Virtues of Fasting
“That you may attain Taqwa…”
The month of Ramadan is distinguished by Sawm, or fasting. Allah says of this `ibadah: “O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you that you may attain Taqwa” [2:183].
Taqwa is to be conscious of Allah (SWT) and acutely mindful of him, and therefore afraid of offending Him. Since fasting is an act of worship which continues over a whole day, and extends its effect throughout all of our everyday activities and chores by stopping us from eating and drinking for the sake of Allah (SWT); it makes us constantly aware of Him and our duty towards Him. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) once said, “He who does not leave dishonest speech and acting in accordance to it and (practicing) ignorance, Allah (SWT) has no need for him to leave his food and drink” [Narrated by Al-Bukhari]. This is because while eating and drinking are forbidden during fasting, evil words and deeds are always forbidden. If we fail to learn self-restraint from all that Allah (SWT) has made Haram through the exercise of Sawm, our fasting is meaningless. Allah’s Messenger (SAW) also said, “There is many a fasting person who gets nothing from his fasting but hunger” [Narrated by Ibn Majah]. May Allah (SWT) protect us all from this state.
“Only For Me…”
Sawm is unique among all acts of worship in that it is completely invisible. Abu Umamah (RA) reports: “I came to the Messenger of Allah (saw) and said: ‘Instruct me of a deed that will enter me into Paradise.’ He said: ‘Hold firmly to fasting, as there is no equivalent to it.’ Then I came to him again and he said: ‘Hold firmly to fasting’” [Narrated by Ahmad, Ibn Hibban and An-Nasa’i].
One reason for this is that while Salah, Zakah, and Hajj etc. can be seen by others and so may be motivated – or to some degree contaminated – by making a show (riya) of piety or some other worldly interest, fasting cannot really have any other objective but seeking the pleasure of Allah (SWT). A fasting person can go around working through his usual commitments and no-one would know he was fasting – in effect; it’s a silent secret between him and his Lord. The Prophet (SAW) said, “Allah (SWT) says: Every deed that the son of Adam performs is for himself except fasting, for it is for Me and I shall reward it.” [Narrated by Al-Bukhari]. Another narration of this hadith goes on to say, “He leaves his sexual desire and his food and drink for My sake! Fasting is a shield, and he that fasts has two moments of joy: one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord; and indeed, the smell of the mouth of the fasting person is better with Allah (SWT) than the smell of musk.” [Narrated by Bukhari].
Another version begins with the words, “Every action of the son of Adam is given manifold reward, each good deed receiving ten times its like, up to seven hundred times. Allah the Most High said: ‘Except for fasting, for it is for Me and I will give reward for it…’” [Narrated by Muslim].
Acceptance of Du`a’
After performing good deeds generally, supplications are more likely to be accepted. Fasting, however, is such a beloved act in the Eyes of Allah (SWT) that He promises to accept a supplication made by one who has endured hunger for His sake. Abu Hurairah (RA) reported that the Prophet (SAW) said: “There are three people whose supplications are not rejected: the fasting person when he breaks his fast, the just ruler, and the supplication of the oppressed” [Narrated by Al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and Ibn Hibban].
`Abdullah ibn `Amr ibn al-`Aas (RA) also reported that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “Indeed there is for the fasting person when he breaks his fast a supplication which is not rejected” [Narrated by Ibn Majah, al-Hakim and others].
And if the above is true for the prayer of the one who has fasted, what about the plea made by the act of fasting itself? `Abdullah ibn `Amr (RA) reported that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “The fast and the Qur’an are two intercessors for the servant of Allah (SWT) on the Day of Resurrection. The fast will say: ‘O Lord, I prevented him from his food and desires during the day. Let me intercede for him.’ The Qur’an will say: ‘I prevented him from sleeping at night. Let me intercede for him.’ And their intercession will be accepted” [Ahmad].
Indeed, those who are blessed with the ability to fast frequently have a special status before Allah (SWT). Sahl ibn Sa’d (RA) reported that the Prophet (SAW) said: “Verily, there is in Paradise a gate named Rayyan. Those who fast shall enter through it on the Day of Resurrection and no-one else will enter through it with them. It will be said, ‘Where are those who fasted?’, then they shall enter it. When the last one of them has passed through the gate, it will be locked and none shall be able to enter it thereafter” [Narrated by Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
By: Skaykh Shafi Choudhury