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The Intended goals and Secrets of Fasting

Jul 10, 2014

 

By Sheikh Abdurrahman Al-Sudais – 06 Ramadhan 1435

His Eminence Sheikh Abdurrahman Al-Sudais -may Allah protect him- delivered this Friday khutbah titled “The Intended Goals and Secrets of Fasting.” He dealt with fasting the month of Ramadhan and the rationale behind it in Islam, highlighting the relationship between the intended goals of fasting and (what is known in Islamic jurisprudence as) ‘The Five Essentials’ of life.

Praise be to Allah! Our Lord, we do praise You, seek Your assistance, ask for Your forgiveness, repent to You, and acknowledge that You are the sole source of all good.

(The Sheikh cites one line of poetry paraphrased as follows):

Honest and gracious praise is due to Allah,
Oft-repeated by worshippers at dawn and dusk.

I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah alone with no associate; He has bestowed on us the seasons of bounty and the month of pious deeds and blessings. I equally bear witness that our Prophet and Master, Muhammad, is the Servant and Messenger of Allah. He is the best creature ever who performed prayer and fasting, and the most pious who performed Tahajjud (spending the nights in prayer) and stayed up to keep vigil in devotion to Allah. May Allah send His profuse Salāt (Graces, Honours, and Mercy) and Peace upon him, his virtuous and noble family, his Companions (the renowned Imams), and the tābi’ῑn (the contemporaries of the Companions of the Prophet [May Allah’s Salāt and Peace be upon him] after his death), as long as light and darkness keep alternating.

Now then,

I do enjoin you as well as myself to observe Taqwa (fear of violating divine commands) vis-à-vis Allah (Glory and Might Be to Him), especially that we are amidst one of the most venerable seasons of Taqwa. Indeed, the essence of fasting, its real significance and central purpose, is the fulfilment of Taqwa vis-à-vis Allah (Be He Glorified in His Sublimity). Allah (May He be praised) says:

“O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqûn (the pious – see V.2:2).” (Al-Baqarah: 183)

(The Sheikh recites two lines of poetry paraphrased as follows):

O Man! Hasten to observe Taqwa!
Accelerate your pace to good deeds as long as you have time,
How splendid Taqwa is and how guiding is its track!
With it, Man elevates otherwise minimal deeds.

O Muslims!

Here is Ramadhan, the month of bounty, blessing, fasting, and night prayer. Here it is overwhelming the Universe with its majestic radiance and filling the hearts with its beauty and splendour. It is a month whose rivers overflow with pious deeds and whose flowers blossom out with good. It is a month during which Muslims eagerly seek to understand its objectives and secrets and enthusiastically listen in awe to its hidden goals and news.

(Again, the Sheikh recites two lines of poetry paraphrased as follows):

Congratulations! O all followers of Islam, without exception.
The blessed month has landed with its bounteous graces.
So, greet your month with proper fasting;
How glad hearts would feel at its encounter!

O Believers!

By adopting a perspective based on the intended goals of Sharῑ’a to the rulings of fasting and the wisdom behind it, Muslims, obligated to observe the precepts of Islam, would realise that fasting was prescribed for great intended goals and venerated rulings with which he could renew his commended traits of worship and revive his potential for performing good deeds.

Consequently, he will be able to ascend to higher ranks of faith and will be endowed with the qualities characterising the virtuous and the beneficent. This is because the All-Wise Legislator (i.e. Allah) has not restricted fasting only to its formal rituals, such as the prohibition of consuming permissible goods, but has also emphasised spiritual promotion, refinement and preservation of the human self, and the purification of the limbs so as to lift them up from the base material level to the wide horizons of spiritual elevation and to the promotion of faith and values.

The observance of fasting has therefore been designed to achieve interests and increase them and at the same time ward off evils and minimise them. Furthermore, the Five Essentials of life are realised through fasting either positively (when they are preserved) or negatively (when they are not preserved). Another characteristic of fasting is the realisation of ease and the removal of restraint. That is why this great intended goal of fasting has been included in Qur’ānic verses pertaining to it.

Again, Allah (Glory and Might Be to Him) has reserved for this act of worship, unlike the other acts, a special status. He attributed it to Himself (May He be Extolled) in the hadith reported by Imam Muslim and Imam Bukhari in their two Sahih Books: “All man’s deeds are left for himself except fasting; it is exclusively mine and it is I who will decide the recompense thereof.” This exclusivity will by itself suffice as a source of homage and generosity to fasting Muslims.

Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim -may Allah bless his soul- says, “Fasting is a curb on pious people, protection of fighters, and an exercise for the virtuous who seek to keep close to their Lord. Unlike other forms of worship, it is reserved for the Lord of the Worlds. In addition, it is an unravelled secret between the servant of Allah and his Lord … The main point is that because the benefits of fasting are conspicuous to all people endowed with common sense and untwisted nature, Allah has prescribed it for His servants out of compassion for them and as a given charity, and as protection of their health.”

The most erudite scholar, Imam Al-Kamāl Ibn Al-Humām -may Allah bless his soul- says in connection to the intended goals of fasting, “Fasting subdues the evil-inciting nafs (i.e. ego, al-nafs al-ammārah) and curbs its proclivity to inquisitiveness associated with all the limbs.”

Brothers and sisters in Islam!

The most conspicuous intended goal of fasting manifests itself in the preservation of religion and the fulfilment of Taqwa which is the ultimate goal and the loftiest aim attainable through the prescription of fasting. Imam Al-Baghawi -may Allah bless his soul- said in his explanation of “…that you may become Al-Muttaqûn (the pious – see V.2:2).” [Al-Baqarah: 183]: “It means through fasting, because fasting is the pathway to Taqwa, thanks to its potential for subduing the self and crushing its whimsical desires.” Likewise, it leads to the preservation of the acts of worship, the recital of the Holy Qur’ān, the remembrance of Allah, the supplications, and al-i’tikāf.

The intended goals of fasting also manifest themselves in the preservation of the nafs (the human self) through preventing it from indulging into prohibited instinctual desires and also via stimulating it to be engaged in forms of worship which would bring their performer closer to Allah. Such intended goals also manifest themselves in the preservation of the ‘aql (intellect) and the curbing of its defiance by constraining the inlets of Satan, subduing its vigorous drives, and by eradicating apprehensions and illusions.

As to the preservation of ‘irdh (honour), it is manifest in refraining from backbiting, slandering, and defamation. In this respect, Imam Al-Bukhari reported in his Sahih Book a hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah -may Allay be pleased with him- saying: “The Messenger of Allah (May Allah’s Salāt and Peace be upon him) said, ‘Allah is in no need for anybody’s abstention from consuming food and beverages as long as he/she refuses to renounce the fabrication of lies and all sorts of action related to it.”

As to the preservation of māl (property), it is manifest in charity acts, forms of expenditure, abstention from extravagance and abuse, and in helping the poor, the miserable, and the afflicted.

(The Sheikh cites two lines of poetry paraphrased as follows):

Fasting is indeed commiseration and charity,
As decreed by the Qur’ān and logical evidence,
How wonderful fasting is when coupled with charitable acts;
It never involves multiplied deprivation.

O Ummah of Tawḥῑd (monotheism) and unity!

The intended goals of fasting will never be attained and the rationale behind it will remain pointless unless the teachings of the Chosen Prophet (Al-Mustapha, May Allah’s Salāt and Peace be upon him)) are followed. Al-Imam Al-Mawardi -may Allah bless his soul-says, “He (i.e. the Prophet) ‒May Allah’s Salāt and Peace be upon him‒ was endowed with so much generosity and open-handedness that he used to offer people whatever at hand and favour others by giving them solicited and dear objects.”

(The Sheikh cites two lines of poetry paraphrased as follows):

O fasting fellow who renounced sins out of piety,
Keeping close company to patience and hardship,
Listen to glad tidings offering you mercy on Resurrection Day,
Bordered with benefaction, musk and frankincense.

So, observe Taqwa, servants of Allah, and achieve the intended goals of fasting both in speech and in action. Be compassionate with one another! Be tolerant with one another! Pardon one another! Reconcile with one another! Indeed, Ramadan is an opportunity to experience the superb feelings targeted by the true Islamic religion. The achievement of this great mission is a responsibility shared by the home, the family, the mosque, the school, society, mass media, and modern channels of communication.

What will be the reward for that? It will be no less higher ranks in Paradise accessed through the Rayyān Gate.

Therefore, blessed be those who are fasting Ramadhan and glad tidings for those who spend its nights praying!

I seek refuge with Allah from the accursed Satan:

“The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong). So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan i.e. is present at his home), he must observe Saum (fasts) that month, and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number [of days which one did not observe Saum(fasts) must be made up] from other days. Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you. (He wants that you) must complete the same number (of days), and that you must magnify Allah [i.e. to say Takbir (Allahu-Akbar; Allah is the Most Great) on seeing the crescent of the months of Ramadan and Shawwal] for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him.” [Al-Baqarah: 185]

O Allah! We implore You to bless us by the Noble Qur’ān and the Sunnah, to make them beneficial to us and to raise our status through the verses and wisdom they contain! This being said, I ask Allah, the Almighty, to forgive you, me and all Muslims for all sins; so ask Him for forgiveness and turn to Him in repentance, for my Lord is the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful for those who repent to Him!

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