Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Why of Fasting

Salam ramadhan dear readers.

Take a close look at the title of this article and jot down the reasons why you are fasting. There is no right or wrong answer to this and nobody will be marking what you write down or how you phrase it.
Now contemplate the following: “Actions are (judged) by motives (niyyah), so each man will have what he intended. Thus, he whose migration (hijrah) was to Allah and His Messenger, his migration is to Allah and His Messenger; but he whose migration was for some worldly thing he might gain, or for a wife he might marry, his migration is to that for which he migrated.”
[Al-Bukhari & Muslim]

What could be the reason for fasting?

The hadith above is telling us that our intentions can be whatever we wish, they can be worldly or they can be focussed on the akhira. However the reward and increased spirituality will be defined by discovering and understanding ‘why’ we fast.

Possible reasons for fasting

  • It is ordained by Allah
  • To draw closer to our creator and gain taqwa (God consciousness)
  • To help us eliminate bad habits such as smoking, drinking or overeating
  • To improve our willpower, discipline ourselves and gain control of our desires
  • To gain an understanding of what it means to be hungry and to connect with those less privileged than us
  • To help us get back on track with our faith
  • To gain forgiveness
  • To lose weight
  • To follow what everyone else is doing
  • To improve our manners
  • It is what we are used to doing
Evidently the reasons why we fast can be various. However, it is unlikely that it is in search of praise from others. When we pray or give charity or perform the rites of Umrah and Hajj, our actions are visible to others and may be influenced by seeking their praise. But, fasting is different. No one knows if we are fasting or not, except Allah.
“Every deed of the son of Adam is for him except fasting; it is for Me and I shall reward for it…”

So why should we be fasting?

“O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you as it has been prescribed for those before you, so that you may attain taqwa.”
[Qu’ran 2:183]
We fast to achieve taqwa.
Through fasting we are able to become more aware of Allah I and His nearness to us. We are able to strengthen our faith in Him and fulfill His commandments. Our primary intention needs to be for our Creator. All other positive intentions can be fulfilled as a consequence of our obeying our Lord and Sustainer.
Fasting is not only about abstaining from eating or drinking for, “whoever does not abandon falsehood in word and action, then Allah has no need that he should leave his food and drink.”
From this hadith, we understand that it is also about improving our behaviour and abstaining from actions such as lying, backbiting, stealing, etc.

What about Shaytaan?

“When the month of Ramadhan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are chained.”
Good deeds are easy during Ramadhan. But often, as soon as we bid this blessed month adieu we slip back into our bad habits.
We will be told by Shaytaan himself:
And I had no power over you save that I called unto you and you obeyed me.”
[Qur’an 14:22]
Whether Shaytaan is present or not, it is more likely that it is our own nafs that we struggle against. During Ramadhan, being able to do the things that we normally seem unable to do, proves that we can triumph over our own psyche and ego.
Ramadhan is the training ground where we can charge our spiritual batteries for the rest of the year. It is the month of fasting but it is also the month of mercy, forgiveness and repentance; a time for us to turn back to Our Lord. During the year we may have strayed and wandered away from the path and Ramadhan is an opportunity to find our way back:
“O my slaves who have transgressed against themselves! Despair not for the mercy of Allah, verily Allah forgives all sins. Truly he is oft forgiving, most merciful.”
[Qur’an 39:53]
Ramadhan Mubarak, Ramadhan Kareem :)


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