Assalamu’alaykum Wa Rahmatullah
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The fast is for Me and I am its reward [Hadith Qudsi]
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed upon you as it was prescribed on those before you so that you may learn self-restraint [2:183]
The glorious verse above clarifies why Muslims are required to fast. Allah neither wishes to punish His subjects nor starve them because neither of these benefits Him. Further examination of this verse reveals that fasting builds righteousness and humility.
Cultivation of righteousness and humility is the wisdom behind fasting. A Companion once asked Hadrat Ibn Ka’ab رضي الله عنه the meaning of righteousness (taqwa), and in reply Hadrat Ibn Ka’ab رضي الله عنه asked, “Have you ever walked a dangerous and thorny path?” The questioner said yes. Then, Hadrat Ibn Ka’ab رضي الله عنه asked him how he would traverse such a path. The Companion answered, “I gather all my loose clothing around me and hold it tight so that nothing gets entangled or torn, and thus I walk very carefully.” Hadrat Ibn Ka’ab answered that this is the very definition of righteousness, to protect oneself at every moment in life so one does not slip and fall into sin.
Fasting in Ramadan is one means to protect oneself and keep oneself righteous. Fasting is not merely abstinence from food and drink, but all the organs of the body must be in a state of fasting. The fast of the eyes is not to look at what is forbidden; the fast of the tongue is not to lie and slander and likewise, every organ must stay away from wrong. A Muslim in Ramadan must be in a state of fasting from head to toe.
The pinnacle of a fast is not realized until a Muslim fasts from head to toe. A person might abstain from food and drink, but during the course of the day or month, he slanders someone else or even steals from someone. This is why the Messenger of Allah said that some people gain nothing from fasting but hunger.
There are different types of fasts and each requires certain etiquette. One type is the fast of the common people, that is to simply abstain from food and drink. Another type of fasting, observed by a special class of people closer to Allah, requires abstinence not only from food and drink, but also requires keeping the organs away from anything that is sinful, such as controlling the tongue from backbiting and slander.
It is obvious that Muslims must always strive for the second type of fasting and be in a complete state of fasting.
Fasting serves to build righteousness and elevates the righteous even higher. Consequently, those who obey Allah and abstain from sin during their fasts do not feel the intensity of hunger and thirst during the day as do those who unfortunately fail to stay away from sin.
Throughout the Prophet’s lifetime, Allah presented circumstances and examples to serve as lessons for the Muslims to follow.
Two women were fasting and came near to death because of sheer hunger. This problem was presented before the Messenger of Allahﷺ who advised that the women should rinse their mouth, which they did. Thereafter, the women vomited small pieces of meat. These women were astonished because they had not eaten anything because they were fasting. The Messenger of Allahﷺ revealed that the women had been guilty of backbiting during their fast, a sin synonymous with eating dead flesh. Allah preserved this incident in time so that future generations may learn a lesson from it.
In the event that someone who is fasting encounters someone quarrelsome or one who would lead them down a bad path, the fasting individual should say the words “I am fasting” three times. This will serve as a shield for safeguarding his faith and the fast will InshaaAllah be regarded as a successful one by Allah.
Fasting has been ordained to cultivate righteousness in mankind. A child may want candy, but knowing its harmful effect a mother will refuse to indulge the child, not because she wishes to see her child cry but for the child’s own good. Likewise, Allah does not wish suffering upon those who fast, but ordains it so that they may become righteous and pure. The command of fasting does not benefit or take away from the glory of Allah but is only for the benefit of those who fast.
Fasting not only has spiritual benefits but it also has immense physical benefits as well. The medical community acknowledges that regular fasting flushes poison from the body, thus purifying it.
The bathrooms in the luxurious homes of certain wealthy individuals alone cost more than the entire home of a poor family. If it were not for the holy month of Ramadan, such wealthy people would be oblivious to the suffering of the poor and hungry. By ordaining the fast, Allah blessed mankind in that at the end of a day without food and drink, one can perhaps gain some insight into the daily life of the homeless and hungry.
Hadith literature records that a man shall be raised on the Day of Judgment and Allah will say, “I was hungry. Yet, you did not feed Me. I was sick but you did not visit Me.”
The man will say in astonishment, “O Allah, You are the Supreme Creator above all such needs and ailments such as hunger and sickness. How could I have fed you or visited you?”
Then, Allah will say, “Back in the world, your neighbor at one time was hungry and sick but you failed to tend for him. If you had fed him and looked after him in his time of need, it would have been as if you were feeding Me.”
It will only be then that this man will realize the tremendous reward of empathy towards his fellow human beings. Today the worst feuds occur between neighbors because people remain ignorant of the rights of neighbors. At one time the Messenger of Allah said that Hadrat Jibril used to bring so many revelations regarding the rights of neighbors that the Messenger of Allah thought that the neighbor would be included in the last will and testament of the deceased.
Two brothers were very fond of each other but their wives did not get along. One of them invited his brother and sister-in-law to dinner and laid the table in front of them. However, when the host’s wife found out she angrily took the plate from in front of her brother-in-law and said, “We are not feeding this man!”
This woman’s saddened but quick thinking husband tried to salvage the situation and said to his brother, “Once I too was at your house and you placed food in front of me. One of your chickens ran across the room and tipped the curry. Hence I could not enjoy the meal. I could have been angry at that time but controlled myself, so please do not be angry now if my wife hastily took away the plate.”
His brother calmed down and said, “Surely I can extend you the same courtesy that you showed for my chicken.” Hence, a potentially dangerous situation was defused very quickly because of the brothers’ love and pure intentions towards each other. In contrast, if parties have bad intentions from the start, then it is easy for minor quarrels to become long term feuds.
It has been narrated in hadith that the Messenger of Allah came to teach humanity to humanity. Among the lessons of good character that the Messenger of Allah brought is good will and etiquette towards one’s neighbor. This is something that has been relatively forgotten nowadays.
Living as brothers and sisters and as neighbors has become virtually alien to us, but we need to remember that neighbors are merely a mirror image of ourselves.
The true purpose of fasting is to value the tremendous blessings of Allah and realize that a large percentage of people in the world do not have what we take for granted every day. Hopefully a person will carry this realization throughout his or her life and become a better person and member of the community.
People rarely ponder upon the blessings of Allah that they are showered with every single day. Before wheat bread is served for a meal, a seed is sown into the ground. This seed is then nourished by the sun and the rain before it grows big enough that a farmer can reap it. The wheat is then cleaned and sold in the market where it is bought and cooked as wheat bread. Indeed, it is unfortunate that people do not ponder upon these miraculous events that bring this food to their table nor do they thank Allah for this blessing.
Hadrat Fazal Ali Quraishi (May the mercy of Allah be upon him) would plough, sow, and reap his own fields. He would bring the harvest home where both he and his wife would prepare the wheat to be cooked and made into bread. The bread would then be served to the students in Hadrat’s madrasa.
Hadrat Quraishi had a strong work ethic and insisted on doing everything himself. As part of his noble habit, he was constantly in a state of ablution, as was his household. One day, Hadrat served the meal as usual in the madrasa and the seekers sat down to eat. Hadrat used to address his seekers as faqir, and so he said, “Oh Faqirs, for the bread that is before you, a field had to be ploughed and this was done in a state of wudu (ritual purity). Next, a seed was sown and cultivated, all in a state of wudu. The wheat was then reaped, cleaned and cooked, all in a state of wudu. Now that it is before you, my only hope is that you eat it in a state of wudu.”
Every morsel that a person consumes comes through many different routes as detailed above. Allah likes the person who respects and values His blessings.
The Messenger of Allah used to eat with great humility, giving food proper respect. He would not eat like the arrogant who eat while walking and slouching. He would sit down for a meal with the humility of a servant in front of his master, and would value every morsel as a blessing from Allah.
A millionaire once posted an advertisement in a newspaper promising a huge sum of money to the doctor who could treat his illness so that he would be able to eat a bite on his own. This person was a millionaire with apparently every material thing at his disposal. Yet, health was not on his side to the extent that he could not even eat by himself.
Being healthy enough to sit up and eat is a tremendous blessing on its own that people take for granted. We need to realize the greatness of these blessings and to be grateful to Allah.
Allah had given Hadrat Sulayman عليه السلام kingship over humankind, jinn, the animal kingdom and all the forces of nature. One day, Hadrat Sulayman عليه السلام supplicated to Allah that he wanted to invite all creation to a feast and wanted no food to go to waste. Allah readily permitted this and so Hadrat Sulayman عليه السلام commanded the jinn to start preparing the food for such a feast.
The jinn toiled at giant cauldrons for years and kept storing the food until such a day that Hadrat Sulayman عليه السلام became satisfied that there was enough food for all of Allah’screation. Then, he once again requested permission to invite the guests and Allah gave him permission for this. Hadrat Sulayman عليه السلام asked whether he should invite the land creation first or the creatures of the sea, and Allah suggested the sea creatures since the sea was very close by.
A fish swam up and opened its mouth, into which the jinn started emptying the food. This fish was so large that it alone consumed everything that had been cooked. Allah’screation is so awesome that it baffles the imagination.
Certain fish are so large that airplanes have been reported to have mistaken them for airstrips and actually attempted landings. Once, I was flying from France to another country and as the airplane rose and crossed over water, I saw a fish swimming thousands of feet below that seemed the size of a car. I marveled at what the actual size of the fish must be if it appeared as big as a car from such a height.
So the fish that the jinn were feeding still had its mouth open even though the jinn had fed it the entire feast. Hadrat Sulayman عليه السلام was amazed and exclaimed to the fish, “You ate so much!” To this, the fish replied, “O Beloved of Allah, I bear witness that Allah feeds me every day three times what you have fed me today!”
Allah does not forget to provide for humankind despite the millions of other species that make up creation. Hence people should be grateful rather than complain when given such food that may be distasteful, because Allah could have easily overlooked such a tiny portion of creation such as humankind in the distribution of sustenance (rizq). The purpose of Ramadan is to develop gratefulness for Allah’s blessings so that man may become humble and righteous.
Excerpt taken from The Sermons of Hazrat Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmad Naqshbandi (DB)
Excerpt taken from The Sermons of Hazrat Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmad Naqshbandi (DB)
شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِيَ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ
Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Quran [2:185][Part of the Ayah]
Allah has sent humankind to Earth to worship Him. Man is but a passing visitor in this fleeting life and soon departs on his next journey. Only the person who values his time in this world and spends it wisely in remembering and obeying Allah is truly fortunate and successful. Such a person lives spending every moment for the pleasure of Allah and adorns himself in the glorious Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ.
He…has already achieved the highest achievement [33:71][Part of the Ayah]
The Companions used to say that with the start of Ramadan they would note an increase in three things in the practice of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ.
Increasing worship, charity, and supplication are Prophetic examples that all Muslims should strive to follow with sincerity. Muslims tire their bodies every day in their work, but there should be at least some time during their lifetime when the body gets exhausted in worship. There should come such a time when the eyes long for sleep, but the worshiper reminds himself that struggling to stay awake seeking Allah’s pleasure will earn him the honor of looking upon Allah in Paradise. The eyes that stay awake now will sleep soundly in the grave.
Only after death do restless hearts find peace
Only he sleeps soundly who remained awake.
Ramadan is the month of staying awake during the night in worship. Believers should accustom themselves to less rest and sleep and respect this month for the holy month of struggle, sacrifice, and immense blessing that it is.
Vendors, grocers, and all sales professionals have a specific season that they prepare and work hard for. When their season for sales arrives, they set themselves aside, excuse themselves from all non-essential engagements and focus solely on the season at hand. Moreover, they pay less attention to eating and sleeping properly because they remain so absorbed in their trade and stay focused on how to take advantage of their particular season in the best manner. These people value this time and embrace hard work because their chance to make huge profits comes only once a year, after which they know they can afford to relax a little.
Likewise, the holy month of Ramadan is a season for righteousness for all those who wish to draw nearer to Allah and have their sins forgiven. The fasts of such people who remain restless for Allah’s sake are not only limited to abstinence from food and drink, but their eyes and tongue and all else also remains in a state of fasting. When Muslims remain thus in a state of fasting from head to toe and raise their hands in supplication at the breaking of the fast (iftar), then Allah will grant whatever they wish for.
During Ramadan, blessings shower down in such abundance, that it seems that the doors of blessing have become wide open. According to a Hadith, Paradise is perfumed and decorated for the believers just before Ramadan, and on the first day of Ramadan Allah instructs the angels to open the doors of Paradise for the believers. Thus Paradise is adorned for the believers like a bride is adorned for her groom.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ used to wait anxiously for the month of Ramadan and had such great regard for it that he would supplicate to Allah in the month of Shaaban to see the Muslims safely into Ramadan. The tremendous value of a month that even the Messenger of Allah would pray for, cannot be weighed by anything on earth.
This month is so blessed that the birds in the air, the fish in the seas, and the animals on the earth pray for the forgiveness of all those who fast. Moreover, when they break their fast at iftar, the angels say amin to their duas.
Those who are fortunate and wise enough to take advantage of the blessings of this month are honored with the special status such as that of a wali and abdal. Muslims should learn valuable lessons from their elders and regard each moment of this month as a precious opportunity to earn righteousness so that they may also earn the special regard of Allah.
The wonderful season of spring greets us with the blessings of lush vegetation, delicious fragrances of beautiful flowers, and trees laden with fruit. Likewise, the holy month of Ramadan is a month of springtime for the believer, where Allah’s blessing and mercy surrounds the believer at every point throughout the day and night.
Hence, surrounded by such awesome mercy, this is truly a golden opportunity for anyone wishing for nearness to Allah and forgiveness from sin. It seems that the phrase golden opportunity was coined with the holy month of Ramadan in mind, because this phrase perfectly fits the description of this month.
During the holy month Ramadan, Imam Abu Hanifa (May the mercy of Allah be upon him) would complete one reading of the Holy Quran in the morning, a second in the evening, and would listen to three complete recitals of the Holy Book in tarawih for a total of sixty-three completions during the month.
A famous routine of Hadrat Raipuri (May the mercy of Allah be upon him) was that he would gather together all of his followers on the fifteenth of Shaaban, meet with them all and say that he would now see them after Ramadan if he lived until then. He would also hand a sack to one of his attendants, instructing him to collect any mail he receives so that he would tend to it after the holy month.
He would spend the entire month in seclusion and worship, not wishing to check mail or be disturbed in this precious month. So many people would come to spend the whole of Ramadan in the mosque that there would be no room for anyone’s bedding after the nineteenth of Shaaban. In this manner, the mosque would come alive with worship and the remembrance of Allah.
Hadrat Mujaddid Alf-Thani (May the mercy of Allah be upon him) wrote in his Maktubat that all the year’s blessings are a drop in the ocean when compared to the vast blessings of Ramadan. He continues to say that this is the reason why all the Holy Books were revealed in this holy month. Ramadan has a strong connection to the Word of Allah which is why Muslims should excessively recite the Holy Quran in this month.
Allah increases the reward for deeds in this special month. For an optional (nafl) act, a person is rewarded according to the reward of a mandatory (fard) deed, and the reward for a fard is multiplied at least seventy times. (To be continued…InshaaAllah)
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We Pray to Allah swt, that he give us taufeeq to fast like those who fast (sincerely), and to stand up in prayer like of those who stood up in prayer (obediently), awaken us in it from the sleep of the heedless, and forgive our sins , O Allah forgive our sins, you are the one who forgives the sinners. Aameen