Ramadan is a month of intense celebration of our Muslim culture and heritage which transcend borders. It is a heritage beyond any one nationality, any one nation. It is a symbol of Islam International. And what a month!
Whatever a Muslim’s frailties and faults (and don’t we all have them), it is expected that if he were to reach and fast the month of Ramadan, the abundance of Allah’s afwa and rahma (forgiveness and mercy) during the month will suffice him. The Prophet of Islam Muhammad, upon whom be peace, in a Hadith narrated by Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) and recorded by Bukhari (may Allah forgive him), has said, ‘Whoever observes fasts during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah’s reward, then all his past sins will be forgiven.’
Today, we shall discuss Ramadan from the perspective of two of Islam’s most famous scholars, one who died 900 years ago and the other who died only a little over ten years ago: Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058-1111) from his book ‘Ihya Ulum ud-Deen’ (translated as ‘Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship’ by Mukhtar Holland), and Shaikh Muhammad Salih Al-Uthaimeen (1925-2001) from his treatise ‘The Wisdom Behind Fasting’ in his book ‘Majaalis Shahr Ramadan’ (translated by Isma’eel Alarcon).
We start with al-Ghazali who says: “It should be known that there are three grades of Fasting: ordinary, special and extra-special. Ordinary Fasting means abstaining from the prohibited things during fasting; Special Fasting means keeping one’s ears, eyes, tongue, hands and feet, etc, free from sin; while Extra-special Fasting means fasting of the heart from unworthy concerns and worldly thoughts, in total disregard of everything but Allah, Great and Glorious is He.
“This kind of Fast – the extra-special – is broken by thinking of worldly matters, except for those conducive to religious ends, since these constitute provision for the Hereafter and are not of this lower world. Those versed in the spiritual life of the heart have even said that a sin is recorded against one who concerns himself all day with arrangements for breaking his Fast. Such anxiety stems from lack of trust in the bounty of Allah, Great and Glorious is He, and from lack of certain faith in His promised sustenance.
“To this third degree belong the Prophets, the true awliya and the intimates of Allah. It does not lend itself to detailed examination in words, as its true nature is better revealed in action. It consists in utmost dedication to Allah, Great and Glorious is He, to the neglect of everything other than Allah, Exalted is He.”
We then go to Al-Uthaimeen who says: “From the wisdom of fasting is that it is an act of worship done for Allah the Exalted, in which the ‘abd (servant) draws closer to his Lord by abandoning the things that he loves and desires. So because of this, the truthfulness of his faith and the completeness of his servitude to Allah become apparent, as well as his love for Allah and his longing for what Allah has prepared for him (of good).
“And from the wisdom behind fasting is that it is a means of attaining Taqwa, as Allah says: ‘O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, in order that you gain Taqwa.’ This is because a person who is fasting is commanded to do the obligatory duties and to avoid sinful acts. This is why the Prophet (upon whom be peace) ordered the person who is fasting, when affronted, to say: ‘I am fasting’, and therefore restrained.
“And from the wisdom behind fasting is that the heart opens to contemplation and remembrance of Allah. This is because fulfilling one’s desires leads to heedlessness and perhaps the heart becomes hardened and blinded from the truth. This is why the Prophet advised us to eat and drink little, where he said: ‘The Son of Adam does not fill a vessel worse than his stomach.’
“And from the wisdom behind fasting is that the person who has wealth is caused to realise the blessing of wealth that Allah has bestowed on him. Many people poor, so he who has extra should praise Allah for this blessing and thank Him for granting it. He should remember and help his poor brother and who probably usually goes through the day starved and hungry by being generous to him.
“And from the wisdom behind fasting is that it trains one to curb the soul, and it gives one the strength to withhold his soul by its bridle, such that one can govern it and lead it towards that which is good for it and what will make it prosper. This is because the soul commands one to do evil, except for those souls that the Lord has mercy on.
“And from the wisdom of fasting is that the soul is broken down and restricted from having pride, to the point that it humbles itself to the truth and softens itself before the creation. This is because insolence, arrogance, vanity and pride over people and over the truth are usually subdued by fasting.
“And from the wisdom behind fasting is that the passageways of blood (in the body) become narrow due to hunger and thirst. Therefore the passageways of the Devil in the human body also become narrower, because the Devil flows through the son of Adam like the flowing of blood, as said by the Prophet. By fasting, the whisperings of the Devil are subdued and the strength of one’s desires is subjugated.
“And from the wisdom behind fasting are the health benefits that come as a result of it, which are attained by taking little food (for those who are mindful), allowing the digestive system to rest for a specified time, which lets excess wastes that are harmful to the body to be discharged.
“So how great and profound is the wisdom of Allah, and how beneficial are His commandments to His creatures!
“O Allah, give us comprehension of Your Religion and allow us to understand the inner secrets of Your commandments. Rectify for us the affairs of our Religion and our worldly life. And forgive us and our parents and all the Muslims, by Your mercy, O Most Merciful. And may the peace and blessings of Allah be on Muhammad and on his family and all his Companions.”
AND FROM YOUR COLUMNIST: A sha ruwa lafiya.