By Sheikh Bassam Obeid
“O you who believe! Observing the fast is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become righteous.” Holy Qur’an 2:183
Allah, mighty and sublime is he, has ordered us to fast for His pleasure and as a fundamental part of our worship as Muslims, it is also a mercy and part of His system of forgiveness for us.
In 2:184-185 of the Qur’an, Allah’s rules for fasting in Ramadan are made plain and clear for all Muslims. Anyone who is capable of fasting must fast, anyone who cannot or does not is required to pay for these days by feeding the poor for each day he does not fast. Allah reminds us that fasting is better for us than to compensate. Muhammad (PBUH) famously stated “Fasting is a shield. So the fasting person should avoid obscene speech and should not behave foolishly and ignorantly, and if somebody fights with him or insults him, he should tell him twice, ‘I am fasting.’ By the One in Whose hand is my soul, the smell that comes from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the scent of musk. (Allaah says about the fasting person), ‘He has given up his food, drink and desires for My sake. The fast is for Me and I will reward (the fasting person) for it and the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten times.” (Narrated by Abu Huraira, agreed upon)
Allah commands us to praise and worship Him during the fast. This time of fasting should not be wasted sleeping or being lazy, Muslims are meant to continue engaging in work and worship. Shaykh Muhammad Ibrahim Shaqra explains in his book Irshad As-Sari that fasting has linguistic explanation and a Sharia explanation. Literally it means “to withhold from doing something.” In Sharia the meaning is more complicated; it means to withhold from all the things that would break our fast from dawn until sunset with the intention of using that extra time and energy for worship. Therefore, according to a scholarly understanding of this principle, anyone who is not eating, drinking or any of the other things that break our fast but yet he or she is not engaging in worship; then this person is not actually fasting and will miss the rewards of the fast.
There are some fundamental pillars of fasting which are important for all Muslims to keep in mind and heart throughout Ramadan. They are:
1. Intention. Allah’s Messenger(PBUH) has said “Truly actions are by intentions, and for every person is what he intended.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
2. Avoid the things which ruin your fast such as eating, drinking, and sexual relations with your spouse.
3. Maintain the time from Fajr until Maghrib. Some Muslims have misunderstood and will continue sahur until sunrise is complete, but the prescribed time of fasting is from Fajr until Maghrib.
The fast itself gives us opportunities to seek further mercy. We are better able to restrain our urges so that our fasting, worship and charity can be magnified and be used to wash away older sins that we may have forgotten about. This restraining of the nafs is not the only blessing, look at the wisdom of Allah!
1. We are given more time. Time that is normally spent eating or preparing food has been given back to us for worship, Islamic study, charity works, etc.
2. We are given more money. Not only our lunch money is returned, what about the extra morning coffee on the way to work or the mid afternoon snacks? Think about it, if you only spend $4 per day on these small things, that adds up to $120 over a month. With a thousand people at one Masjid saving $120 in Ramadan, that is $120,000 to contribute to charity!
3. Our bodies are given a rest and are allowed to cleanse themselves. Have you noticed that every major medical procedure begins with some sort of fasting to prepare the body? The month of Ramadan allows our bodies to cleanse themselves in a way that we cannot duplicate.
This year, when the month of Ramadan comes to us, welcome it as a good friend and do not consider the fasting to be a chore. Instead, love Allah for his mercy in the fasting and seek His pleasure and His reward. May Allah guide us all in righteousness.