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16. Fasting
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Hayaatul Muslimeen(Life of Muslims)
16. Fasting
Fasting, like Salaat and Zakaat, is a fundamental institution of Islam. The Fardh Fasting is a practice of vital importance. Allah Ta'ala states in the Qur'aan Shareef:
”0 people of Imaan! Fasting has been decreed compulsory for you."

The importance of fasting is abundantly established by numerous narrations of the Qur'aan and Hadith. It is clear from the narrations of the Qur'aan and Hadith that for attaining salvation, Salaat, Zakaat and Hajj are not sufficient. It is essential to fast the Fardh fasts of Ramadhaan.

Fasting is distinguished from other acts of ibaadat by its inconspicuous nature. Whereas other acts of ibaadat, e.g. Salaat, Zakaat, hajj, are conspicuous in varying degrees. Fasting is totally concealed. Only Allah Ta'ala is aware if one is fasting or not. Only those who truly have the love or fear of Allah Ta'ala in their hearts will fast.

Experience proves that weakness in love and fear for Allah could be remedied by engaging in such acts, which produce muhabbat (love) and azmat (respect, honour and awe). Fasting is greatly efficacious in this regard. Thus weakness in one's Imaan and love for Allah is strengthened by fasting. One in whose heart the love and fear of Allah Ta'ala become embedded will be strong and steadfast on the Deen. The natural effect of fasting is to produce strength in one's Deen. This effect is referred to in the following two hadith:

l. Hadhrat Abu Hurairah (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah
(Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said that Allah Ta'ala said:

"All good deeds are for the one who renders them, but fasting. Fasting is exclusively for Me (Allah)." (Bukhaari)

2. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said that Allah Ta'ala said:

"The one who fasts, abstains from eating, drinking and sexual relations for My Sake."

Another narration states that Allah Ta'ala said that the fasting person leaves off his desires and pleasures for His Sake. (Ibn Khuzaimah)

Fasting being exclusively for the sake of Allah Ta'ala reflects the high degree of sincerity underlying the act of ibaadat. The high degree of sincerity coupled with abstention from evil and futility produce glitter and strength in the Imaan of the fasting person. Great emphasis is therefore laid on fasting. This is very clear from the fact that Allah Ta'ala described the act of man's fasting as being only for Him (Allah Ta'ala).

1. Hadhrat Abu Umaamah (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that he asked Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) to impose on him some deed of great significance. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"Adopt fasting, for there is no act greater than it,"

Hadhrat Abu Umaamah repeated his request a second time. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) again advised him to adopt fasting. Hadhrat Abu Umaamah put forward his request again, a third time, and Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"Adopt fasting, for there is no deed equal to it." (Nisaai, Ibn Khuzaimah)

The superiority of fasting is in relation to certain special characteristics of fasting such as degree of sincerity, efficacy in strengthening weak Imaan, inculcating love and fear of Allah and its acting as a barrier against sin, These special benefits of fasting are attainable only if one fasts consciously and observes the respects and rights of fasting.

2. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"Fasting is a shield and a powerful fortress." (Ahmad, Baihaqi)

Like fasting is a shield of protection against internal (spiritual) diseases, viz. sins, so too is if a protection against external sicknesses, i.e. physical illness. In the majority of cases, physical sickness is the result of excessive eating. This cause is arrested in fasting.

3. Hadhrat Abu Hurairah (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"Every person has a Zakaat (to pay) and the Zakaat of the body is fasting." (Ibn Majah)

Like wealth is purified by means of paying Zakaat, the body is purified by means of fasting. Zakaat is the elimination of impurities from wealth while fasting is the elimination of impurities from the body. The role of fasting, as already indicated, operates in both the physical and spiritual spheres of man's life.

4. Hadhrat Abu Hurairah (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah
(Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"Keep fasting; you will remain healthy." (Tibraani)

Fasting produces both physical and spiritual health. Fasting produces spiritual peace and exhilaration.

5. Hadhrat Abu Hurairah (radhiyallahu anhu) in a lengthy hadith, narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
”The fasting person experiences two (occasions of) delights: At the time of Iftaar and at the time when he will meet his Rabb." (Bukhaari)

During the month of Ramadhaan an additional ibaadat, viz., Tarawih Salaat, has also been decreed. The performance of Tarawih is Sunnatul Muakkadah, which is an act, the performance of which is obligatory although it may be omitted for a valid Shar'i reason. One who is neglectful of Sunnatul Muakkadah is guilty of sin and is termed in the Shariah a 'faasiq'. Taraaweeh reduces sleep to some extent. Sleep is an act highly pleasing and loved by the nafs. Hence, by means of Taraaweeh Salaat one strives against the nafs and in so doing the nafs is disciplined. This ibaadat of Taraaweeh is an act, which is greatly efficient in the spiritual training of the nafs. During the month of Ramadhaan, Allah Ta'ala has united two great and highly efficacious spiritual exercises in the form of fasting and Taraaweeh Salaat.

6. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"Allah Ta'ala has ordained fasting in Ramadhaan compulsory, and 1 have decreed (by the command of Allah) wakefulness at night (i.e. Taraaweeh, etc.) Sunnah. Whoever in the state of Imaan and the belief of thawaab fasts in Ramadhaan and stays awake at night (i.e. for Taraaweeh), emerges from sin, purified as the day when his mother gave birth to him." (Nisaai)

7. Hadhrat Abdullah Bin Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"Fasting and the Qur'aan will intercede on behalf of one on the Day of Qiyaamah. The Fast will proclaim: '0 Allah! I prevented him from eating and carnal desire. Therefore, for my sake accept my intercession on his behalf.' The Qur'aan will proclaim: `I prevented him from sleep. Therefore, accept my intercession on his behalf.' The intercession of both will be accepted." (`Ahmad, Tibraani, Haakim)

8. In a lengthy aayat Allah Ta'ala says:
"For the fasting man and for the fasting woman ...Allah has prepared a great reward and forgiveness." (Surah Ahzaab)

9. Hadhrat Abu Hurairah (radhiyallahu anhu), in a lengthy hadith, narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"I swear by That Being in Whose possession is the life of Muhammad! The odour of the mouth of a fasting person is sweeter to Allah Ta'ala than the fragrance of musk." (Bukhaari)

10. Hadhrat Ibn Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates, in a lengthy hadith, that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"Fasting is exclusively for Allah Ta'ala. The thawaab of it (being limitless) no one knows besides Allah Ta'ala." (Tibraani, Baihaqi)

11. Hadhrat Abu Saeed Khudri (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"The Doors of the Heavens are opened up on the first night of Ramadhaan. Not a single Door (among the Doors of Heaven) is then closed until the last night of Ramadhaan. For every Salaat performed (this refers to Taraaweeh Salaat) during the nights of Ramadhaan, Allah Ta'ala records one and a half thousand good deeds for every Sajdah (of that Salaat), And, for the fasting person, Allah Ta'ala creates in Jannat a mansion of red Ya'qoot (a precious stone in Jannat). This mansion will have seven thousand entrances. (So huge will be these entrances be that, in each entrance will be located a palace of gold adorned with red Ya'qoot). When the Muslim fasts first day of Ramadhaan, Allah Ta'ala forgives all his sins committed from the first of the previous Ramadhaan. Daily (i.e. during Ramadhaan) from the time of Fajr Salaat until sunset, seventy thousands Malaaikah supplicate for his forgiveness. In return for every Sajdah which he (the fasting person) makes of any Salaat, whether during the day or insight, he will obtain (such a wonderful) tree (so huge) that a horseman will take five hundred years to pass under its shade." (Baihaqi)

12. Hadhrat Salmaan (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that during the last Jumu'ah of the month of Sha'baan Rasullullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) recited a Khutba in which he said:

"0 People! An auspicious month has dawned over you. In that month is a night which is superior to a thousand months (i.e. ibaadat in this night is superior to the ibaadat rendered in a thousand months. Allah Ta'ala has made compulsory fasting in this month and has decreed wakefulness at night (i.e. Taraaweeh Salaat) Sunnah. A Nafl (non-obligatory or optional) act rendered in this month for attaining proximity to Allah, is equal to a Fardh act rendered in other months. A Fardh act rendered in this month is equal to seventy Fardh acts of other months ... Whoever gives to a fasting person something for Iftaar, his sins will be forgiven and he will be saved from Jahannum; he obtains as much thawaab as the fasting person (to whom he had given something for Iftaar) while the thawaab of the person is not reduced in any way."

The people asked: '0 Rasulullah! All of us are not by the means to give something for the Iftaar of another. (They were at the time under the impression that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) referred to a full meal). Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"This thawaab is even for the man who gives another a date, a drink of water or milk (for Iftaar)..." (Ibn Khuzaimah)

Another special ibaadat during the month of Ramadhaan is I'tikaaf during the last ten days. I'tikaaf during Ramadhaan is an ibaadat which belongs to the class of Sunnah known as Sunnatul Kifaayah. This ibaadat is a collective Sunnah upon all. However, if a few, even one person, render the I'tikaaf; the Sunnah obligation will be discharged on behalf of the whole community. The Ibaadat of I'tikaaf consists of secluding oneself inside the Musjid for the last ten days of Ramadhaan. The time has to be passed in ibaadat. Some Ahadith regarding the significance of I'tikaaf are enumerated hereunder.

1. Hadhrat Ali Ibn Husain narrates from his father that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"He who observes the ten days I'tikaaf during Ramadhaan will obtain the thawaab of two Hajj and two Umrah."

2. Hadhrat Ibn Abbaas (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said in regard to those who observe I'tikaaf:
"They are prevented from all sins and they obtain thawaab as if they are rendering all good deeds." (Mishkaat)

By the practice of I'tikaaf one gains the opportunity of continuous residence in the Musjid. The significance of remaining in the Musjid for Ibaadat has already been explained in Rooh number 12.

Women who intend to observe I'tikaaf should do so at home. They should seclude themselves in a particular place at home.

The special acts of ibaadat of the month of Ramadhaan terminate with the coming of Eid; the hadith explains great significance of the Day of Eid as well. In a lengthy hadith, Hadhrat Anas (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
"When Eid arrives, Allah Ta'ala addresses the Malaaikah: 'They (Muslims) have fulfilled My Fardh. They have emerged to make dua. I take oath by My Splendour, by My Grandeur, by My Grace and by My Loftiness that I will most certainly accept their petition.' Allah Ta'ala then proclaims to the Believers:

'Return! I have forgiven you and I have exchanged your evil deeds with virtues.

They thus return from the Musallah (where the Eid Salaat was performed) forgiven." (Mishkaat)

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