The Almighty said, “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you As it was prescribed To those before you, that ye may (learn) Self-restraint.” (The Cow sura –verse 183). Hisham Bin Al-hakam asked Imam Jaafar As-sadek about the reason for fasting, where the latter answered, ”Fasting is ordained so that the rich and the poor are equal, since the rich could not experience hunger to be merciful toward the poor; so God, to whom power is ascribed, wanted the rich to starve so they could feel compassion for those whoare less fortunate and underprivileged.”
We believe that this is one of the phases of the wisdom of fasting with respect to the rich, since fasting is ordained for both, the rich and the poor.
In his book “Minhaj Al Arifeen” (The approach of the cognizant) Imam Al Ghazali stated, “Fasting constitutes self-denial, a process of self-purification, self righteousness, spiritual development where carnal pleasures are warded off, benevolence is aroused toward the poor, penalty is commuted, and God is sought in thankfulness of His graces.
In regard of the benefits of fasting, the messenger of God (pbuh) mentioned that for everything there should be zakat (almsgiving), and fasting is the zakat of bodies. He also said (pbuh), “ For everything there is a way in, and the way in to worship is fasting.” The Almighty said, “Every act performed by Adam (the human being) belongs to him, except fasting, it is (exclusively) for Me and I will reward it; fasting is protection and the faster rejoices twice: once at breaking the fast and another at meeting his God (narrated by the five).
Sayida Fatima AZ-ZAHRAA once mentioned in her speech that God made fasting an emphasis to loyalty. The Almighty said, “And those who strive In Our (Cause), - We will Certainly guide them To Our Paths: For verily God Is with those Who do right.” (The Spider sura – verse 69). Aj-Jihad (the holy war) is the strive of soul by defeating and extinguishing its desires and lusts – the fertile ground of Satan – consequently, God’s majesty is revealed to His servant. For this reason, fasting has proved to be a way in to worship. At fasting, man is compared to angels for he is above the rank of animals and below the rank of angels, and the more he is indulged with lusts, the lower he will be to join the throngs of animals. On the contrary, the more he defeats his lusts, the higher he will be in rank to join the angels in their horizon – for angels are so close to God, to whom belongs might and majesty. It has been said, “Had not fasting been more than transcending from the lowest level of bestial soul to the peak of being compared to spiritual angels, suffice it would be in grace and good fortune.
Performing Qada’ and fidyah (ransom) in fasting:
The Almighty said, “(Fasting) for a fixed Number of days; But if any of you is ill, Or on a journey, The prescribed number (Should be made up) From days later, For those who can do it (With hardship), is a ransom, The feeding of one That is indigent. But he that will give More, of his own free will,- It is better for him. And it is better for you That ye fast, If ye only knew.” (The cow sura –verse 184). The fixed Number of days are those of Ramadan, and the indigent and the traveler could break their fast since the Almighty ordained for the performance of qada’ for the same reasons, traveling and ailment.
Had a person not fast some days of Ramadan, he shall fast those days and perform the qada’ after Ramadan.
What is meant by his saying, “For those who can do it (With hardship), is a ransom, The feeding of one That is indigent” (The cow sura –verse 184) is mentioned in As-safi interpretations: those who could do the fasting, yet with hardship, as the elder and the pregnant and the like, are not obliged to do so by God, instead, they are opted to perform either fasting or its fidyah for He is generous and merciful; then He made fasting preferable to giving fidyah in reward in case they preferred hardship to comfort.
As to kaffarah (atonement), it is fasting for two consecutive months not including Ramadan; however, could a person not fast, then he shall feed sixty needy persons i.e feeding one needy person for one day of the sixty days; besides, when a man deliberately has a Sexual intercourse with his wife while fasting in Ramadan, his fasting is invalidated and the two become liable to both qada' and kaffarah.
In his book “Asrar As-sawm Wa Shurutihi Al Batina” (The secrets of fasting and its intrinsic conditions, Imam Al Ghazali wrote, “Know that fasting is of three levels, the fasting of the public, the fasting of the peculiar, the fasting of those particularly peculiar. As to the fasting of the public, it is abstaining from just food, drink, smoking and sex, which is the basic level. As to the fasting of the peculiar, it is abstaining from the above, in addition to lying, backbiting, fighting, cursing… etc.; in this level, the eyes abstain from looking at what is forbidden to look at, the ears abstain from what is forbidden to hear, the hands abstain from the forbidden, and the feet abstain from walking to where it is forbidden to walk; it is the second broad level. Whereas the fasting of those particularly peculiar, it is doing all of the above, in addition to maintaining a meditative or contemplative state of mind, in such a way that the heart and intellect “fast” from thinking of or reflecting upon anything besides God Himself. This is the level reached and occupied by saints.
We already know that the fasting of the public is refraining from food, drink and sex throughout Ramadan month from sunrise to sunset; it is mentioned in the Holy Hadith, “Worshipping of God is better at the abstinence of the stomach and vulva. As to the fasting of the peculiar, it is the refrain of organs from sins, and it is completely fulfilled by six:
- First: Abstaining the eye from looking at what is forbidden, from looking at all that is censured, detested and entertained…
The prophet (pbuh) said, “The look is a poisoned arrow of Satan’s, whoever abstains from it is rewarded by God with faith thrilling his heart.” He (pbuh) also said, “Five break the fast of a faster: lying, backbiting, tale bearing, false oath, and looking with lust.”
- Second: Abstaining the tongue from vain talk, lying, backbiting, tale bearing, vulgarity and insincerity... and forcing it to be silent and read the Holy Qur’an, this is in regard of the tongue fasting. The prophet (pbuh) said, “Fasting is rather a protection; he who fasts, shall never be obscene or have a sexual intercourse or do any of the acts of the ignorant; moreover, whoever approaches to kill or curse him shall know that he is fasting. This is emphasized by the saying of Imam Jaafar, “He who backbites a Moslem, has broken up his own fasting and contradicted his own ablution.
- Third: Abstaining the ear from what is forbidden to hear - all that is forbidden to be said is forbidden to be heard; for this reason, the Almighty considered the one listening to falsehood equal to that devouring the forbidden, He said, “(They are fond of) listening To falsehood, of devouring Anything forbidden.” (The Table sura –verse 42) Therefore, listening to backbiting is prohibited, for this reason, the prophet (pbuh) said, “He who backbites is as sinful as the one who listens to backbiting.”
- Fourth: Abstaining all other organs of hand and foot from what is detested and abstaining the stomach from what is suspicious (shubha). Consequently, abstaining from food and what is bidden is invalidated when breaking fasting with the forbidden. Such a faster is as the mason who builds a palace and ruins a country. The prophet (pbuh) said, “Many fasters receive nothing of their fasting except starvation and thirst.”
- Fifth: At breaking his fast, the faster should not eat to full even of the bidden; otherwise, fasting could not be beneficial in defeating the enemy of God and his wishes since the faster has provided himself with all that he missed of food since morning. The essence and secret of fasting lies in weakening Satan’s powerful means to devilish acts by eating the same amount he is used to every night in case of not fasting.
- Sixth: The faster’s heart shall be worriedly suspended in fear and hope, the fear that his fasting is not accepted thus considered as detested, and the hope that his fasting is accepted thus considered as of the closest to God. Had worship been divided into two: avoidance and acquisition, then the true meaning of fasting shall be fully represented by avoidance, as mentioned in the Almighty’s saying, “Now no person knows What delights of the eye Are kept hidden (in reserve) For them – as a reward For their (good) Deeds..” (The Prostration sura – verse 17). It is said that fasters used to fast and were granted of worship what no eye has seen, nor any ear has heard, nor ever passed through a mortal's heart.
An important notice regarding fasting:
The most obscene of language a faster could use when he announces that he has broken his fasting in public in Ramadan, in an Islamic society, before other fasters; saying so, hurts their feelings and creates mistrust among them. The messenger (pbuh) says, “All my people are healthy except those who speak in public.”
Even though a person breaks his fast for a cause or an excuse, he has to sympathize with other fasters feelings, and not expose himself to suspicion, especially that nobody knows that he has a legal excuse to break his fasting since he could not mention that; accordingly, he is excused to eat and drink at home far from the sight of others and their suspicions.
Issued on Rabih El Awal 7, 1430 Hegira corresponding to March 3, 2009 A.D.
Issued by the Bureau of Mashyakhat Al Akl
of Mouwahidoun Druze sect