Fasting is a Magnificent Righteous Deed
By Umar Suleiman Al-Ashqar
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-‘ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu alayhi wasallam, is His Messenger.
Prologue: Siyām or fasting is a deed that elevates and sublimes the soul, a deed that motivates toward gaining virtue and protects against corruption; a deed that strengthens the will power, rectifies the intention, reforms the body, heals weakness and brings the ‘abd (worshiper) closer to his Lord (Rabb); a deed by which sins are forgiven, evil doings are reconciled, merit is increased, and the rank of its performer is elevated before Allāh Subhānahu wa ta’ala - a deed whose performer will be among the closest and the chosen upon Resurrection.
1. Fasting implants Taqwa
The Qur’ān and the Sunnah define the merits of Siyām.
Allāh Subhanahu wa ta'ala Says:"Believers! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may have taqwa (piety)." Al-Baqarah, 2:183]
Allāh has ordained Siyām in order to develop piety in our hearts and it is only for piety that Allāh honors the ‘abd (worshipers). Allāh does not regard the physical beauty of the ‘abd, but He rather looks into their hearts (where piety resides) and into their deeds that they have performed on the basis of piety.
Allāh distinguishes between people according to their piety:"The most honored by Allāh amongst you are those with the highest (Taqwa) piety [Al-Hujurat 49:13]
This is also the goal of all other acts of obedience and worship, as is stated by Allāh:"Mankind! Worship your Lord Who created you and those before you, that you may have Taqwa"[Al-Baqarah 2:21]
Taqwa is all what concerns Allāh of our deeds:"The sacrifices' flesh and blood reaches not Allāh, but the taqwa is what reaches Him from you"[Al-Hajj 22:37]
The true meaning of taqwa is that the ‘abd knows his Lord by His Names and Attributes, knows His Greatness, His Omnipotence and His Power and this leads him to fear Him, and to beware of disobeying Him. The ‘abd realizes Allāh's Mercy, Forgiveness, countless bounties, and the great rewards that He has in store for the believers, and this makes him hasten to please Him.
The ‘abd will only attain taqwa by being persistent in obedience, fulfilling the required acts of worships, and increasing the voluntary ones - always keeping within the boundaries established by Allāh, and acting in compliance with the Sunnah of Rasūlullah (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam).
1.1. Definitions of Taqwa
One of the best definitions of taqwa is that of Talaq bin Habib (rahimahullāh) who said:"At-Taqwa is to act in obedience to Allāh, on a light (guidance) from Allāh seeking Allāh's reward, and to refrain from disobeying Allāh, on a light from Allāh, fearing His punishment."
As for the means of attaining taqwa, it is through Ihsan (perfection of deeds), which means:"... To worship Allāh as if you see Him, for even though you do not see Him, He truly sees you"[Muslim]
The Qur’ān stated that those who have piety are the successful. Allāh proclaims: "These (who possess the qualities of taqwa) are on (true) guidance from their Lord, and it is these who will be successful" [Al-Baqarah, 2:5]
Siyām demonstrates compliance with the orders of Allāh, promptness to please Him, and renunciation of the desires and the needs of the individual. It is done without any supervision except that of Allāh. This act implants taqwa in the heart. Once the heart is rectified, the deeds will be righteous. With this goodness of the heart and deeds, the Ummah (Nation) appointed by Allāh to lead humanity will then be righteous and will provide guidance to the path of integrity and righteousness.
2. The Reward of Fasting.
Since fasting is kept secret between the ‘abd and his Lord, his sincerity in this deed is known only to his Creator. Therefore the reward is not based on the general recompensation rule mentioned by the Messenger (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam): "The good deed is multiplied tenfold" [Al-Bukhari]
Only Allāh is capable of appraising the reward for the fasting person. The Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said, quoting his Lord, in a Qudsi hadith: "All the doing of the son of Adam is for himself except for fasting: it is for Me and I reward it accordingly” [Al-Bukhari]
This is because fasting is a form of perseverance, and those who persevere will be rewarded with no limits, as Allah states in the Qur’an: “Say, ‘O My servants who have believed, fear your Lord. For those who do good in this world is good, and the earth of Allah is spacious. Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account’." [AZ-Zumar 39:10]. On the basis of this verse the Salaf (Early Righteous Muslims) used to name the Month of Fasting as the Month of Patience.
3. Fasting is a Shield
Siyām is a shield and a protection. It protects the `abd from committing sins or disobeying Allāh it prevents him from uttering obnoxious words and from doing evil deeds. This way the `abd protects himself from the Fire.
The Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:"Fasting is a protection when one of you is fasting, he should avoid disgraceful speech and indecent behavior, and he should avoid quarreling"[Al-Bukhari]
Thus Siyām is a strong fortress sheltering the person from the deception of Syaitān, and protecting him from slipping into dirt and sins. Furthermore, if someone behaves toward the fasting person in an evil manner, the Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) directs him to the excellent behavior of not to respond similarly he says: "If someone should fight or quarrel with him, he should say: I am a fasting person - twice -" [Al-Bukhari]
This reveals the misunderstanding of many Muslims who ignorantly think that fasting is a good excuse for bad behavior and short temper. This is indeed a drastic mistake resulting from ignorance about the Deen (Religion) of Allāh.
4. The Wisdom
During the rest of the year, the body gets accustomed to a certain frequency and norm of meals. A person drinks water whenever he feels the need, and copulates with his wife at all times permissible by Allāh. These habits, in the long run, make him a slave of his desires and passions they cause him to forget the ultimate objective of his creation: to worship Allāh only. Allāh provides for him the food, drink, and intimacy to help him accomplish this objective. However, when these things preoccupy him and become his obsession, he becomes their captive and humiliated slave. He becomes truly pictured by the Hadith: "Miserable is indeed the slave of the dinar (a gold coins), and miserable is the slave of the dirham (a silver coin, about one tenth of a dinar) ... miserable and vanquished is he! Let there be no one to help him in as much as pulling a thorn that he would step on" [Al-Bukhari]
The great scholar al-Manawi (rahimahullāh), in his book entitled “Faydh ul-Qadir”, beautifully explained this wisdom as follows:
Fasting was only legislated to shatter the desires of individuals and to eliminate the causes of captivity, slavery, and worship of created things. If they ceaselessly pursue their physical needs, they soon become enslaved to them and this would detach them from Allāh. Fasting would eliminate the motive to be enslaved to anyone else. It frees the person from the slavery of his desires, because true freedom is to possess material things without letting them possess him. Allāh appointed the human being as the honored khalifah in His Kingdom. If he lets his desires enslave him, he would be opposing Allāh's wisdom, making his desires superior to him, and making himself inferior to them: "Am I to seek for you a god other than Allāh, although He has favored you above all other creatures?" [Al- A‘raf, 7:140]
Many people worship their desires and fasting frees them from this imprudent slavery and devotion to other than Allāh.Thus in this month, a person breaks his habits and rejects many of his desires this may be hard, but it is of definite benefit and value. Allāh Says:"You may hate a thing that is better for you" [Al-Baqarah 2:216] and: "That you fast is better for you if you did know" [Al-Baqarah, 2:184]
Siyām, therefore, fortifies the will power. Furthermore, physicians prescribe it in many cases because it helps remedy some severe illnesses.
5. The Virtues of Fasting
5.1. The Smell of their Breath
One of the wonders and virtues of fasting is that, contrary to people, Allāh loves the smell of the breath of fasting people: "By Him in whose Hand is my soul, the smell of the breath of a fasting person is better to Allāh than the smell of musk"[Al-Bukhari]
Allāh Subhanahu wa ta’ala honors the fasting people by reserving a special gate for their entrance to the Jannah.
The Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:"In the Jannah is a gate called Ar-Rayyan (Thirst Quencher) through which only the fasting people will enter. Once they all get in, it will be shut forever" [Al-Bukhari]
They suffered from thirst in this life, and they will be rewarded by permanent thirst-quenching in the Hereafter.
5.3. Opening the Gates of Good
Ramadhān is the best of all months, and good deeds are better in it (they earn more rewards). When this month arrives the Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: "The gates of the Jannah (the Garden of Paradise) are opened wide, the gates of Hell are shut and the devils are chained down" [Al-Bukhari]
Chaining the devils reduces the influence of evil, and this allows the heart to seek its way to light and guidance with little interference. This explains why many wrong-doers repent and come back to their Lord in this month.
5.4. The Month of Forgiveness
Glad tidings for one of the best rewards for fasting as the Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:"He who fast Ramadhān out of Imān (Belief in Allāh and His promises) and ihtisab (Expectancy of Allāh's reward), all his past sins will be forgiven"[Bukhari]
5.5. The Conditions for Forgiveness
We should notice though that the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) has set two conditions, Belief and Expectancy without which one would not deserve this reward of forgiveness. Belief and Expectancy are what distinguishes between habits and acts of worship. Without these two conditions, fasting would be a mere custom and an imitation that would hardly push one to do good or prevent him from committing evil. Fasting will not benefit the one whose fasting is based neither on Belief nor on Expectancy, but on show-off and customs, and Allāh does not need it: "Whoever does not give up lying and practicing falsehood, Allāh is in no need of his giving up food and drink" [Al-Bukhari and others]
One the other hand, the one who fasts because he believes that his Lord has ordained fasting, and who hastens to obey Him expecting His reward, will certainly be granted the forgiveness, and his sins will be atoned.
The Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:"The five daily prayers, the Jumu‘ah prayer to the following Jumu‘ah, and Ramadhān to the following Ramadhān will all atone the sins committed in between as long as one avoids The Major Sins (Kaba'ir)"[Muslim]
So, let those who fast with true Belief and Expectancy have the good tidings of a pleasant ending, and a happy meeting with Allāh the Almighty on the Day of Judgment.
As Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:"A fasting person is happy twice: when he breaks his fast he is happy for completing his fast (successfully), and when he meets with his Lord he will be happy with his fast (because of its great rewards)"[Bukhari and Muslim]
6. The Solah Tarawīh (The Qiyam of Ramadhan)
6.1. He who observed Tarawīh his Sins is forgiven.
The Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wassalam) used to encourage us to offer Qiyam of Ramadhān, as is available only during Ramadhān and who observed Tarawīh (Qiyam of Ramadhān) with merit that his sins is forgiven; without making it an obligatory prayer.
Abu Hurayrah (radiyallāhu anhu) reported that Allāh's Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “He who observed prayer at night (Tarawīh) during Ramadhān, because of faith and seeking his reward from Allāh, his previous sins would be forgiven.” [Al-Bukhāri and Muslim]
6.2. The stand that is equivalent to spending the whole night in prayer
If whoever stands with the imām until he has completed Solāh al-Tarawīh it is equivalent to spending the whole night in prayer.
The hadith was narrated that Abu Dzarr Al-Ghifari (radiyallāhu anhu) said: The Messenger of Allah (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:
“Whoever stands with the imam until he finishes, it is equivalent to spending the whole night in prayer.”
[Narrated by al-Tirmidzi, 806; Abu Dawud, 1375; al-Nasā’ie, 1605; Ibn Mājah, 1327; Classified as sahih by al-Tirmidzi, Ibn Khuzaymah (3/337), Ibn Hibban (3/340) and al-Albani in Irwa’ al-Ghalil, 447]
As the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said this reward (the reward of spending the whole night in prayer) is not attained by anyone except the one who stands with the imām for the whole prayer, until he completes it.
As for the one who prays as much as he can and then leaves before the imām has completed his prayer, only what he has prayed will be recorded for him, but it will not be recorded as if he spent the entire night in prayer.
Allah says:“So whosoever does good equal to the weight of an atom (or a small ant) shall see it. And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom (or a small ant) shall see it” [Al-Zalzalah, 99:7-8]
7. Seeking The Lailatul-Qadar
Lailatul-Qadar is the Most Blessed Night and indeed a great amount of value. It falls on one the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadhān [21, 23, 25, 27, and 29].
The Night Is Better Than A Thousand Months:
Allah Says: “Verily, we have sent it [this Qur’an] down in the Night of Al-Qadar [Decree].And what will make you know what the Night of Al-Qadar [Decree] is. The Night of Al-Qadar [Decree] is better than a thousand months [i.e. worshiping Allah in that night is better than worshiping Him a thousand months, i.e. 83 years and 4 months]. Therein descend the angels and the Ruh [Jibril] by Allah’s Permission with all Decrees; [All that night] there is peace [and goodness from Allah to His believing slaves] until the appearance of dawn.” [Al-Qadar, 97:1-5]
‘Aishah (radiyallāhu`anha) reported:“When the (last) ten started, the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) would tighten his izar (i.e. he stayed away from his wives in order to have more time for worship), spend the whole night awake (in prayer), and wake up his family.” Al-Bukhāri and Muslim]
‘Aishah (radiyallāhu`anha) also said:“Allah’s Messenger (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) used to exert more (in worship) on the last ten than on other nights.”[Muslim]
The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:“Seek it in the last ten nights, on the odd-numbered nights.”[Al-Bukhāri and Muslim]
Abu Hurairah (radiyallāhu`anhu) narrated that the Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:
“Whoever stands (in qiyam) in Lailatul-Qadar [and it is facilitated for him] out of faith and expectation (of Allah’s reward), will have all of his previous sins forgiven.”
[Al-Bukhāri and Muslim; the addition "and it is facilitated for him" is recorded by Ahmad from the report of ‘Ubadah Ibn As-Samit (radiyallāhu`anhu); it means that he is permitted to be among the sincere worshippers during that blessed night]
‘Aishah (radiyallāhu`anha) reported that she asked Allah’s Messenger (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam), “O Messenger of Allah! If I knew which night is Lailatul-Qadar, what should I say during it?” And Rasulullah (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) instructed her to say:
“Allahumma innaka ’afuw wun tuhibbul ‘afwa fa’fu ’anni” (O Allah! You are Forgiving, and you love forgiveness. So forgive me)
[Recorded by Ahmad, Ibn Mājah, and At-Tirmidzi; verified to be sahih]
And Allāh Almighty Knows best.
[Via Allāhuakbar As Translated By Muhammad Al-Jibaly]