Fasting the month of Ramadan is one of Allahs waysone of His most beloved waysto teach us to love Him Almighty and His Messenger and to see beyond ourselves and find Allah. It helps us come into communion with Allah directly by making us realize His blessings and His presence, but also indirectly, by realizing the condition of His other servants, our fellow human beings in need.
Ramadan is the month to overcome our love of our lower selves, and to nurture that part of our souls that yearns for the Divine, for the Truth, for the Creator and Sustainer.
To know the worth of the treasure you are about to be offered should infuse your search with enthusiasm and spirit. The Messenger of Allah said: Whosoever fasts the month of Ramadan, with faith and anticipation [of God’s forgiveness and reward], whatever sins he has committed shall be forgiven. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Allah, Most Exalted, Says in His Book what means: “They arise from [their] beds; they supplicate their Lord in fear and aspiration, and from what We have provided them, they spend. And no soul knows what has been hidden for them of comfort for eyes as reward for what they used to do. [Quran 32:16-17] Scholars have said that the act mentioned in this verse is fasting. Since it is an act hidden to the eye, as are the treasures that have been promised.
Allah, Most Generous, also Says what means: Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account. [Quran 39:10] Here too, fasting is the act that most closely embodies the virtue of patience, and Allah promises both acts, fasting and patience, the same recompense: Reward without account.
Imaam Al-Ghazaali writes:
Praise be to Allah who has blessed His servants magnificently, and repelled the devil’s snares from them, by making fasting a fortress and a shield for His beloved friends, and opening for them the doors of Paradise. By the same token, He has taught them that unrestrained desires are the devil’s way into their hearts, and only by vanquishing them may the soul become tranquil and peaceful. May Allah’s blessings be upon Muhammad, the guide of humanity, and upon his family and Companions, may Allah be pleased with them.
Fasting is a fourth of faith, as the Messenger of Allah said: “Fasting is half of patience,”[At-Tirmithi] And also,Patience is half of faith. [Abu Naym in Hilyaa, graded Hasan].
Indeed, fasting is distinguished among all the righteous deeds due to its direct relation to Allah, as Allah’s Messenger relates to us on His behalf: By the one in whose Hand is my soul, the breath of a fasting person is more fragrant before Allah than the fragrance of musk. Allah Almighty Says:
He has abjured his desires, his food and drink only for me. Fasting is for Me, and only I shall reward it. Every righteous deed is rewarded by as much as ten times its worth, up to as much as seven hundred times. Except fasting, which is for Me, and I shall reward it. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] The Messenger of Allah also said: "Paradise has a door called Ar-Rayyaan. None shall enter it except those given to fasting. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] And he said: A fasting person has two delights. One delight when he breaks his fast, and one delight at his meeting with His Lord. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] The Prophet also said: When the month of Ramadan begins, the doors of Paradise are opened, and the doors of the Fire are closed, the devils are chained, and [it is said]: O seeker of righteousness, come forth! And O seeker of vice, desist!" [Al-Bukhari] The Prophet said, as well: "Allah Most Exalted Says to His Angels: Behold my servant who abjured his desire, his taste, his eating, and his drink for My sake! [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] The Prophet said: The Devil runs through the veins of the son of Aadam like blood. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim],And another narration adds to it: Therefore, narrow his passage through hunger.
[Reported in Ihyaa' 'Uloom ad-Deen] The true fast and its preparation If your fasting does not increase your love for Allah and overcome your self-love and rebellious desire, you should remember this teaching of Allah's Messenger : How many there are that fast but attain nothing from it but hunger and thirst. [An-Nasaai and Ibn Maajah] The Prophet also said: Fasting is a trust, so let each one of you protect his trust." [Al-Kharaaiti, graded Hasan] How do we protect the trust that is fasting? By calling it a trust, the Prophet has reminded us of the element of responsibility we bear. It is not merely abandoning certain normal acts, but a conscious struggle to protect the trust of fasting that makes a fast count. When the Prophet recited Allah's words which mean, "Indeed, Allah commands you to render trusts to whom they are due [Quran 4:58], he placed his hands on his ears and his eyes and said: The hearing is a trust, and the sight is a trust. [Tafseer of Ibn Katheer] The real fast, the one that is rewarded and beloved, the one about whom Allah Almighty Says that "fasting is for Me and only I shall reward it" is the fast which goes beyond staying away from food and spousal relations. Rather it masters staying away from sins, big and small. If, in fasting, even the usually permissible acts necessary to sustain life have been prohibited, in order to control our animal self, how much more prohibited and abominable are sins there inacts that violate Allah's commands and indicate rebellion against Him? The fasting believer should beware of Satan's low-level warfare, namely, the snare of small sins, which at times are even more disastrous than major sins. We normally commit such sins without self-reckoning and without scruple, out of heedlessness, laziness, habit, or cultural and social pressures. These small sins keep the believer from tasting the sweetness of faith, sometimes, even more than major sinsbecause a believer typically recognizes his or her major sins, and returns to Allah in revulsion against it.
Not so for the small sins. They keep accruing to us and against us until they become mountains upon us, but keep us thinking that they are small and hence not worthy of urgent measures. How many of us lose their status as believers and become distant from Allah due to a life of heedlessness. The small sins have the effect of slowly turning up the heat as opposed to throwing someone right into the blazing fire. In the former case, the differential of change is so small that most fail to notice it, until it is too late. As the teacher of all teachers said: “Trials are presented to the hearts little by little, like twigs. When a heart accepts it, it incurs a black spot. [Muslim] Some of the scholars, therefore, say: Many of those who are fasting are, in fact, not fasting. And many of those who are not fasting are, in fact, in the state of fast! The ones who are fasting but not really fasting are those whose limbs are hungry and deprived but engaged in sins and illicit acts, earning illicit income and feeding on illicit food. And those who are not fasting (speaking of voluntary fasting) but as good as fasting are those who are enjoying permissible food and drink, but exerting themselves to avoid sins big and small, while their bodies only know food that is Halaal (lawful) and earned in a Halaal way. Our senses are the pathways through which the Devil enters into our hearts.
To protect the trust of fasting is to protect these pathways to the heart, so that our heart may be fertile for Allah’s remembrance and love. To fast, moreover, is to protect one’s gaze and glance. The Prophet said: The sight is an arrow from the arrows of Iblees (the devil), Allah’s curse upon him. Whoever gives it up fearing Allah, Allah Most Exalted gives him faith whose sweetness he shall find in his heart.” [Al-Hakim] To fast is to protect our tongues. The Prophet said: “Fasting is a shield. So when one of you is fasting, he should not engage in foul speech (Rafath), impudent and thoughtless acts (Jahl), and if someone fights or abuses him, he should say:I am fasting, I am fasting.”‘ [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
In a sound Hadeeth, the following conversation is recorded between the Prophet, the teacher of all teachers and Muaath ibn Jabal, may Allah be pleased with him, one of the greatest among the Companions in knowledge. The Prophet first informs him of all the pillars of Islam and articles of faith, and then asks: Shall I tell you, O Muaath, what is the basis and prerequisite of all of that?
Of course, O Messenger of God.
The Prophet then took hold of his tongue and said: Protect this.
O Messenger of Allah, shall we be held accountable for what we do?
May your mother lose you, O Mu’aath! [an expression of reprehension] Whatif not the earning of their own tongues shall throw men face-long into the Fire?” [At-Tirmithi]
A man asked the Prophet: What shall I guardagainst? He pointed to his tongue and said: This. [Muhasibi, Adaab an-Nufoos].
Another man asked: What is salvation? He said: “Hold your tongue, even against your will, stay in your house , and weep over your sins.”
Umar ibn Al-Khattaab once came upon Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq, may Allah be pleased with them, both, who was holding his tongue and shaking it. So
Umar asked what he was doing. Abu Bakr said: This has done me great harm. Abdullaah ibn Masood said that there is nothing more deserving of being imprisoned than one’s tongue.
Al-Haarith Al-Muhasibi, after mentioning these traditions, said: “O my brother! Beware your tongue! It is the organ that commits the greatest of evils and errors that will count against you. Indeed, most of what you will find of sins in your Book of Deeds on the Day of Judgment will be what your tongue has earned. And most of what you will find of good in your Book will be what your heart has earned” (Adaab An-Nufoos, 1:45)