After Hadhrat Nabi Aadam (Alayhis salaam) had mistakenly ate from the forbidden tree in Jannat, he sincerely repented. However, his Taubah was not accepted for 30 days because the athr (effect) of the haraam fruit was still in his bodily system. The athr was eliminated only after 30 days. When he was totally purified even physically of the evil effects of the forbidden fruit, his Taubah was accepted. Thus, 30 days fasting became the practice and speciality of the Ummat of Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam). This is the view proffered by the Sufiya (Auliya). Haafiz Ibn Hajar (Rahmatullah alayh) claims that there is no authentic Sanad for this narration of the Sufiya. But his view is not the final word. The illustrious Sufiya who were great Auliya made no false claims. They were not fabricators of Ahaadith. Ibn Hajr’s view is consequently simply set aside. While the views of the Sufiya revealed by way of Kashf and Ilhaam are not Shar’i Dalaa-il on which ahkaam could be formulated, they may not be dismissed as fabrications and baseless.
“O People of Imaan! Siyaam (Fasting) has been ordained for you just it was ordained for those before you so that you attain Taqwa.” (Qur’aan)
Siyaam existed as a compulsory injunction for all Ummats prior to the Ummat of Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam).
As for Muslims prior to the Fasts of Ramadhaan being decreed Fardh, Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and the Sahaabah would fast on the Day of Aashura (10th Muharram) and the Ayyam-e-Beedh (13th, 14th and 15th) of the Islamic months.
Literally Saum means abstention – to stay away – to desist. The Shar’i meaning is abstention from food, drink and sexual relations from Subh Saadiq to sunset with the niyyat of fasting.
Among the different views pertaining to the name Ramadhaan, the popular view is that it is the month which burns away sins.
It is also said that Ramadhaan is one of the Names of Allah Ta’ala, hence the term should not be used without being prefixed with month, i.e. the Month of Ramadhaan.
Siyaam like all acts of Ibaadat consists of Rooh (Soul) and Jism (Physical body). It has two dimensions – Spiritual and Physical.
SAUM IN ABNORMAL TIME ZONES
In abnormal time zones where the sun either does not rise or set for months, the times of the nearest normal region should be taken for beginning and ending the Saum.
FASTING AND HADHRAT AADAM
After Hadhrat Nabi Aadam (Alayhis salaam) had mistakenly ate from the forbidden tree in Jannat, he sincerely repented.
However, his Taubah was not accepted for 30 days because the athr (effect) of the haraam fruit was still in his bodily system. The athr was eliminated only after 30 days.
When he was totally purified even physically of the evil effects of the forbidden fruit, his Taubah was accepted. Thus, 30 days fasting became the practice and speciality of the Ummat of Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam).
FASTING the Month of Ramadhaan is a wonderful spiritual and physical remedy. Allah Ta‘ala is the Creator of the Rooh (Soul) and the physical body, and He has designed all practices of Ibaadat for the welfare and development of both the soul and the body. Although the intention underlying Fasting is only to gain Allah‘s Pleasure by fulfilling His Command, the Fasting comes with many health benefits. An expert non-Muslim naturopath observed that the Islamic practice of Fasting a month is a wonderful health benefit, however, Muslims nullify the beneficial effects of the Fasting when they break their fast in the evening. They go overboard in reckless gluttony. This gluttony commences immediately at Iftaar. Instead of heeding Rasulullah‘s advice and command of breaking the fast frugally, Muslims nowadays indulge in nauseating gluttony. The gluttony begins with the commencement of the Athaan. Elaborate meals are spread out in the Musaajid for anti-Sunnah and physically and spiritually ruinous feasting. The holy moments of Iftaar are treated as an occasion of haraam merrymaking. The fasting ones devour to the point of satiation or even more. Then generally they leave their mess on the Musjid carpets. After Maghrib Salaat, they rush home for the ‗primary‘ and main meal. It boggles the mind to fathom how they manage to locate space in their bellies for the deluge of the harmful foods they ingest after Maghrib. Then after Taraaweeh, commences another round of feasting with deserts, etc. A human being should utilize his intelligence to understand the physical and spiritual villainy perpetrated to the body and soul by such reckless gluttony unknown to even dogs and the beasts in the jungle. The inevitable consequence of this style of horrible, nauseating gluttony is the ultimate breakdown of the physical body which becomes afflicted with many diseases, and the utter ruin of the Muslim‘s spiritual fibre. In the wake of this self-destruction the evil nafs becomes bloated and remains in full control of the intelligence. Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) ordered us to make iftaar with only dates and/or water. This exhortation is for practical implementation and has been designed by Allah Ta‘ala for our all-round welfare.
“O People of Imaan! Siyaam (fasting) has been ordained for you just as it was ordained for those before you so that you attain Taqwa!” (Qur’an)
Siyaam is among the fundamental acts of Ibaadat. It has been ordained by Allah Ta’ala for the development of taqwa (piety) in the Mu’mineen. Fasting is extremely efficacious for the acquisition of taqwa. A Muslim cannot acquire Divine Proximity without taqwa. Without taqwa, the Muslim must necessarily drift far off the straight Path (Seeratul Mustaqeem) which leads to Allah Ta’ala and everlasting success in the Aakhirah.
One who denies the fardhiyat (obligation) of Saum, no longer remains a Muslim and the one who does not fast during the month of Ramadhaan is a Faasiq (an immoral and flagrant transgressor) of the highest order. Such a Faasiq totally destroys his spirituality and morality and exposes his Imaan to the gravest onslaughts of kufr.
There are numerous benefits, both spiritual and physical, of fasting. The prime benefit in the pursuit of taqwa is the suppression of the inordinate desires and demands of nafs-e-ammaarah (man’s base carnal propensity). The nafs is perpetually in collusion with Shaitaan to spiritually and morally ruin the Mu’min. If the nafs is allowed unrestrained freedom, it will succeed to make man the slave of passion, lust and base emotions. His Imaan will suffer. The Noor of his Imaan will be extinguished. It is, therefore, essential that the nafs is put in fetters. Fasting greatly aids in this direction.
By fasting, the Muslim learns to restrain his lowly desires. The nafs is not allowed free expression. The nafs becomes accustomed to submit to the Shariah’s restrictions. Carnal desires are weakened and the ability of inculcating taqwa is created.
Fasting produces purity in the rooh (soul). For such purity to come into the rooh, spiritual authorities (the Auliya) say, there is nothing that has greater efficacy than fasting. While fasting results in even physical health, it creates a feeling of palpable spiritual purity in the Mu’min. The door of Roohaaniyat (the spiritual domain) is opened up by fasting.
Fasting creates pleasure in Ibaadat. It also makes the heart more conducive for Ibaadat. The bond with Allah Ta’ala is strengthened and the Mu’min acquires a greater awareness of his spiritual and moral goals for which he has been created.
By fasting, the Mu’min progressively draws nearer to Allah Ta’ala. Once Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) supplicated:
“O Rabbul Alameen! When does the servant become closest to you?”
The Divine Reply came:
“When the servant is hungry and when he is in Sajdah.”
The development of lofty, angelic attributes are engendered in the Mu’min by fasting. In fasting, man brings about in him a resemblance with the angels since the latter do not eat. They are devoid of evil inclinations and all things base. Man by reducing his worldly relations and by increasingly stripping his nafs of emotional desires, moves closer to the angelic domain. Thikrullah is the nourishment of the angels. By increasing his Thikrullah, especially in the state of fasting, the Muslim enters the realm of Divine Proximity.
Shaitaan is an extremely cunning plotter. In his scheme to destroy the Deen, he surreptitiously introduces bid’ah which he paints with Deeni hues. It is with bid’ah that shaitaan had succeeded in mutilating beyond recognition the Shariats of Nabi Musaa (Alayhis salaam) and of Nabi Isaa (Alayhis salaam), and of all previous Ambiya (Alayhimus salaam). The ‘deeni’ veneer provides an excellent subterfuge for Iblees.
Short-sighted molvis are prone to fall into the bid’ah snare of Iblees. All acts of bid’ah we find today were introduced by sincere molvis and walis with good intentions and motives. But, diversion from the Sunnah is fraught with vile consequences. When even a permissible act is promoted to Deeni significance, it develops into an entrenched bid’ah practice. Then it no longer remains permissible.
(1) One such permissible act which have lately become associated with the 10th Muharram is the custom of making gifts to the wife specifically on 10th Muharram, the Day of Aashura. According to the Hadith, there is encouragement for providing lavish meals to the family on this Day. Besides food for the family, there is nothing else added by the Hadith. This new addition of making gifts has developed only recently, more than 1400 centuries after Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam).
This new accretion more than 14 centuries later should by itself be sufficient for intelligent people to understand the error of this new custom which has no origin in the Sunnah nor in the Ummah for more than 14 hundred years. Shaitaan effects changes in the Deen gradually by imperceptible degrees, hence most ulama who are deficient in Taqwa and lack in baseerat fail to detect the intricacies of the scheme of Iblees. The practice of making gifts to the wife specifically on the 10th Muharram has now been elevated to the status of ibaadat. Shaitaan has provided the Hadith pertaining to some extra food as justification for this new bid’ah.
The far-sighted, intelligent Mu’min will understand that all the Sahaabah were not paupers. All of them were not daily deprived of delicious and sumptuous meals. There were millionaires among the Sahaabah and the Salafus Saaliheen in general. Furthermore, numerous among the Sahaabah and the Salafus Saaliheen had embraced Poverty volitionally. Their poverty was self-imposed in view of their focus being on the futility of this earthly life and the reality of the Aakhirat. Despite an abundance of wealth and wealthy persons among the Sahaabah, and despite the merit and virtues of giving gifts, especially to the wife, and furthermore, despite the Qur’aan Majeed encouraging gifts, the minds of Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and of the Sahaabah did not drift in the direction of specifying the 10th Muhaaram for making presents to the wife.
Thus, whilst the very same circumstances as we have today prevailed during the era of Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam), the practice on 10th Muharram remained attached to food, not gifts to the wife. There are hundreds of other days in the year to make gifts to the wife. But molvis with myopic intellectual vision are shaitaan’s prime agents for the introduction of bid’ah, hence Iblees has dangled the chimera of the thawaab of 10th Muharram in front of the molvis to entrench this new bid’ah.
The reason why many people are unable to practically implement the letter of the Hadith pertaining to some lavishness of food on 10th Muharram, is the evil addiction to gluttony and carrion consumption. Almost daily, people consume lavish and delicious meals. The degree of extravagance precludes them from even special meals on Eid Days. Every day they gobble and guzzle varieties of foods thereby destroying their health and bloating their nafs. This precludes scope for lavish meals for the family on 10th Muharram in terms of the Hadith. The large scale obesity – detestable fatness – and the epidemic proportion of a variety of diseases – are the evidence for the haraam gluttonous indulgence – an indulgence in which the consumption of haraam and doubtful food is predominant.
The Hadith in this regard largely applies to the poor and those not poor, but also not wealthy enough to destroy their health and souls with daily sumptuous meals. Such people should make an effort to procure some extra food for a delicious meal for their families. As for the wealthy ones who are sinking in a cesspool of iniquitous obesity and opulence, they should search for the poor, give them Sadqah or luxury foodstuff for their families to partake on 10th Muharram. They should not degenerate into stupid foolery with the bid’ah practice of stupid gifts deeming it propitious for the acquisition of thawaab.
The claim that the Hadith is general and applies to any kind of ‘spending’ is incorrect. The Hadith specifically refers to some delicious / lavish meal for the family, not for only the wife. Family refers to wife and children in this context. In its response to a question on this issue, the Jamiat KZN said:
“Therefore it would suffice for one to spend on his / her family on the day of Aashura by giving gifts, clothing or making a special meal for the family.”
While the Hadith mentions only ‘food’, the Jamiat KZN relegates it to number three after the accretion of two unrelated and unconfirmed acts, i.e. gifts and clothing. At least the Jamiat should have accorded the ‘special meal’ mentioned in the Hadith first status, not assign it to third grade.
In support of its bid’ah view the Jamiat KZN cites Shaami. Let it be understood that Allaamah Ibn Aabideen, the author of Shaami appeared on the scene more than 1200 years after Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam). Notwithstanding the lofty status of Shaami, his error may not be presented to abrogate or alter a teaching / practice of Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and the Sahaabah. The Jamiat KZN should furnish daleel from the Salafus Saaliheen. The word of an Aalim regardless of his status, 12 centuries after the era of Nubuwwat, must be set aside when it is in clear conflict with the statement and practice of Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and of the Sahaabah.
The personal view of Shaami is not a valid proof for a practice which has not existed in the Ummah for more than fourteen centuries. All senior Ulama / Fuqaha have committed errors. Someone, to soothe his nafs, can cite a Faqeeh to bolster the satanic practice of masturbation or for the claim that it is not incumbent to remove the underarm and pubic hairs or for viewing a woman stark naked for the purpose of marriage. When such bizarre views come to the ears, then we have to incumbently resort to our hearts in obedience to the command of Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam): “Seek a fatwa from your heart.”
And, it will come to light that the fatwa of the heart will conform to the Fatwa of the Jamhoor Salafus Saaliheen. When Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said that the “Masturbator is Mal-oon (accursed).”, we stand in no need of a view which violently clashes with this Fatwa of our Nabi. This principle applies to all issues. Thus, Allaamah Abdul Wahhaab Sha’raani (Rahmatullah alayh) said: “He who seeks daleel from the rarities of the Ulama, verily he has made an exit from Islam.” Thus the clinching factor in these bizarre opinions is the Fatwa of Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam). Hence, on the 10th Muharram the meritorious deed is some special food for the family, not gifts. The practice of gifts is Bid’ah.
(2) The second Bid’ah which has also been introduced by some stupid molvis / sheikhs who really do not know whether they are walking forwards or backwards, pertains to the two-day fasting. Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) advised fasting on the 9th and 10th or on the 10th and 11th Muharraam in order to distinguish the Islamic practice from the custom of the Yahood who also used to fast on the 10th Muharram in commemoration of having crossed the sea in their flight from Fir’oun.
Regarding this fact, the wayward molvis say that since the Yahood no longer fast on 10th Muharram, there is therefore no need to fast two days. Fasting only on the 10th will no longer create a resemblance with the practice of the Yahood, they aver. Firstly, have they established what the practice of the orthodox Jews is in this regard. There are extremely orthodox Yahood in Israel and also elsewhere.
Secondly, an entrenched Masnoon custom which has existed in the Ummah since the era of Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) cannot be discarded and abrogated merely on the basis of the Jews no longer adhering to one of their tenets. Who has invested the right of abrogation in these miscreant molvis of this age to tamper with the Deen. Assuming that the Yahood no longer fast on the 10th Muharram, it does not follow that the two day Fast ordered by Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) can be tampered with and one day abrogated. This is a despicable new Bid’ah.
If this type of convoluted logic is to be accommodated as valid for adding and deleting to the Shariah, then someone may argue that there is no longer a need to perform Zuhr and Asr Salaat Sirran, i.e. reciting the Qiraa’t silently. The Sirr (Silent) method was ordered during the Makki period of Nubuwwat when performing Salaat was at the peril of torture and being killed by the mushrikeen. To avoid detection, the two Salaat were performed clandestinely and silently. In view of this no longer being the fear, a moron may argue that the Qiraa’t in Zuhr and Asr should be recited audibly. But, no one ever ventured such corruption even when Islam was ruling the world.
These interpolations and changes introduced by molvis and sheikhs are schemes of Iblees who harnesses into his plot the ‘scholars’ who in turn endeavour to convince the ignorant and unwary of the correctness of their Bid’ah introductions. Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
“Every man of bid’ah is deprived of Taubah.”
Why would a bid’ati resort to Taubah when he believes that his act of bid’ah is ibaadat? Thus, the bid’ati is deprived. He is among the Kilaabun Naar (the Dogs of the Fire) who will be buffeted from Haudh-e-Kauthar on the Day of Qiyaamah.
Today is the 30th Zul Hajj which is the last day of the current Islamic year 1441. The reward of Fasting on this last day, is forgiveness for all sins committed in the past year.
Tomorrow will be the 1st Muharram which is the first day of the new Islamic year of 1442. The reward of Fasting on the 1st Muharram is forgiveness for sins which will be committed in the whole of the coming year.
Sins in this context refer to such sins which are committed unintentionally and as a result of ignorance, and we commit an abundance of such sins, the consequence of which is the punishment of Jahannam. Therefore take advantage of the bounty of fasting on these days.
Q: Does having a digital rectal exam break one’s wudhu?
I would also like to know is it the same hukm for male and female, and would it be permissible for a male doctor or a non muslim female doctor to do this on a muslim female.
A digital rectal examination (or exam) is used to see if you might have a prostate problem or prostate cancer. It involves your doctor or nurse feeling your prostate through the wall of the back passage (rectum).
The doctor or nurse will ask you to lie on your side on an examination table, with your knees brought up towards your chest. They will slide a finger gently into your back passage. They’ll wear gloves and put some gel on their finger to make it more comfortable.
The confounded “rectal exam” will nullify wudhu as well as the fast.
It is not permissible for a woman to submit to such an immoral
examination by a male doctor. If such an exam is imperative, then she
must find a female physician. There are many non-Muslim female
One of the deeper intents and aims of fasting is for us to learn the art of self-restraint. When Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) revealed the verse of fasting , He concluded that it has been prescribed so that we may gain piety. Now, piety comes in many different forms, but a lot of these forms share a common characteristic and that is they all entail the practice of self-restraint.
In a powerful statement made by Dhūl-Nūn al-Miṣrī, he said: “Do not argue with your Lord on behalf of your soul; rather argue with your soul on behalf of your Lord.” In our current time and era, the message we often hear and learn to adopt in our lives is a message in complete contrast to this.
We are often encouraged to be bold and confident, to always seek and go after what our Nafs(self) desires (Hedonism) and sadly, numerous are the justifications we grant ourselves when doing this. Often this leads to frightening levels of deeply-rooted arrogance, lack of humility and a complete inability to go against ourselves. This easily grants authority and power to our Nafs and naturally, it weakens our resolve, will and inner strength. When this happens, it is our Nafs that then takes the lead and governs us at every point of life. Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) has said,
“Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and Allāh has sent him astray due to knowledge and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him after Allāh? Then will you not be reminded?” 
We may read this verse and immediately think of others, but turning the tables a little, how often have we allowed our unrestrained Nafs to make decisions for us which we then followed? How often have we submitted to it and allowed it to take the position of a god over us? Indeed, something to think about.
Ramaḍān is all about reversing this dangerous momentum. It is a time when we voluntary restrain ourselves from basic needs such as food and drink, and we restrain ourselves from our desires and anything which may lead to sin or even idle deeds of no benefit. When you starve the soul of its fuel, it begins to weaken. It then descends from the high authoritative ground it once basked in and it begins to return once again as a slave, under your authority. This will then allow you to steer it towards piety, and so at every stage of your life when you come across testing moments where you battle with your soul, this power you now have over it will allow you to always make the right decisions; decisions that are purely for Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) and the goodness of our soul and not based merely on desire and the call of the Nafs.
As we train in this month, it’s highly crucial that we learn the art of self-restraint. It is not just food, drink and intimate relations that we abstain from; rather these are just primers to help us go forth because ahead of us are numerous other things which we are to abstain from in order to reach our goal: the breaking and humbling of the Nafs and the subsequent gain of piety. It’s a training ground for us to restrain ourselves from anger, arguments, and fighting. From selfishness, greed and bad desire. From lying, dishonesty, gossiping and sins of the tongue. From impatience, rudeness, harshness and bad opinion of others. In a nutshell, it’s a time to restrain ourselves from all that is bad news for our Hereafter, and the intelligent person will realise that this is not just for Ramaḍān, but it is what Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) generally wants from his believing slaves.
Finally, just as we practise self-restraint, it’s equally important that we give our soul something else to fill the void with. As the famous Arabic saying goes, “Your soul, if you do not busy it with the Khayr (good), it shall busy you with evil.” So just as you remove, make sure you are also adding and bringing a better replacement into your life by way of virtuous actions.
Let’s strive in whatever concerns the affairs of our souls so that we can develop these souls of ours and return them to our Creator in a state which pleases Him…
“O reassured soul Return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing [to Him]. And enter among My [righteous] servants. And enter My Paradise.” 
Ask Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) for piety. Ask Him to help you over your Nafs and make you a better slave to Him.
Watch out for those testing moments in life where you have to make a choice, then always choose the way of piety and choose that which is better and will bring you relief and joy on the Day when souls are gathered.
Utilise your fasting days and seize every opportunity weaken the soul from evil and instead strengthen it upon the good.
Replace the evil with good. As we break away from idle chatter, gossip and backbiting, let’s instead engage the tongue in Qur’ānic recitation, Dhikr (remembrance) and good words. Likewise, as we remove bad habits from our life, let’s replace them with habits of virtue so that we are not simply starving our souls but rather we starve them from the unhealthy and feed them with the nutritious.
“O you who have faith! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you – so that hopefully you will have taqwâ.” [al-Baqarah (2): 183]
Meaning that hopefully you can safeguard yourselves from the Fire through fasting; fasting is a means to the forgiveness of sins, and sins lead one to the Fire.
The Two Sahîhs record the hadîth in which the Prophet (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,
“Islâm is built upon five: that you worship Allâh and reject the worship of anything else, to establish the prayer, the giving of zakât, performing pilgrimage to the House and fasting the month of Ramadân.” [This is a wording of Muslim, Bukhârî has the first sentence as ‘that you testify that none has the right to be worshipped save Allâh’].
The Virtues of Fasting
Fasting carries with it a number of benefits, amongst which are:
1. the elevation of ones rank, 2. the expiation of sins, 3. the breaking of ones desires and lusts, 4. the increase of charity, 5. the multiplication of actions of obedience to Allâh, 6. giving thanks to the One who knows the hidden matters, and 7. preventing oneself from even contemplating the committing of sin.
1. The Elevation of Rank
With regards the elevation of rank, the Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,
“When Ramadân comes, the gates of Paradise are opened, the gates of Hellfire are locked and the devils are chained.” [Bukhârî]
He (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also said, relating from His Lord, Mighty and Magnificent,
“All of the actions of the son of Adam are for him except the fast for that is for Me and I will reward it. Fasting is protecting shield, so when it is the day when one of you are fasting, let him not behave or speak indecently; if someone tries to abuse or fight him, let him say, ‘I am fasting’. By the One in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, the smell emanating from the mouth of the one fasting is better with Allâh then the smell of musk. The one fasting has two time of joy, when he breaks his fast he is happy and when He meets his Lord he will rejoice at his fasting.” [Bukhârî and Muslim]
He (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also said,
“Every action that the son of Adam does, [its reward] will be multiplied, a good deed will be increased tenfold up to seven-hundred fold. Allâh, Mighty and Magnificent, says, ‘except for the fast, for that is for Me and I will reward it for he left his desires and food for My sake.’ ” [Muslim]
He (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,
“In paradise there is a gate which is called ar-Rayyân through which the people who fasted will enter on the Day of Judgment, and no one else shall enter alongside them. It will be asked, ‘where are those who fasted?’ and they will walk through it, and upon the entry of the last of them, it will be locked, and no one else will walk through it.”[Bukhârî and Muslim]
In another version the wording is,
“There is in Paradise a gate that is called ar-Rayyân, those who fasted will be summoned to it and whoever fasted will enter through it, and whoever enters it will never again experience thirst.”[at-Tirmidhî and an-Nasâ’î]
He (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,
“When people eat in the presence of a fasting person, the Angels invoke blessings upon him, until they finish.”[Ahmad and at-Tirmidhî]
With regards the’opening of the gates of Paradise’, this is a phrase that points to the increase of actions of obedience that in turn lead to the opening of the gates of Paradise. ‘Locking the gates of the Fire’ is a phrase that points to the decrease, and lack of therewith, of sins which in turn leads to the locking of the gates of the Fire. ‘The chaining of the devils’ is a phrase that points to the termination of their whisperings, and temptations, to those who are fasting because they give up hope of receiving a favorable response.
His saying, ” All of the actions of the son of Adam are for him except the fast for that is for Me and I will reward it,” fasting has been specifically adjoined to Him in order to honour it because the hidden nature of fasting prevents ostentation entering it, and moreover, hunger and thirst are not used as means to draw closer to any king of this world nor any idol.
His saying, ” And I will reward it,” even though He rewards all actions of obedience, this phrase points to the greatness of the reward of fasting.
His saying, ” Fasting is a protecting shield ” means that fasting serves as barrier erected between the person and the punishment of Allâh.
His saying, ” let him say, ‘I am fasting,’ ” means let him remind himself that he is fasting so that this would serve to prevent him from repaying like with like.
His saying, ” The smell emanating from the mouth of the one fasting is better with Allâh then the smell of musk,” meaning that the reward for the smell emanating from the mouth of the fasting person is better with Allâh than the smell of musk. [This explanation is a point of some difference and was the cause of a famous debate between ibn as-Salâh and the author, may Allâh have mercy on both.]
As for the two times of joy, the first is because the one fasting has been granted the divine accord to complete this act of worship and the second is because of the reward he will attain when Allâh rewards him.
His saying, ” He left his desires and food for My sake ” meaning that he chose the obedience of his Lord over the obedience of the call of his soul, whoever chooses Allâh, Allâh chooses him. This is why when someone desires to commit a sin, then leaves committing it for fear of Allâh, He says to the recording Angels, ‘Record it as a good deed, for he only left giving in to his lusts for My sake.’
With regards their being specified to enter Paradise through the gate of ar-Rayyân, this specification is because of the greatness of this act of fasting and its unique character.
With regards the Angels invoking blessings upon the one fasting, in whose presence food is eaten, this is because on such an occasion he has to exert himself more in fighting his desire to eat. Their invoking blessings upon him is a phrase denoting their asking for his forgiveness and mercy to be bestowed him.
2. The Expiation of Sins
With regards the expiation of sins, the Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,
“One Ramadân to the next serves as an expiation for what is done between them, so long as the major sins are avoided.”[Muslim]
He (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also said,
“Whoever fasts the month of Ramadân, out of faith and expectant of reward, his previous sins will be forgiven him.”[Bukhârî and Muslim]
3. The Breaking of Ones Desires and Lusts
Hunger and thirst break the desire to commit sin, it is authentically reported from him (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) that he said,
“O gathering of youth! Whoever can afford it, let him marry for this is better in aiding one to lower his gaze and preserving the private parts. Whoever is not able, let him fast for this will diminish his desire.” [Bukhârî and Muslim]
It is mentioned in a hadîth,
“Satan flows through the son of آdam as does his blood”
so constrain the passages of Satan through hunger.[Bukhârî and Muslim. The last sentence is the statement of one of the narrators of the hadîth mistakenly added into the main text.]
4. Increase of Charity
When the one fasting feels the pangs of hunger, he takes this as a reminder to feed others who are hungry, ‘for the only one who feels compassion towards the lovers is one who has loved.’It has reached us that Sulaymân, or Yûsuf (‘alayhis-salâm) would not eat until all his dependants had first eaten and when asked why this was so, he said, ‘I fear that I would become full and so forget the hungry.’
5. Increase of Actions of Obedience
The one fasting will be reminded of the hunger and thirst that the denizens of Hell will experience and this will encourage him to obey Allâh so as to be saved from that fate.
6. Giving Thanks to the One Who Knows the Hidden Matters
The one fasting comes to truly appreciate the favours of Allâh, it is only through knowing hunger and thirst that one truly appreciates satiation and the quenching of that thirst; it is only when blessings are absent that one appreciates them more.
7. Preventing Oneself from Contemplating Sin
When one is full, the soul craves sin and looks longingly at all sorts of transgression, but when one is hungry, the soul craves food and drink, and this is the better of the two without doubt. If is for this reason that one of the Salaf thought fasting to be the best of all actions of worship and when asked why he replied,
‘That Allâh look to me in a state where my soul is fighting me for food and drink is more beloved to me than Allâh looking at me in a state where my soul is full and fighting me for sin.’
Other Benefits of Fasting & Helping Others in Opening the Fast
Fasting has many more benefits, such as refining the mind and strengthening the body, it is mentioned in a hadîth, ” Fast for you will become healthy.” [at-Tabarânî and its isnâd is da’îf]
From the greatness of fasting is that the whoever cause a fasting person to open fast, he has the same reward as the one who fasted. He (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,
“Whoever provides food for a person to open the fast, he will have the likes of his reward, without the reward of the fasting person decreasing in the slightest.” [Ahmad and at-Tirmidhî]
So whoever provides food for thirty six fasting people in one year, it will be as if he fasted for the whole year. And whoever provides food for many fasting people with this intention, Allâh will record for him the fasting of many years. [Because a good deed is multiplied ten-fold]
The Mannerisms of Fasting
They are six:
Restraining the tongue and limbs from all that opposes the Divine Law (Sharî’ah).
He (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) saying,
“whoever does not leave false speech and acting upon it, Allâh has no need of his leaving food and drink.”
[Bukhârî]He (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also said,
“it is possible that one standing [in prayer] only attain weariness from his standing and the one fasting only attain hunger and thirst from his fasting.”
[Ahmad, al-‘Irâqî said the isnâd was hasan.]
If one is invited to eat while he is fasting, let him say, ‘I am fasting’
The Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,
“if one of you is invited to eat while fasting, let him say, ‘I am fasting’ “
What should be said when one breaks the fast.
He (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to say upon breaking fast,
“the thirst has gone, the veins are moistened and the reward is certain if Allâh wills.”
[Abû Dâwûd and ad-Dâruqutnî said its isnâd was hasan].Dhahaba adh-Dhama’u wa-btallati-l-’uruq wa thabata al-ajru inshaAllâh
It is also reported that he said,
“O Allâh! It is for you that I have fasted, and it is with your provision that I have broken fast.”
[Abû Dâwûd with a weak isnâd, however A. al-Arna’ut, Jami’ al-Usul, said that it has witnesses that strengthen it.]In another hadîth, it is reported that he said,
“all praise and thanks are due to Allâh who gave me the strength to fast and who gave me the provisions with which to break fast.”
[al-Bayhaqî with a weak isnâd but it has witnesses that strengthen it.]
What the fast should be broken with.
The fast should be broken with fresh dates, or slightly older, drier, dates, or water. It is reported that he ( sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would break fast with
“fresh dates before praying; and if not then with older, drier, dates; and if not with dates then with some mouthfuls of water.”
[Abû Dawûd with a hasan isnâd]He (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,
“if one of you is fasting then let him break fast with dates, if he does not find any then with water for it is pure and purifying.”
[Abû Dâwûd with a sahîh isnâd]
Hastening the iftâr (breaking of fast) and [the 6th] delaying the suhûr (pre-dawn meal)
The Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,
“take the meal of suhûr for indeed in the suhûr lies blessings.”
[Bukhârî and Muslim]He (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,
“the people will not cease to be upon good so long as they hasten in breaking the fast.”
[Bukhârî and Muslim]He (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,
“Allâh, Mighty and Magnificent, says, ‘the most beloved of My servants are those who are quickest in breaking fast.’ “
[Ahmad with a weak isnâd but it has witnesses that strengthen in, Jami’ al-Usûl]He (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,
“this religion will remain good and pure so long as the people hasten in breaking the fast for the Jews and Christians would delay it.”
[Abû Dâwûd with a sahîh isnâd]‘Amr bin Maymûn said,
‘the Companions of the Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would be the quickest of people in breaking the fast and the slowest of them in taking the pre-dawn meal.’
[al-Bayhaqî]The suhûr is delayed so as to strengthen one more while he is fasting so that he can perform more actions of obedience, the gap between the Messenger of Allâh ( sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) taking the suhûr and his prayer would be an interval allowing fifty verses of the Qur’ân to be recited.
[Bukhârî and Muslim]The iftâr was hastened because it is possible that some physical harm arise from hunger and thirst, hence there is no need to put the soul through such difficulty in a time [after the time of breaking fast] in which hunger and thirst is no longer an action that would draw one closer to Allâh. One of the wealthier people amongst the Salaf was seen eating in the market place and when asked why he replied [by quoting the hadîth],
‘the delay of the rich is oppression.’
[Bukhârî and Muslim]
What Should be Avoided While Fasting
Abû Hurayrah said,
‘the Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) prohibited continuous fasting whereupon one of the Muslims asked him, “but you do it O Messenger of Allâh!” He replied, “who amongst you is like me? I spend the night with my Lord, He giving me food and drink.” But when the people persisted in fasting continuously, he fasted continuously with them for a day, followed by another until they saw the new moon upon which he said, “if the moon had delayed in appearing I would have made you fast more.” This was a punishment for them because they refused to stop continuously fasting.’
[Bukhârî and Muslim]Continuous fasting was prohibited because it weakens the person and emaciates his body by reason of something other than worship. As for the Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) then if it is literally true that his food and drink was with his Lord, he cannot be said to have fasted continuously; but if ‘food and drink’ is a phrase used to denote the strength of his closeness and communion ( uns) with his Lord and the joy he felt at this closeness, then this takes the place of food and drink in revitalizing his strength, indeed this uns is better than food and drink in this respect,
Indeed I fasted from worldly pleasures my entire life
And the Day that I meet you will be its breaking
For surely I find the delight of fasting for You within my soul
And not in the satisfaction of eating or drinking
‘A‘ishah (radiyAllâhu ‘anhâ) said
‘The Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would kiss and embrace while fasting but he was more able than you in restraining his desires.’
[Bukhârî and Muslim]Therefore whoever is old, able to control his desires and hence not ruin his fast, there is no harm in his kissing. If one is young and not sure that he can control his desires, it is disliked for him to kiss due to his subjecting his action of worship to the danger of something that could break it.
It is authentically reported that the Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was cupped while fasting. [Bukhârî] Anas was asked,
‘did you consider cupping to be disliked for the one fasting?’ He replied, ‘no, [we only considered it disliked] if it caused weakness.’
[Bukhârî]Hence whoever is physically weakened by cupping, it is disliked for him to do so, because in his weakened state he is more likely to break fast or find the action of fasting extremely difficult for him and hence become averse to it.
Anas would apply Kohl while fasting.
[Abû Dâwûd and ibn Hajr said the isnâd had no fault.]al-A’mash said,
‘I never saw any of our companions disliking the application of Kohl for the one fasting.’ Ibrâhîm [an-Nakha’î] would allow the one fasting to apply aloes to his eyes.
[Abû Dâwûd]Having said this, it is safer not to apply it so as to steer clear of the difference that the scholars have concerning this issue.
Snuffing the nose during ablution
The Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said to Laqît bin Sabrah,
“perform the ablution well, wipe between the fingers and exert yourself in snuffing the nose, unless you are fasting.”
[Abû Dâwûd]So he prohibited from exertion when snuffing the nose while fasting, the reason for this is that through exertion one puts his fast to risk [because the water could reach the back of the throat].
Allâh knows best.
[Actions which nullify the fast are eating and drinking deliberately; making oneself vomit; menstruation and post-natal bleeding and sexual intercourse.]Laylatu-l-Qadr
Laylatu-l-Qadr is a blessed night, Allāh blessed it over one thousand months that do not contain it. It is called Laylatu-l-Qadr either because of its excellence and great status or because provisions and life-spans for the following year are decreed therein. The Angels and the Spirit descend in that night and greet those who pray by night with the salām; the scholars differ as to whether they extend the salām to them of their own accord or they convey the salām of their Lord.
A night in which the Lord of the worlds sends salām to His servants is a night that is indeed worthy of being better than a thousand months, it is a night worthy of being sought after and searched for. This is why the Messenger of Allāh ( sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would search for it along with his Companions and the righteous who came after them.
This night occurs in the last ten days of Ramadān, and is most likely to occur in the odd nights rather than the even nights. It seems clear that it occurs on the twenty-first night; this is because the Messenger of Allāh saw this night in a dream but was made to forget it, however he remembered that in the morning following it, he would prostrate in mud and water. It is authentically reported that it rained on the night of the twenty-first and the Masjid leaked water, [when the Prophet ( sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) prayed therein, traces of mud and water were seen on his forehead and nose.
[Bukhārī]Moreover he ( sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) informed us that on the night of Laylatu-l-Qadr the moon would look like half a plate and the moon never looks like this unless it be in its seventh night or twenty-first night.
[Trans: this is the opinion of the author, may Allāh have mercy upon him, other opinions have been mentioned such as the opinion that Laylatu-l-Qadr falls on different nights every year, an opinion that was preferred by a group of scholars amongst whom was ibn Hajr]From the excellent qualities of this night is that whoever prays during it out of faith and seeking reward, will have his previous sins forgiven him. The evidence for what we have mentioned lies in his ( sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) sayings,
“I was shown Laylatu-l-Qadr, then one of my wives awoke me and I was made to forget it, so search for it in the last ten nights.”
[Muslim]“Seek Laylatu-l-Qadr in the odd nights of the last ten nights of Ramadān”
[Bukhārī and Muslim]Abū Hurayrah said, ‘we were discussing Laylatu-l-Qadr in the presence of the Messenger of Allāh ( sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and he said, “which of you remembers the night when the moon arose and it was like half a plate?”
[Muslim]“Whoever prays the night of Laylatu-l-Qadr out of faith and seeking reward will have his previous sins forgiven.”
[Bukhārī]It is recommended for whoever finds it to increasing in praising Allāh and invoking Him, and he should frequently supplicate with this supplication, “O Allāh! You are the One who pardons greatly, You Love to pardon so pardon me.”
[at-Tirmidhī]If a person was to suffice with praising Allāh, this would be better due to the hadīth in which it is reported that the Prophet ( sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Whoever is diverted by making dhikr of Me from asking of Me, I would grant him the best of what I grant those asking.”
[Trans: at-Tirmidhī [#2926] on the authority of Abū Saہīd al-Khudrī with a da’īf isnād; refer to al-Albānī, ad-Da’īfah [#1335]. Ahādīth with similar meaning have been reported on the authority of ‘Umar in al-Bayhaqī, Shu’ab al-Īmān [#573] and as-Suyūtī, al-Lālī’ [2/288] said that al-Hāfidh ibn Hajr declared it hasan; Jābir in al-Bayhaqī [#574]; Hudhayfah in Abū Nu’āym [7/313] and indicated as hasan by al-Albānī; and Mālik bin al-çārithah in al-Bayhaqī [#575].]Umayyah said,
Should I mention my need or should your
Gifts suffice me, for sure giving gifts is part of your disposition
If a person was to praise you one day
The one who he is praising would suffice him
[Trans: Dīwān Umayyah [p. 333] in praise ibn Jud’ān. Sufyān bin ‘Uyaynah was asked about his (SAW) saying, “The most superior supplication on the Day of ‘Arafah is, ‘none has the right to be worshipped save Allāh, the One Who has no partner, to Him belongs the dominion, to Him belongs all praise and He is Omnipotent over all things” and [in explanation to the fact that a direct request is not mentioned therein] he mentioned the previous hadīth and these verses and proceeded to say, ‘this is an object of creation saying of another that it is sufficient to praise him [to get what he desires] rather than directly ask him, what then of the Creator, Blessed and Exalted is He?’ Recorded by al-Hāfidh ibn ‘Abdu-l-Barr, at-Tamhīd [2/680] and al-Bayhaqī [#575]]I’tikāf, generosity and reciting the Qur’ān in Ramadān
Allāh, Exalted is He, says,
“Purify My House for those who perform tawāf, for those who stay there for worship and those who bow and prostrate [in prayer]” [al-Baqarah (2): 125]
“…and do not have relations with them as long as you are staying for worship in the Mosques.” [al-Baqarah (2): 187]
I’tikāf is to visit Allāh in one of His houses and to seclude oneself with Him, it is duty upon the host to honour his guest. It is mentioned in an authentic hadīth that the Prophet ( sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “each time someone goes to, and comes from, a Mosque, Allāh prepares for him a feast in Paradise.”
[Bukhārī and Muslim]It is recommended to perform I’tikāf in the last ten days of Ramadān so that a person can seek after Laylatu-l-Qadr, this was when the Prophet ( sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would perform I’tikāf towards the end of his life. ‘A’ishah said, ‘the Prophet ( sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would perform I’tikāf in the last ten days of Ramadān until Allāh caused him to pass away, then his wives after him would similarly perform I’tikāf.’
[Bukhārī and Muslim]She also said, ‘when the last ten days came, he ( sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would spend the night in worship, awake his family, exert himself in worship and tighten his waist-wrapper’
[Bukhārī and Muslim]in another report, ‘the Messenger of Allāh ( sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would exert himself in worship in the last ten nights in a way that he never did in any other night’
[Muslim]The meaning of ‘tighten his waist-wrapper’ is that he would not take pleasure with his wives or that he would exert and devote himself to worship.
In this month, it is recommended to increase in the recitation of the Qur’ān and to be generous, for both the one performing I’tikāf and the one who is not. Ibn ‘Abbās said, ‘the Prophet ( sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was the most generous of people, and he was most generous in Ramadān when Jibrīl met him. Jibrīl would meet him in every night of Ramadān until he passed away, and he ( sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would recite the Qur’ān to him. When Jibril met him, he would be more generous than the strong wind.’
[Bukhārī and Muslim]The meaning of ‘strong wind’ here is a reference to its wide reach and its swiftness.
It is authentically reported that the Prophet ( sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would recite the Qur’ān to Jibrīl every Ramadān once, but in the year in which he passed away, he recited the Qur’ān to him twice.
[Bukhārī and Muslim]Fasting Six Days of Shawwāl
It is authentically reported that the Messenger of Allāh ( sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “whoever fasts the month of Ramadān and then follows this with six days of Shawwāl, it will be as if he fasted the whole year”
[Muslim]The reason for this is that a good deed is multiplied tenfold, hence every fast is like ten fasts.
[Trans: Hence, a total of 36 fasts will be equivalent to 360 fasts]
EVERY YEAR, MORE than 1.5 billion Muslims around the world observe Ramadan fast. For Muslims fasting is a religious obligation (Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:183), it being the fourth pillar of Islam. Yet fasting is also an excellent “weight control” strategy. The key point is not “weight loss” but rather “weight control”. While those who fast admit they lose some weight during Ramadan, few have actually considered its significance as a “weight control” mechanism, nor its value as a “behavior modifier”, nor even its merits to “fine tune and tone” the human body and its various systems. All these benefits, as well its spiritual advantages, were understood by the bygone Prophets.
The Muslim fast, as prescribed for those past the age of puberty, is simple. It requires one to abstain from taking any food or liquids at all from dawn until dusk. Between hunger and thirst, most find thirst to be more difficult to cope with, especially on very long and hot days as Ramadan fasts will be in the northern hemisphere. As the fasting month is determined by the lunar calendar, which is 10 or 11 days shorter than the solar calendar, in 36 years every Muslim in both hemispheres will have the opportunity to fast during all four seasons. This ensures equity in terms of both ease and hardships endured for people living in both hemispheres.
The Best-Kept “Diet” Secret
Around the world diet-books fly off store-shelves in record numbers, as diet gurus offer their latest fads for losing weight to a population that is grossly overweight because of over-indulgence. Many of those who have gone on such diets appear on radio and TV talk shows to narrate their personal experiences. The overwhelming opinion seems to be that most diets work for a short time, but as soon as the dieter stops dieting the lost weight reappears; some dieters even exceed their previous weight. In all the shared experiences about such diets, one centuries-old formula is seldom or never mentioned. It is the simple fast that the Prophets of all the major faiths engaged in regularly and enjoined their followers to do. Fasting is not new, yet it seems that, as a possible diet option, it is one of the best-kept secrets and no one seems to have explored its potential.
Encouraged to Eat in Moderation
At the end of the fasting day Muslims are enjoined to eat in moderation and engage in ʿibâda, meditation (thikr) and contemplation or thoughtful analysis (tafakkur). The emphasis is on small simple meals, yet many ignore this injunction and consume large and elaborate meals. However, Allah’s divine scheme is unbeatable: humans are created in such a way that the body itself brings one round to eating smaller meals. Those who eat heavy meals at the end of the day often suffer from constipation and other discomforts. It is interesting to note that at the end of the fast, because of the hunger pangs, one thinks that one will be able to eat much more than one normally does. However, one discovers that this is not so.
This discovery usually comes about after a few days of fasting when a person begins to find she is unable to finish the food in her plate. Often the amount one is able to eat is less than the normal meal one would have consumed in the regular three-meals-a-day routine. This is because as the fasting days increase, the body undergoes a physiological change as the stomach begins to shrink and, however much one may desire to have more at the end of the day, the shrunken stomach limits the amount of food that can be consumed. It is critical that one takes heed of these body signals and not disregard them by gorging one’s self to an extra helping of food or be seduced by the many “varieties” of food some families spend hours preparing. In addition to its being totally contrary to the purpose of fasting, this kind of extensive table spread of food hampers the stomach from achieving its full shrinking potential.
For those who do not gorge and restrict themselves to one simple meal at the end of the fast, are the ones most likely to experience the full benefit of the stomach shrinking which ensures the fasting person will lose some weight by the end of the month. While the “weight loss” is obvious, the inevitable follow-up question is how fasting is a “weight control” tool, a “behavior modifier” or a means of “fine-tuning and toning” one’s body?
Most diets fail because they do not bring about a change in the dieter’s “physiological” condition, as the month-long fast does. Fasting helps one to alter one’s unhealthy over-eating habits and establish a moderate intake of food. If one looks at the example of the Prophet ﷺ, we find even when the month of Ramadan ended, he celebrated Eid with rejoicing and “feasting” – sharing a simple meal with neighbors, relatives and, most important, the needy. He also emphasized the need on this festive day to visit the sick and give charity (ṣadaqa). It is important to clarify that “feasting” according to the Prophet’s practice was not self-indulgent. For the Prophet ﷺ, “feasting” was an occasion for “sharing” Allah’s bounties with others, especially the poor and the needy. For the wealthy who may have food in abundance, it is the “sharing” of Allah’s bounties with the poor that is intended by “feasting.”
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ deplored over-eating by saying: Kill not your hearts with excess of eating and drinking. Over-eating, especially on the day of Eid, (when folks are seduced by the many favorite dishes families prepare for this day) is the quickest way to undo the benefits achieved during Ramadan. The physiological change that facilitates moderate eating is the secret of fasting as a “weight control” mechanism. Although over a period of time the moderate eating habits developed during Ramadan usually get somewhat eroded, the fasting month returns after 11 months to re-establish the good habits. However, it is possible to sustain the physiological change which ensures “weight control” by reinforcing the habit of moderation by also fasting at other times during the year, which the Prophet ﷺ did regularly.
Fasting as a Means to Fine-Tune our Bodies
We often overlook the fact that fasting is Allah’s prescription for humans to fine-tune their bodies, especially the digestive system. All body systems or parts need rest. Sleep is one way for some organs to achieve this; the eyes, mind and muscles are obvious examples. The heart and the digestive system achieve their rest by actively slowing the system or “reversing” the system operation, somewhat similar to a “reverse flush” that is done to clean radiator pipes in a vehicle. Standing on one’s head provides a good means of rest for the heart because it reverses the pull of gravity against the normal flow of blood, just as putting down one’s arms does when one is painting a ceiling. For the digestive system, “fasting” offers the best rest. It is a welcome respite from frequent meals, snacks and drinks such as tea or coffee. This “rest” gives the digestive system the opportunity to clean and rejuvenate itself and thereby make it more efficient, just as a farmer leaves a field fallow or uncultivated for a year so that they provide better and more abundant crops the following year.
Fasting as a Means of Spiritual Cleansing
Fasting, as prescribed in Islam, also requires spiritual cleansing, which at the practical level is reflected in modifying behavior to meet higher ideals. Fasting without worship and contemplation achieves little merit in Islam. In worship a Muslim can seek Allah’s help to become a righteous person who stands up against injustice and oppression. In contemplation a Muslim can examine the behaviors that undermine efforts to come closer to fellow human beings, namely, family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, acquaintances and others. Modifying behavior is integral to fasting. A Muslim’s behavior or attitude to others must reflect respect, kindness and justice. The Prophet ﷺ himself reminds us: A keeper of the fast who does not abandon lying and evil ways, Allah cares not about his [or her] leaving off eating and drinking.
Fasting is probably the best way for one to get to feel the pangs of the hungry family, the misery of the homeless person and the suffering of the downtrodden individual. Creating empathy for the destitute is Islam’s way of stirring our conscience to become actively involved in addressing the needs of the most unfortunate and most marginalized in society.
At a higher spiritual level, fasting in Islam is seen as an armor against evil. Those who are able to renounce lawful satisfaction of desires in obedience to Allah’s command are more able to renounce unlawful gratifications. Just as physical exercise strengthens the body, so mental, spiritual, ethical and moral exercise through fasting builds willpower to conquer physical appetites and abstain from what is wicked and wrong. The strength built during Ramadan is only the beginning of the journey towards getting closer to God by becoming a better human being through empathy with and concern for one’s fellow human beings. We are reminded of this when our Prophet ﷺ said: If you love your Creator, then love your fellow-beings first. May Allah help us all to progress along this journey not only in the month of Ramadan but throughout our lives.