They continue their practices as usual or if they do stop in the daytime, they continue with their normal routine as soon as they break the fast. They spend their mornings hungry and thirsty and their evenings are full of sin and evil. They spend the whole night watching television with their wives and children. Others refrain from food during the daytime, and after sunset, they eat all night long to make up for the food they missed. Therefore, fasting is nothing for such people except a change in the times of eating – for they eat during the night rather than the day. When night comes, all kinds of foods are put forth for them to consume – one kind of food is not sufficient for these people – and they stuff their stomachs with all these various types. It is as if these people have never heard of the saying of the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam: “The believer eats in one stomach, and the disbeliever and the hypocrite eat in seven.” (Bukhaari and Muslim).
In another narration of this Hadeeth, it is mentioned: “A man by the name of Abu Ghazwaan came to visit the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. This was before Abu Ghazwaan had become Muslim. The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was the most generous of all people. He milked seven sheep for him, so the man drank all of the milk. Then the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said to him: “Isn’t it time you became a Muslim?” He replied: ‘Yes’ and became Muslim. The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam then stroked his chest (while supplicating for him). The next day, the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam milked only one sheep for him, but Abu Ghazwaan, may Allah be pleased with him, was not able to drink all of the milk. So, the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam asked: “What is the matter Abu Ghazwaan?” He, may Allah be pleased with him, responded: ‘I swear by the One Who sent you as a Prophet, I have had enough.’ So the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “Last night you had seven stomachs while you were a disbeliever and today you only have one stomach.” (At-Tabaraani). This saying of the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam means that a believer can eat less and control his desires more since he does not eat to enjoy nor to fulfill a desire, but rather to stop hunger and become stronger so that he can worship Allah. The disbeliever, however, who does not believe in the Day to come, eats with a strong desire and the lust of animals, as Allah describes him in the Qur’an saying that which means: “…But those who disbelieve enjoy themselves and eat as grazing livestock eat, and the Fire will be a residence for them.” (Muhammad: 12).
O Muslims! One type of cooked food is enough; let us not be like the Children of Israel who would not settle for only one kind of food. O people who observe fasting! When you put these different types of foods on the table in front of you, remember before you begin to eat, that the master of all the creations of Allah, the leader of all Messengers and creation, the Seal of the Prophets sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, would remain without lighting a fire in his house (i.e. without cooking) for one or even two months. “He and his family only ate dates and drank water.” (Bukhaari). One or two months! This was not because he sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam could not have obtained it and that he had no choice because he could have had all he had wanted. It was only due to the fact that he stayed away from worldly pleasures, living an ascetic life, and aimed to draw ever closer to Allah. Even though Allah offered him control of the treasures of the earth and the opportunity to live like kings, having a nice, easy, and comfortable life, he sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam chose to live in poor conditions, eating as a slave eats, sitting as a slave sits. He sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam used to say: “O Allah! Let me live as a Miskeen (humble servant) and resurrect me with the Masaakeen (humble).” (Tirmithi & Bayhaqi).
O Muslims! Let this month be an opportunity that we take full advantage of. Let us get used to these customs – the customs of the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Let us get rid of the habit of overeating like animals. Let this month be a chance to purify ourselves and become elevated from lusts, desires, and trivialities that are of no real value. Let us elevate our souls to the heavens with faith – we can elevate them from the pleasures of this world to the pleasures of the world to come.
Abu Hurayrah, may Allaah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “Fasting is a shield (protection), so when one of you fasts, let him not touch his wife (for sexual relations) and let him not badmouth anyone; and if someone fights him or upsets him, let him say, ‘I am fasting, I am fasting.’ I swear by the One in Whose Hand my soul is! The smell of the mouth of a fasting person is better to Allah than the smell of musk.” Also, Allah says as reported in a Hadeeth Qudsi: “He left eating and drinking and his desires for My sake. Fasting is for Me and I give reward for it – one blessing (for fasting) is multiplied ten times.” (Bukhaari).