The nature and mandate of fasting is beautifully described in the Qur’an. Instead of just commanding us to fast, Allah addressed us as ‘mu’mineen’ to kindle the spark of iman within us to make us realize our intention–everything is for Allah. The primary purpose of why we fast is because we have this belief that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is our Maalik and He knows what is best for us.
“And if you do fast, know that it is better for you, if only you knew” (Surah Baqara; Ayah 184)
We can pretend that we know what’s best for us, but in reality, Allah knows what’s best for us. And when He says “ya ayyuhal ladhina amanu”, it means every single person whose ever had iman. And then He says “fasting has been prescribed for you” to give us a sense of support.
“Just as it has been prescribed for those people before you so that perhaps you may have taqwa” (Surah Baqara; Ayah 183)
The reason why we do this is to achieve closeness to Allah. Fasting isn’t for every day, but just a few days so that you can became close to Him.
Sahabah used to practice for Ramadan six months ahead of time. Rasulullah salallahu alayhi wa sallam would start practicing in Rajab (2 months ahead).
“Allahumma baraklana fi rajab was shabaan wa baligna ramadan”
“Oh Allah grant us barakah in rajab and sha’ban and grant us the ability to reach Ramadan”
Since Ramadan hasn’t started, we say this dua. Who knows if we will reach Ramadan or not? If you really understand the importance of Ramadan, this dua will become important to us.
It is THE most BLESSED month.
“If a person were to fast forever they wouldn’t be able to make up for the barakah of Ramadan,”
“Time is like a sword that cuts, if you don’t cut it, it cuts you…”
“How many people fast, but do not achieve anything but hunger. And how many people stand up at night to worship Allah swt at night but achieve nothing but tiredness and lose sleep; understand why you’re fasting.”
Imam Ghazali says that there are three levels of fasting:
1. The fast of the general average person: to hold back a person’s stomach and private parts from fulfilling its desires. This also holds its importance. “Whoever guarantees me that which is between their jaws and that which is between their legs I guarantee that person paradise”. Most people falter in this area.
2. The fast of the special servant of Allah swt: refrain from any type of sin that involves their hearing, sight, tongue, hands, feet, and all their limbs/organs. “Sin is that which gives you internal turmoil and you dislike that people become aware of it”
3.The fast of those people that are the particular chosen servants of Allah swt:The word Sawm is used in this: to hold back/to abstain. So hold and to watch over your heart and any base desires. Or by even pondering any thought about the dunya. In totality, refrain from involving the heart in anything other than Allah swt.
The middle group is the fast of the righteous.
Group two: If there was a King whose kingdom contained entrances by 5 different rivers, and he was under attack, the king would make sure that these 5 rivers were protected and guarded. Because if an enemy enters, then the whole kingdom is destroyed. Similarly, it is necessary to protect yourselves from sin from ALL limbs and areas, otherwise you are destroyed.
To be a part of the second group:
Things we should try to do:
1. To lower the gaze. Mandatory on every believing man/woman… because it is so shameful, Allah Ta’ala hasn’t even discussed it directly–”YOU (Rasulullah) tell them that…”
2. To protect the tongue.
3. To protect your hearing. A great muhaddith would wrap cloth around his head and put cotton in his ears whenever he went out in public, and someone asked him why, he said, “20 years ago I heard two people discussing something, the affects of which are still inside of me, therefore I do this whenever I go in public.”
4. To protect the rest of your limbs from sin. Don’t walk towards sin; don’t touch sin.
5. To eat less in Ramadan. The whole point of Ramadan is to eat less. There’s barakah in suhoor: “Allah and his angels send salawaat on those people who get up to eat suhoor” Suhoor and iftar don’t have to be lavish. Realistically, most people gain weight in Ramadan. We should enjoy, but, tone down the amount. The reason why Allah asks us to abstain from that which is halaal is that, so we gain the power to abstain from that which is haraam.
6. To have a balance of fear and hope. Fear that you don’t know whether your fast is accepted. And hope that Allah Ta’ala will accept it out of His mercy. Fear and hope are like wings, if one wing tilts too far one way, then the path is moved.
What we should do:
1. Ask Allah for tawfiq to benefit in Ramadan. “Whoever doesn’t ask of Allah, then Allah Ta’ala gets upset with that person”–nobody else is like that.
2. Make a firm resolve to abstain from all sins, especially of the eyes/ears/tongue/heart.
3. Free up time for ibadat. We’re all busy, so we have to MAKE time. This is the month of ibadat.
4. Schedule whatever appointments we have for before or after Ramadan. Don’t have things like that during Ramadan, it’s the month of Allah so devote it to Him.
5. Try to follow the sunnat. We all know Allah Ta’ala loves Rasulullah salallahu alayhi wa sallam, we may have people in our lives that we love; for example, our children. If we see another kid that looks like ours, we get happy because of that love we have for our own. When we resemble habibullah, Allah focuses on us as well. Just by mere resemblance. If anyone wants to deny the power of the effect of resemblance then they are denying a story in the Qur’an: Musa, as with the magicians. They came dressed up as Musa as to mock him but because of their resemblance of a Nabi of Allah, Allah granted them great iman at the end. External and internal sunnah should be practiced.
6. Learn the fiqh of Ramadan. Have access to a book/‘ulema to keep it fresh in our minds in case we approach a situation and we don’t know what to do.
7. Dua’, Qur’an, Dhikr—leads you to Allah swt and automatically keeps you uninvolved with others. FOCUS on Allah swt; don’t waste your time with others.
Two things To Hold Back on in Ramadan:
1. Disease of Lustful Glances
The Prophet once had a blind man come visit him, while some of his wives were with him. The Prophet told them to make hijab (leave) and they asked, “Why? He is blind.” But the Prophet saw responded, saying, “…but are you blind?” Meaning, girls are not exempt from lowering the gaze.
*Allah swt is aware of HOW you look (even from the corner of your eye), how you use ALL your senses (smelling, hearing), ALL movements of limbs (each step you take towards the opposite gender), and finally..everything you INTEND by that lustful glance.
Power = ability to DO something, and ability to NOT do something…applies both ways.
The affect of one lustful gaze can last you a lifetime.
2. Backbiting: if you backbite during Ramadan it is as if your telling Allah swt that you are going to fill up the empty stomach that you kept empty for Him, with the flesh of your brother/sister.
“Al ghibatu ashaddu minaz zina”
“zina is going against a right of Allah swt and gheebah is taking a right of a believer”
When you commit zina you don’t go apologize to the person, you repent with Allah swt. But with gheebah, you have to ask the person you backbit about for forgiveness and Allah swt wont forgive you until they do!
- Ask for forgiveness, for example: “If I have ever said anything…please forgive me”. Keep it simple.
- Speak good about them.
- Don’t be a part of it; stop it; leave it; or at least save yourself from it.
- Recitation of La illaha illalah—so that it is easy to get rid of false gods in our heart.
- Seeking forgiveness in Allah swt–ask with passion, otherwise it seems like a checklist; how are you going to give your LORD a checklist?
- Ask Allah swt for jannatul firdous.
- Seek protection from jahannam.