Prof. Dr. Mahmud Es'ad COSAN
AKRA FM Friday Discourse
November 24, 2000
VIRTUES AND SUBTLETIES OF FASTING
As-salâmu 'alaykum wa rahmatullàhi wa barakâtuhû!..
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
May Allah's Peace, Mercy, and Bounty be with you. May He bestow you all the good things in this world and in the world to come.
For this Friday discourse, I would like to read some ahadith about fasting because Ramadan will begin soon.
a. Spiritual Changes in Ramadan
First of all, I must state that there will be a spiritual change around us with Ramadan. There are various ahadith about this matter. Here is one from the book Ramuz al-Ahadith. Our beloved Prophet said:
RA. 40/9 (Idhâ jâ-a shahru ramadàn futihat abwâbul-jannah, wa ghulliqat abwâbun-nâr, wa suffidatish-shayâtînu wa nâdâ munâdin: Yâ tàlibal-khayri halumma wa yâ tàlibash-shar-ri aqser, hat-tâ yansalihash-shahr.)
This hadith was narrated by Utbatubnu 'Abd and included in the collection of Tabarânî. The Prophet SAS said:
(Idhâ jâ-a shahru ramadàn) "When the month of Ramadan arrives, (futihat abwâbul-jannah) the gates of Paradise are opened." This is one of the changes coming with Ramadan. (Wa ghulliqat abwâbun-nâr) "The gates of Hell are closed, (wa suffidatish-shayâtînu) and the satans are chained." This hadith points three changes up to this point. (Wa nâdâ munâdin) "A caller, an announcer announces: (Yâ tàlibal-khayri) 'O ye who seek the good! (halumma) Come! (wa yâ tàlibash-shar-ri) O ye who seek the evil! (aqser) Stay back!' (hat-tâ yansalihash-shahr) This continues until the end of the month."
In another hadith the Prophet said:
RA. 45/4 (Idhâ dakhale shahru ramadàn, amarallàhu hamalatal-arshi 'an yakuffû anit-tasbîhi wa yastaghfirû li-ummati muhammedin wal-mu'minîn.)
This hadith was narrated by Ali ibn Abu Talib RA. Our beloved Prophet said:
(Idhâ dakhale shahru ramadàn) "When we enter the month of Ramadan,
(amarallàhu) Almighty Allah orders (hamalatal-arsh) the angels who carry the Throne." These angels are great angels, and they continuously glorify Allah. ('an yakuffû anit-tasbîhi) "He orders the angels to stop glorifying Him (wa yastaghfirû li-ummati muhammedin wal-mu'minîn) and to seek forgiveness for the nation of Prophet Muhammed and for the believers." In Ramadan, these angels pray for the believers.
Fasting is an important worship going back to the time of Prophet Adam. Believers have been ordered to fast since his time. During the month of fasting, the angels who carry the Throne seek forgiveness for the believers. This is a great change; it is a great occasion for Allah to reach the believers. Since it is the time of Prophet Muhammed now, the angels seek forgiveness for the Ummah of Prophet Muhammed.
This blessed month with all the changes will start on November 26, 2000 with the sunset. Beginning on Sunday, Tarawih prayers will be held in the mosques after Ish'a prayer throughout the month of Ramadan. The mosques will have larger number of congregations; the minarets will be lit. There will be recitation of Qur'an in the mosques, too.
One of the important duties to do after the Tarawih prayer is getting up for the Sahur meal. It is a Sunnah to get up for the sahur meal, and it incurs the bounty of Allah. The Prophet recommended that we get up for the Sahur meal even if we eat very small amount of food.
Some may object saying, "I do not want to disrupt my sleep. The food I had for dinner is sufficient for the day." My response would be, "If a person wants to attain the contentment of Allah, he must follow the path of the Prophet. We should not skip the Sahur meal when we fast."
When a person gets up for Sahur, he will have time to offer night prayers (tahajjud). As the prophet indicated, two units of night prayers will be more valuable than this world and everything in it. It will earn a person great spiritual rewards. One could choose not to get up for Sahur, but it will be at the expense of missing the bounty of the Sahur and the rewards of night prayer.
We ought to think about this and try not to miss them. As soon getting up, we should make wudu and offer thahajjud. Then we should eat the Sahur meal. It could be something small such as a date, a glass of milk, or a glass of water. It could also be a main meal of the day with all members of the family present. It will be a memorable event for the children.
Having prayed the Tarawih and eaten the Sahur meal, the fasting will begin On Monday, November 27, 2000, and last until the sunset. With the call of Adhan, the fasting will be completed. We will have a "breakfast" as we enter the second day of Ramadan. A new day begins with the sunset according to the Islamic calendar.
Fasting is an important servitude towards Allah. We may not explain it completely no matter how long our discourses are. Here is another hadith from the book Kitâb-uz-Zuhd of abdullah ibn-i Mubarak:
(Li kulli shay'in bâbun wa bâbul-ibadah, as-sawm) "Everything has a gate, an entrance, a method, a proper initiation. The gate of worship is fasting." This means, fasting is the initiation for the good servitude towards Allah.
b. The Value of Fasting in the Sight of Allah
Fating is an important worship. Almighty Allah is pleased when a person holds his lawful desires throughout the day while fasting. In a hadith from the collections of Bukhàrî and Muslim, the Prophet said:
(Wallezî nafsî biyadihî lekhalûfu famis-sàimi atyabu 'indallàhi min rîhil-misk. Yaqùlullàhu azza wa jalla innemâ yazaru shahwatahû wa taàmahû wa sharâbahû li-ajlî, fasawmu li wa ana ajzî bihî.)
The Prophet started this hadith with strong words: (Wallezî nafsî biyadih) "By Allah who has the ultimate power on my nafs," that is, "Allah has the the power to make me live or die, and He is my witness that (lekhalûfu famis-sàimi) the smell of the breath of a fasting person (atyabu indallàhi min rîhil-misk) is better to Allah than the smell of the musk."
A person who is fasting may have an unpleasant breath for the pleasures of this world. However, for Allah, it is dearer than the smell of the musk because the person stayed away from food just for the sake of Allah.
The hadith continues, (Yaqùlullàhu azza wa jalla) "Allah, the Most High, says: (innemâ yazaru shahwatahû wa taàmahû wa sharâbahû) 'My servant stays away from sexual desires, food, and water (li-ajlî) just for Me, (fasawmu li) hence his fasting will be Mine, (wa ana ajzî bihî) and I will give him the rewards!'" If a person fasts just for Allah, Allah loves him and rewards him.
As indicated above, the fasting is the "gate" or initiation of worshipping, a path leading to being a good servant. That is why Allah prescribed for the believers to fast during the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is a good time for the spiritual advancement of the believer; it is a time to correct the nafs, to purify it, and to earn great rewards. It is a month of training lasting 29 or 30 days.
The length of the lunar months depends on the sighting of the new crescent. With the observation of the crescent, a new month begins. When the crescent is observed for the first time for Ramadan, Tarawih prayers are held in that evening, and Suhur meals are eaten. Fasting during the day lasts until the new crescent for the month of Shawwal is observed. The time between two consequent sighting of the new crescent is sometimes 29 days, and sometimes 30 days. This originates from the fact that the Moon completes its circle around the Earth in 29.5 days on the average. The half day is sometimes added to present month or to the next depending on the sighting of the new crescent.
Ramadan is a month of serious training. We enter through the "gate" of worship by fasting. Then the worship is to be carried out throughout the month. One has to be a good servant paying attention to words and actions. One has to protect himself from wrongdoings and sins. This will elevate the value of fasting and incur forgiveness. If the fasting was carried out purely and flawlessly and if the month of Ramadan is spent in a way that is pleasing to Allah, the rewards will be great. It could lead to complete forgiveness and Paradise in the hereafter.
c. What Diminishes the Value of the Fast
There is one point we must state in the beginning of the Ramadan. It is narrated by Jâbir RA and Anas RA that the Prophet said:
(Khamsun yufternas-sàim: al-kadhibu, wal-ghiybatu, Wan-namîmatu, wal-yamînul-kâdhibatu wan-nazaru bish-shahwah)
As you know, a person who is fasting will not drink any water or eat any food. Some people keeps asking--perhaps now is not the season for it-- "Is it allowed to swim in the sea while fasting?"
We read it in a hadith not too long ago; the Prophet told people not to swim when they are fasting. Not many people read the ahadith carefully, so there are so many uninformed people in the society. Despite the statement of the Prophet, they keep arguing about it in the columns of newspapers. The proper place to get the details of the worship is the ahadith of the Prophet. When people seek other sources, they will be lost or commit something wrong.
We all know that a person who is fasting will not eat any food. Details of this is given in fiqh books. He will not drink any food, either. He will also stay away from intimacy with his wife if he is married. If the person is not married, he will also abstain from any action that would endanger his fasting.
Almost everybody could describe fasting as "no food, no drink, no sex." However, these are physical abstinences. In fact when you enter the realm of worship by fasting, you need to consider the other aspects of abstinences. You must protect your senses from sins. This is called taqwa. Without it, the rewards of fasting will be missing. This is indicated in the hadith above:
(Khamsun) "There are five things (yufternas-sàim) that will break the fasting" i.e., that will take away the rewards of fasting.
It is possible that someone who hears this hadith may assume that his fast is broken and may resume eating. Then he must fast two months continuously for expiation in addition to making up for the broken fast. I must express that the breaking the fast here is in a spiritual sense. Here are them:
1. (Al-kadhibu) telling a lie. If a person lies while fasting, the reward for the fasting will go away.
2. (Wal-ghiybatu) talking behind a person's back.
3. (Wan-namîmatu) carrying words from one person to other person. This disseminates ill feelings among people.
4. (Wal-yamînul-kâdhibatu) testifying for falsehood. If it takes place in a court, it will cause injustice.
5. (Wan-nazaru bish-shahwah) looking at the opposite sex with lust.
We need pay more attention to our actions while we fast. We should not let the rewards of fasting go away.
d. Points to be Observed in Fasting
There are other ahadith about fasting. Here is one:
(Innamas-sawmu junnatun, fa-izâ kâna ahadukum sà-imen falâ yarfus, wa lâ yajhal; wa inimru-un qàtalahû, aw shâtamahû falyaqul: Innî sà-imun, innî sà-imun!)
This hadith was narrated by Abû Hurayrah and included in the collections of Bukhârî and Muslim. The Prophet said:
(Innamas-sawmu junnatun) "Verily, fasting is a shield." Here, the word junnah means a "shield" that is used in a battle for protection against swords and arrows. Just like a shield providing protection against the attacks in a battle, fasting protects a person from ill deeds and from the hell-fire. It takes a person to Paradise. (Fa-izâ kâna ahadukum sà-imen) "For this to happen, while one of you is fasting, (falâ yarfus) he must not use foul language (wa lâ yajhal) or act ignorantly." That is, you should not commit anything wrong while you know that it is wrong. Using foul language and acting ignorantly will take the rewards of fasting away.
The hadith continues: (Wa inimru-un qàtalahû) "if somebody wants to initiate a quarrel, a fight, with the person who is fasting, (aw shâtamahû) or uses foul language against him, (falyaqul) he should respond saying: (Innî sà-imun, innî sà-imun!) 'I am fasting, I am fasting!'" That means he should avoid the quarrel, fight or foul language reminding himself and the other person that he is fasting. If he does not do this and responds with something similar, then he loses the rewards of fasting.
In another hadith narrated by Abû Hurayrah and included in the collections of Imam Nasa-î and Ibn-i Majah, the Prophet said:
(Kam min sâimin) "There are many people who fast, (laysa lahû min sawmihî illal-jû-u wal-atash) yet all they get from fasting is hunger and thirst." They do not get any rewards for fasting because they commit offenses while they fast.
Dear Brothers and Sisters! We must pay attention to our deeds while we fast. We need to be careful with our tongue, our eyes, and our ears. We should not utter foul language, look at haram, or listen to haram. We should not act ignorantly. In return, we could expect the promised rewards that the Prophet informed us about. May this blessed month be a cause for our forgiveness and acceptance to Paradise.
May Almighty Allah bless this Ramadan for all of you. May he grant you the zeal and the strength for fasting. I wish you all the good things in this world and in the hereafter. I request you to pray for me to receive good things in this world and in the hereafter and for the salvation of the Ummah of Muhammed SAS.
As-salâmu 'alaykum wa rahmatullàhî wa barakâtuhû.
November 24, 2000 -- AKRA