Monday, October 08, 2007

Bismillahir Rahmaan Nir Rahim

Bismillahir Rahmaan Nir Rahim
Monday - 19 Ramadhaan 1428 / 1 October 2007
Why Do Muslims Fast?
O you who believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you, just as it was prescribed for those before you,
so that you may develop piety. (Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 183)

Fasting builds piety

Fasting is a great method of developing piety (taqwa) because fasting helps to control the desires and this is the basis of taqwa. When one develops the habit of controlling the lawful desires of eating, drinking and sexual intercourse with one's spouse than it will be easy to stay away from the haraam desires. Control of the lawful desires weakens the inclination towards sin. By fasting man moves closer to the angelic nature as angels have no need for food and drink.

Fasting teaches patience and contentment

Fasting helps to build patience and endurance as one has to exercise self control in the heat of the day. One has to suppress one's thirst and hunger in order to develop the higher self. Fasting removes the animal instinct of impulsiveness and haste. Fasting teaches one to be content and satisfied with less.

Fasting creates compassion

A fasting person personally feels the suffering of the poor and hungry. He learns to sympathise with the less-fortunate and feels the need to assist them.

Fasting is free from pride

Fasting controls the desires in a manner different from all the other types of worship because it is a secret worship which only Allah knows. Salaah, Haj, recitation of Quran and other forms of worship have an external dimension and can lead to pride. Fasting, however, is a state of abstention as other people do not know whether a person is fasting or not.

How to elevate the status of the fast?

Imam Ghazali Rahimahullah, the great scholar and mystic, has mentioned three levels of fasting:

1. Fasting of the common people - Abstaining from food, drink and sexual intercourse only. This is the weakest form of fasting.

2. Fasting of the pious people - In addition to abstention from food and drink a person guards the eyes, ears, tongue, hands, feet and all the parts of the body from sin.

3. Fasting of the prophets and the close servants of Allah - In addition to guarding the limbs of the body from sin, the hearts and minds of such people are in a state of fast so that their thoughts are restricted to Allah. Evil intentions and worldly thoughts are prevented from entering their hearts.

To attain perfection of the second level of fasting Imam Ghazali has given five advices :

a. Lowering and protecting the gaze from evil and sinful sights.
b. Protecting the tongue from vain talk, obscene language, lying, back-biting, carrying tales, etc. Keeping the tongue busy in remembering Allah and reciting the Quran.
c. Protecting the ears from listening to evil. Words which are haraam to speak are also haraam to listen to.
d. Protecting the remainder of the limbs of the body from evil.
e. Eating less than one's normal meals. How can the fast be beneficial when the iftaar has such a variety of foods which are not even eaten at other times of the year? The fast needs to teach one to abstain from eating to one's fill.

Points to ponder

Overeating in Ramadhaan is tantamount to taking a higher dose of medicine when a small dose would have cured the illness.

Sinning while fasting is like a person who refrains from some foods according to doctor's instructions but consumes poison. Just as the poison nullifies the effect of diet control, similarly does sin destroy the benefit of the fast.

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