Practical Implementation of Fasting

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic
Life – the whole life; is a continuous conveyer belt full of thorns and things that can either inflict damage to you or bring you closer to damage. To pass through this conveyer belt one should device a strategy in such a way that it keeps on moving the way it is but it does not cause damage to yourself. According to Quran, we will learn this effective strategy - Taqwaah (self-restraint) from Fasting.

Submitted: March 17, 2010

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Submitted: March 17, 2010

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Allah Has said: “O believer, fasting is prescribed unto you” (Quran 2:179). And the Apostle of Allah (PBUH) said that He was informed by Gabriel that Allah said: “Fasting is mine and I Have the best right to give recompense for it” because the religious practice of fasting is mystery unconnected with any external thing, a mystery in which none other than Allah participates: hence its recompense is infinite. It has been said that mankind will enter Paradise through the Mercy of Allah and that their rank therein depends on their religious devotion and that their abiding therein for ever is the recompense of their fasting.

Anyone who is observing fast is prohibited from eating, drinking, smoking, and engaging in sexual intercourse from dawn (Fajr) to sunset (Maghrib). Fasting is essentially an attempt to seek nearness to Allah and increase one's piety. One of the remote aims of fasting is to sympathize with those less fortunate ones who do not always have food and drink readily available. Also one must try to avoid cursing and thinking evil thoughts. Fasting is also viewed as a means of controlling one's desires (of hunger, thirst, sexuality, anger) and focusing more on devoting oneself to Allah.

Fasting in reality is abstinence and the least degree in fasting is hunger, which is food of Allah on earth, and is universally commended in the eye of law and reason. One month’s (Ramadan) continual fasting is incumbent on every Muslim who has attained adulthood. The fast begins on the appearance of the moon of Ramadan and continues until the appearance of the moon of Shawwal, and every day a sincere intention and firm obligation is necessary. Abstinence involves many obligations, e.g. keeping the belly without food and drink, guarding the eye from lustful looks, the ear from listening to evil speech about anyone in his absence, the tongue from vain of foul words, the body for following after worldly things and disobedience to Allah. One who acts in this manner is truly keeping his fast, for the Apostle of Allah Muhammad (PBUH) said to a certain man, “when you fast, let your ear fast and your eye and your tongue and your hand and every limb” and He also said, “Many has no good of their fasting except hunger and thirst.”

Fasting in the month of Ramadan is a divine command. Allah says in the Holy Quran, "O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard (against evil)." (2:183)

It was reserved for Islam to formulate a perfect form of spiritual purification for all of its followers, notwithstanding the state of society they belonged to, and which could be performed without interfering with their normal avocations and callings in everyday life.

For a fast to be valid in the first instance an intention (niyyah) must be made beforehand; this is considered to form an oath. If this is not performed then the fast is not valid, it is required to be made verbally.

Throughout the duration of the fast itself, the one who is observing fast will abstain from certain provisions that the Qur'an has otherwise allowed; namely eating, drinking, and sexual intercourse. This is in addition to the standard obligation, already observed by the person who is fasting, of avoiding that which is not permissible under Qur'anic or Shari'ah law (e.g. ignorant and indecent speech, arguing and fighting and lustful thoughts). Without observing this standard obligation, Sawm is rendered useless, and is seen simply as an act of starvation. The fasting should be a motive to be more benevolent to the fellow-creatures. Charity to the poor and needy in this month is one of most reward able worship.

If one is sick, nursing or traveling, one is considered exempt from fasting. Any fasts broken or missed due to sickness, nursing or traveling must be made up whenever the person is able preferably from the month of Shawaal. According to the Qur'an, for all other cases, not fasting is only permitted when the act is potentially dangerous to one's health - for example; those elderly who are too weak to fast for extended periods of time, but this must be made up by paying a fidyah which is essentially the iftaar, dinner and suhur for a fasting person who requires such financial help. Observing the fast is not permitted for menstruating while it is optional for nursing and pregnant women.

However, when a woman's period has ceased, she must bathe and continue fasting. Any fasts broken or missed due to menstruation must be made up after Eid in the month of Shawaal. Women must fast at times when not menstruating, as the Qur'an indicates that all religious duties are ordained for both men and women.

Practical Implementation of Fasting

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O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint. (Quran 2:184)

It is pretty clearly mentioned in the verse above that Fasting coach self-restraint (Taqwaah). The word Taqwaah has been repeatedly used in Quran and the commonest translation done is fear and fright; but in reality it is not about fear and fright. To understand Taqwaah one must consider this example; suppose that there is a barbwire/thorny way and the person has to pass it, in doing so there is possibility that he might get injured because of the thorns. So to pass the thorny way in such a manner that these may stay where they are but he does not injure himself; this strategy and planning is called Taqwaah. You actually plan to cross the thorny way and escaping any damage.

Similarly, you have to cross Mall Road and the traffic is moving fast and your goal is to cross the road without causing yourself any damage. It is beyond your control to stop the moving traffic so you have to set yourself up in a way that you successfully cross the road. So you make moves by calculating the time and distance between one car and the other, this strategy is actually Taqwaah. No doubt it has the element of fear and fright but this fear is not the primary thing instead it is the fear of the strategy remaining incomplete due to some deficiency in it. Hazrat Hafiz Muhammad Iqbal (R.A) always said that once you develop confidence in yourself and you are convinced that your strategy is perfect then it will not have the element of fear.

Similarly, life – the whole life; is a continuous conveyer belt full of thorns and things that can either inflict damage to you or bring you closer to damage. To pass through this conveyer belt one should device a strategy in such a way that it keeps on moving the way it is but it does not cause damage to yourself. According to Quran, we will learn this effective strategy - Taqwaah from Fasting.

Its best explanation can be that when someone keeps the stomach hungry and stays away from all eatable and drinkable things it decreases his natural habit of eating two to three times a day. In normal routine life human being feels hungry after every few hours and demand food which he provides as well. This is predominantly because of some issues raised by the medical sciences that if you keep your stomach hungry for long hours the stomach will start eating itself. This is one of the phobias present in this time. So Islam took the responsibility of training people to restrain from eating on the demand of stomach after every few hours.

When people eat heartily a particular kind of revolt, in the shape of energy, spread in the body after they have digested the food. This energy tempts human being to do something. And because bad and evil things have comparatively more attraction and pull, so because of this energy human being gets more inclined towards it. Human being instead of devoting this energy towards something beneficial for him loses his footing fast for something that is not good for him in the long run. All the reasonable individuals have agreed that once you have packed your stomach with food the energy from it originates the instigating force in particular; this instigating force is one such energy which is present in every part and everywhere in our bodies. Besides many other things this it invigorate a specific energy; in simple words and in scientific language as well this force is called sex and the oomph that we get from food prompts it.

Thus the pious people reached the conclusion, after experimenting all of their lives, that when they didn’t fulfilled the demand of the stomach and remained hungry the additional energy which instigates sex in particular and other various bad deeds definitely diminished. The body got a little enervate and there was a decrease in the energy produced inside the body and because of it the instigating force and sex in particular decreased. So they thought that if we can achieve this benefit by controlling the demands of one part of the body i.e. stomach; then why not try to check the demands of all parts of the body either individually or in totality and provide them as much energy as is necessary for their normal function. Because if they get just a little more energy than what is required for their function they will go astray without any rationale and will do something which can harm the human being in the long run. Some of the forces are the power of eyes, ears, tongue, hands, brain and heart.

The brain when starts thinking with vigor it unnecessary go off track and imagine things which it should not be doing. If the eyes have full energy they try to see things they should not be seeing or which is not their real task. And if we can somehow reduce the energy supplied to these body parts then as a result the excitement of instigating force will weaken. In this manner when the energy diminishes the focus remain on just one thing, “how I have to pass through life without causing any damage to myself. This is called Taqwaah – self restraint.

As discussed earlier Taqwaah is basically a strategy that I will device so that instead of getting mesmerized by the beauty of an object I can keep myself limited to the aspect from which I have to pass through life without causing any damage to myself. While fasting, you make an effort to decrease the energy, between all the body parts including stomach, as a result of which you do not get tempted from the instigating force. So the person will always keep himself limited to one point ‘how I have to safeguard myself from the instigating force’ and pass my life easily with this strategy – Taqwaah. Otherwise throughout life sometime his eyes will go astray, sometime his mind and sometime the passion of the heart; so on and so forth. In this way if one makes all the body parts habitual of fasting then the instigating force will lessen and he will automatically restrict himself to the strategy following which he has to complete the journey of life, has to go from one shore to another, cross the Mall road.

Ali bin Uthman al- Jallabi (Data Gunj Baksh), saw the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in a dream and requested him to give me a word of advice. He said, "Control your senses." The fact is that control over the senses constitutes the whole doctrine of Mujahidah (self purification), because all knowledge is gained through these five doors; eyes, ears, nose, tongue and the sense of touch which is spread over the whole body. These five senses are like the five army commanders of knowledge and reason. The eye is the organ of seeing the shapes and colors of things; the ear is the organ of hearing sounds; the tongue gives the knowledge of good and bad taste; and the nose tells us what is a pleasant or an unpleasant smell; but there is no particular organ of touch. It is spread over the whole body and gives us the knowledge of hot and cold, hard and soft, etc. We know everything through these senses except intuition and Divine Inspiration.

Another thing is that while there is no evil involved in intuition and Divine Inspiration, the knowledge acquired through the five physical senses is not immune from evil. They are the source of both good and evil. For instance, the eyes and ears provide us with the knowledge of Allah as well as of falsehood and lust. The same is the case with the tongue and nose by which both right and wrong can be acquired. It is, therefore, the duty of one who is fasting to have strict control over all his senses so that disobedience is turned into obedience, and the fast becomes real. Allah Has said: 'Nor did we give them bodies that ate no food." [21:8]

The practical implementation of fasting can easily be summarized in the following two lines:

“To abstain only from food and drink is child’s play. One must abstain from idle pleasures and unlawful acts, not from eating the lawful food. When a man safeguard himself from sins all his actions become fast.”

We should keep this in mind that the fast we keep in the holy month of Ramadan are just stepping stone and nothing more than that and we should not confine ourselves to this, instead move forward with the help of the stepping stones towards the rather bigger stones. In other words we should not restrict ourselves to just one month of fasting (Ramadan) and be a child forever; rather we should apply the spirit of Taqwaah, which we learn from fasting, in our lives 24/7/365 and grow up to be an adult. Allah want us to learn self-restraint (Taqwaah) from fasting and live our life by it for our own benefit and success. When you guard yourself from sin all your deeds become fasts and then if you eat or refrain from food and drink it becomes a secondary thing. It is rather pertinent to mention here that we must not stop the obligatory fasting till the time we have reached the stage where all our deeds have become fasts and it is up to you that how fast you reach this stage in your life.


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