Virtues Of Fasting
“That you may attain Taqwa…”
The month of Ramadan is distinguished by Sawm, or fasting. Allah says of this worship: “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 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, 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 (practising) ignorance, Allah has no need for him to leave his food and drink” (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 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” (Ibn Majah). May Allah 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’” (Ahmad, Ibn Hibban, and an-Nasa’i).
One reason for this is that while Salah, Zakah, and Hajj can be seen by others and so may be motivated, or to some degree contaminated – by making a show of piety or some other worldly interest – fasting cannot really have any other objective but seeking the pleasure of Allah. A fasting person can go around working through his usual commitments and no one would know he was fasting – it’s effectively a silent secret between him and his Lord. The Prophet (SAW) said, “Allah says: every deed that the son of Adam performs is for himself except fasting, for it is for Me and I shall reward it” (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 than the smell of musk.” (al-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…’” (Muslim).