The Greatest Goal of Fasting:
The first verse in the context of fasting ends with a great purpose and joins fasting with Taqwa. In Surat al-Baqarah (2:183), Allaah (Ta’ala) says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
“O you who believe! Observing As-Sawm (the fast) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun.”
The last verse in the context of fasting in Surat al-Baqarah has come exhorting to Taqwa, in Allaah’s Statement (2:187):
كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ آيَاتِهِ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ
“…Thus does Allaah make clear His Ayaat (proofs, evidences, lessons, signs, revelations, verses, laws, legal and illegal things, Allaah’s set limits, orders, etc.) to mankind that they may become Al-Muttaqun.”
So, the first verse in regards to fasting ends with the command to have Taqwa (piety) and encourages it, and the last verse in regards to fasting also ends with an exhortation to have Taqwa. Between these two verses, the verdicts (rulings) pertaining to fasting are mentioned in regards to the state of the traveler, the sick and the elderly. The verses also comprise the nullifiers of fasting, etc.
This clearly shows that the purpose or the goal that one should hope to achieve from fasting is Taqwa; and an act of worship such as fasting surely leads its person to Taqwa. Bear in mind the following two important points:
- Acts of worship are prescribed in Islam for acquiring (accomplishing) certain goals, which the slaves have to fulfil. This is stressed in all the pillars of Islam, e. Salaat (prayer), Sawm (fasting), Zakaat (alms-giving) and Hajj (pilgrimage).
Therefore, it is incumbent upon the slaves to give heed to them and fulfil them.
E.g. Whoever intends to offer Salaat should accomplish the purpose (goal) for which Salaat is prescribed, i.e. to be prevented from every kind of evil (wicked deed) and great sin. That is accomplished by offering the Salaat with Khushu’.
Similarly, when one observes fast, he should achieve Taqwa.
- Offering the acts of worship apparently (outwardly) could be sufficient as a means of acquittal; however, it does not yield any effect on the life of the slave.
E.g. When a person offers the Salaat without Khushu’, he will not increase in his faith, nor will his manners be refined. Nor will his Salaat prevent him from every kind of evil deed and major sin. If one maintains the pillars of Salaat, its obligatory and Sunnah acts, apparently only, then he has carried out the command (duty), but he does not achieve the goal behind his Salaat. Consequently, the Salaat will not have an impact on his life.
With regards to fasting, Allaah (Ta’ala) wills for His slaves to be led to Taqwa through fasting.
As one fasts more, his fasting will lead him to higher degrees of Taqwa, and that is only when one observes fast in the way pleasing to Allaah.
The Great Impacts of Taqwa
- Allaah (Ta’ala) made Taqwa a key to get out of every difficulty.
Allaah (Ta’ala) says in Surat at-Talaaq (65: 2):
وَمَنْ يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يَجْعَلْ لَهُ مَخْرَجًا
“…And whosoever fears Allaah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (of every difficulty).”
- Allaah (Ta’ala) made Taqwa the key to provision for the servants in (65: 3):
وَيَرْزُقْهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ ۚ وَمَنْ يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ بَالِغُ أَمْرِهِ ۚ قَدْ جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدْرًا
“And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whosoever puts his trust in Allaah, then He will suffice him. Verily, Allaah will accomplish his purpose. Indeed Allaah has set a measure for all things.”
- Allaah (Ta’ala) made Taqwa a key for making matters easy, especially when they become difficult and the gates seem closed. Allaah (Ta’ala) says in Surat at-Talaaq (65: 4):
وَمَنْ يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يَجْعَلْ لَهُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِ يُسْرًا
“And whoever fears Allaah – He will make his matter easy for him.”
- Allaah made Taqwa a means to expiate sins, multiply good deeds and multiply d Allaah (Ta’ala) says in Surat at-Talaaq (65: 5):
وَمَنْ يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يُكَفِّرْ عَنْهُ سَيِّئَاتِهِ وَيُعْظِمْ لَهُ أَجْرًا
“…and whosoever fears Allaah and keeps his duty to Him, He will remit his sins from him, and will enlarge his reward.”
- Taqwa will remain accompanying the person, taking him by his hand towards salvation, safety and exaltedness of his affairs till the Day of the greatest terror (i.e. Day of Resurrection), the Day of crossing the Siraat (the bridge). On that Day, there is no salvation except with Taqwa. This is because Allaah (Ta’ala) says in Surat Maryam (19:71-72):
وَإِنْ مِنْكُمْ إِلَّا وَارِدُهَا ۚ كَانَ عَلَىٰ رَبِّكَ حَتْمًا مَقْضِيًّا
“There is not one of you but will pass over it (Hell); this is with your Lord; a Decree which must be accomplished.”
ثُمَّ نُنَجِّي الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا وَنَذَرُ الظَّالِمِينَ فِيهَا جِثِيًّا
“Then We shall save those who used to fear Allaah and were dutiful to Him. And We shall leave the Dhaalimun (polytheists and wrongdoers, etc.) therein (humbled) to their knees (in Hell).”
Accordingly, when crossing the Siraat, one’s salvation from falling into Hell-Fire will be according to one’s portion of Taqwa that he had in his heart in the worldly life.
The True Fasting
It is necessary to know the correct manner of fasting in order to accomplish the purpose behind its legislation.
Fasting is not mere abstinence from food and drink and the rest of the nullifiers of fasting only; it is not just breaking our fast with those who break their fast; it is not fasting day after day, and carrying on that way till the end of the month without realizing for a moment that we are asked to accomplish Taqwa from our fasting. Fasting one day after another should make one ascend in the degrees of Taqwa.
We do not want our fast to be soulless (futile), i.e. when one neglects to accomplish (acquire) Taqwa from his act of worship.
It is required that one observes the fast from Fajr till Maghrib, while having the intention to increase in Taqwa by fasting that particular day.
May Allaah make a person prosperous in his affairs when he receives a new day in the month of Ramadan and he accomplishes this meaning.
The Relation between Taqwa and Fasting:
Allaah (Ta’ala) did not make the Salaat, Zakaat or even Hajj -which is one of the greatest acts of worship in Islam that requires a lot of effort, wealth and travelling, and consists of many other acts of worship- to be a means of attaining Taqwa. However, He particularized fasting from among all the other acts of worship to be a means of attaining Taqwa.
What helps one understand or answer this question is to know the virtues of fasting.
The Significance of Fasting and its Virtues in Islam:
- In the Qur’an and the Sunnah of Allaah’s Messenger (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), Allaah (Ta’ala) made fasting a great act of worship which He loves. And He chose to reward for it Himself, apart from the rest of the pillars of Islam, as is mentioned in the narration reported by Al-Bukhaari (Rahimahullaah) in his Saheeh. Allaah (Ta’ala) says in a Qudsi Hadeeth (about the fasting person): “He has left his food, drink and desires for My Sake, the fast is for Me. So I will reward the fasting person for it and the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten times.”
This is the law of our Lord in recompensing and rewarding His servants for their good deeds. He (Ta’ala) says:
من جاء بالحسنة فله عشر أمثالها
“Whoever brings a good deed [Islamic Monotheism and deeds of obedience to Allaah and His Messenger (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)] shall have ten times the like thereof to his credit.” [Surat al-An’aam (6:160)]
This reward is applied to all the acts of worship in Islam, whether it is Salaat, Sadaqah, Dhikr, Du’aa, dutifulness to parents, doing good to others, sponsoring orphans, doing good to a widow, helping the needy, etc. Every action in Islam follows this Divine law in recompense and reward: the reward is multiplied ten times by our Generous Lord.
However, Allaah (Ta’ala) says: “Except Fasting”. Fasting is the only act of worship which does not follow this rule.
Allaah (Ta’ala) says: “All the deeds of the sons of Adam (people) are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.” [Al-Bukhaari]
What will one’s expectation of a reward be for an act of worship about which Allaah, the Owner of Honor and Majesty, says: “It is for Me, I will give the reward for it”?
And when Allaah gives the reward for something, He gives the gift of the Most Generous, the Most Rich, i.e. He (Ta’ala) will give abundant and multiple rewards such that its reward will have no limit.
Ibn Hajar (Rahimahullaah) said: “Although all practices of worship are for Allaah (Ta’ala), here Allaah singles out fasting, because it cannot be practiced for the sake of show off as no one except Allaah can know whether one is observing fast or not. Therefore, fasting is a pure performance that cannot be blemished with hypocrisy.” [Fat-h al-Baari]
- When one looks into the texts and narrations quoted regarding fasting, one will find something very amazing.
The Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “The slave (of Allaah) who observes a day of fast in the Cause of Allaah, Allaah will distance Hell-Fire seventy years away from his face for that day.” [Agreed upon]
Fasting in the Cause of Allaah could imply the observance of fast while being engaged in Jihaad (battlefield). It could also mean a voluntary observance of fasting.
The Hadeeth means that whoever observes fasting, whether obligatory or voluntary (and it is more assured for the obligatory fast) seeking that (reward) which is with Allaah and nothing else, Allaah will keep the Hell-Fire away from his face for a distance of seventy years. This means that by the end of a month, if a person has observed fasting for 29 days, he will be kept away from the Hell-Fire, a distance of 2030 years. This is a glad tiding for everyone who observes fasting in the Cause of Allaah.
This reward is only particular to fasting in Islam and not any other act of worship.
- In a third Hadeeth, Abu Hurairah (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu) narrated that the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Fasting is a shield (or protection). So, the person observing fast should avoid sexual relations with his wife and should not behave foolishly and impudently, and if somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should say to him twice: ‘I am (observing) fasting.’” [Al-Bukhaari]
A shield means protection. Fasting protects the person from everything that is evil or that saddens him in his affairs in this world or in his Hereafter.
- It protects one from obscene and vile speech and actions.
- It protects one from deviation, etc.
- It protects one from the Wrath of his Lord and from the torment of Hell.
The reality of the protection that fasting brings to the person in his life is also indicated in the following Hadeeth:
The Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said while directing the youth of this nation: “He who can afford to marry should marry, because it will help him to lower his gaze (from looking at forbidden things and other women), and save his private parts (from committing illegal sexual acts, etc.) and he who cannot afford to marry is advised to observe fast, as fasting will diminish his sexual power (desire).” [Al-Bukhaari]
This means that fasting weakens and extinguishes the fire of desire in the slave. This is because abstinence from eating and drinking weakens the body due to lack of fuel. Accordingly the desire will be weakened. The human self is strengthened when he fills his stomach and becomes weak by its emptiness. Accordingly, the blood veins in which the Shaytaan flows will be constricted in the son of Adam. This is because the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Satan circulates in the human being as blood circulates in the body.” [Al-Bukhaari]
If the blood veins become constricted, the Shaytaan has no way to flow in the human body. So, with one’s fasting one will be away from the Shaytaan.
The Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also said: “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of Heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.” [Al-Bukhaari]
So, the month of Ramadan is an exceptional opportunity for one’s fasting to be his leader to the way of Taqwa. This is because one of the means of attaining Taqwa is being made easy by keeping Shaytaan away from the person. He (the Shaytaan) cannot enter through the fasting person.
From the aforementioned narrations, it is clearly shown that fasting is an act of worship which Allaah loves, and He (Ta’ala) has chosen it from among the rest of the acts of worship and particularized it with the reward of “It is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.”
Why does fasting, from among all the acts of worship, lead the slave to Taqwa?
When one observes fast and abstains from eating and drinking from Fajr to Maghrib, he is practicing an act which no one can know about except his Lord.
The fasting person abstains from eating and drinking although food and drink is available. He can break his fast without anyone knowing about it. His Taqwa of Allaah is refraining him from violating the prohibitions of Allaah and committing sins (the prohibited acts) whilst having the ability to do it.
The hypocrite may offer Salaat without any magnification for Salaat in his heart. He may even pray without purification or perform Wudu’ without anyone knowing about him, and his outward appearance shows that he prays with the people.
But he who truly fasts by abstinence from eating and drinking is the Muttaqee. When he refrains from eating and drinking he is refraining from a prohibition. He also refrains from unlawful actions although he has the ability and ease to commit them.
What prevents him from violating that prohibition is not that someone is watching him, but only out of fear of Allaah (Taqwa of Allaah).
This is the secret which Allaah has placed in the act of fasting. He said: “Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Muttaqun (pious).”
When we abstain from food and drink and having sexual relations with our spouse from Fajr (Dawn) to Maghrib (sunset), while having the ability to eat and drink without anyone seeing us, we are practicing these great meanings. We do so out of fear of Allaah and with full awareness of Allaah’s observation of us, a) hoping to attain the full reward and aspiration of not losing the reward for this act of worship, b) hoping to be righteous slaves who are Muttaqeen (pious) and righteous, and c) hoping that to have fulfilled our duty to our Lord by this act of worship without shortcoming or transgressing the limits of Allaah.
Accordingly, all these meanings and hopes should be brought to mind by the fasting person every day he observes fast, i.e. one should resolve and intend to be pious and accomplish Taqwa by his fast. With the beginning of every day (from Fajr) one should bring along this meaning in his intention: to be a pious slave. This should be the greatest goal that one intends to accomplish.
The second matter is that one should accomplish Taqwa in all aspects and affairs of his life. In this way the Taqwa which one learns through his fasting during the month of Ramadan, will be implemented in his life. This means to avoid committing unlawful actions out of fear of Allaah, to avoid disobedience to Allaah, to fear Allaah’s Wrath, to avoid violating the limits of Allaah, i.e. to apply all these meanings of Taqwa in all situations in one’s life.
For example: When dealing with relatives, neighbors, etc. one must practice Taqwa by giving them their rights and rendering their trusts, their loans, etc.
Another example: Refraining from taking money unlawfully, out of fear of Allaah, though it was in front of you and you were able to take it without anyone seeing you.
Another example: Lowering your gaze from looking at sinful things, uncovered women, films, obscene clips, etc., out of fear of Allaah, despite being able to look at them without anyone seeing you.
This is the reality of Taqwa which fasting nurtures in a person.
In the same way one abstains from eating and drinking while having the ability to do so, out of fear of Allaah, he should implement Taqwa in all his affairs.
One wakes up for the Fajr prayer out of fear of Allaah, not because he fears the people will miss him in the Masjid, or because his mother or father woke him up. He goes to the masjid because he does not want to miss the glad tidings which the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) gave to those who attend Fajr Prayer in congregation in the darkness, with perfect light on the Day of Judgment.
“بشر المشائين في الظلم إلى المساجد بالنور التام يوم القيامة“
“Give glad tiding to those who walk in the darkness to the mosques (for the Fajr prayer) with perfect light on the Day of Resurrection.” [Saheeh Al-Jamie’ 2823]
This person will feel sorrow if he misses the congregational prayer and considers it as a calamity in this world.
This is because his heart is filled with Taqwa of Allaah. Therefore, it is too hard (difficult) for him not to attend the Fajr prayer in congregation in the first row behind the Imaam. This is the reality of Taqwa which one acquires from fasting.
When true Taqwa is established in the heart of a slave, he will reach the rank of those whom Allaah has made eternal, their memory:
- Yusuf (‘Alayhis-salaam) was set as an example of chastity and one who protected himself from unlawful action.
Allaah (Ta’ala) says in Surat Yusuf (12:23):
وَرَاوَدَتْهُ الَّتِي هُوَ فِي بَيْتِهَا عَنْ نَفْسِهِ وَغَلَّقَتِ الْأَبْوَابَ وَقَالَتْ هَيْتَ لَكَ ۚ قَالَ مَعَاذَ اللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّهُ رَبِّي أَحْسَنَ مَثْوَايَ ۖ إِنَّهُ لَا يُفْلِحُ الظَّالِمُونَ
“And she, in whose house he was, sought to seduce him (to do an evil act), she closed the doors and said: ‘Come on, O you.’ He said: ‘I seek refuge in Allaah (or Allaah forbid)! Truly, he (your husband) is my master! He made my stay agreeable! (So I will never betray him). Verily, the Dhaalimun (wrong and evil-doers) will never be successful.’”
The owner of the house sought to seduce him; she was charming and of high noble birth. She prepared all the means to commit an evil act and closed the doors and she was the one to call him for illegal sexual intercourse. Who is able to hold himself against committing the unlawful act in a moment like this? By Allaah! There is no salvation for the slave no matter how far he has reached, but (except) that Allaah protected him. Therefore, Yusuf (‘Alayhis-salaam) said:
‘I seek refuge in Allaah’
And when she tried again to seduce him to commit the evil act by threatening him with imprisonment, as Allaah (Ta’ala) says in Surat Yusuf (12:32):
قَالَتْ فَذَٰلِكُنَّ الَّذِي لُمْتُنَّنِي فِيهِ ۖ وَلَقَدْ رَاوَدْتُهُ عَنْ نَفْسِهِ فَاسْتَعْصَمَ ۖ وَلَئِنْ لَمْ يَفْعَلْ مَا آمُرُهُ لَيُسْجَنَنَّ وَلَيَكُونًا مِنَ الصَّاغِرِينَ
“She said: ‘This is he (the young man) about whom you did blame me (for his love), and I did seek to seduce him, but he refused. And now if he refuses to obey my order, he shall certainly be cast into prison, and will be one of those who are disgraced.’”
Yusuf (‘Alayhis-salaam) sought refuge in Allaah again and said (12:33):
قَالَ رَبِّ السِّجْنُ أَحَبُّ إِلَيَّ مِمَّا يَدْعُونَنِي إِلَيْهِ ۖ وَإِلَّا تَصْرِفْ عَنِّي كَيْدَهُنَّ أَصْبُ إِلَيْهِنَّ وَأَكُنْ مِنَ الْجَاهِلِينَ
“He said: ‘O my Lord! Prison is more to my liking than that to which they invite me. Unless You turn away their plot from me, I will feel inclined towards them and be one (of those who commit sin and deserve blame or those who do deeds) of the ignorant.’”
So Allaah (Ta’ala) answered his invocation and turned him away from their plot. Allaah (Ta’ala) says in verse (12:90):
قإِنَّهُ مَنْ يَتَّقِ وَيَصْبِرْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُضِيعُ أَجْرَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
“Verily, he who fears Allaah with obedience to Him (by abstaining from sins and evil deeds, and performs righteous good deeds), and is patient, then surely, Allaah makes not the reward of the Muhsinun to be lost.”
We are badly in need of nurturing this meaning in our hearts. This meaning should reach us to the degree that when unlawful matters come to us in our house, in our rooms, in gatherings or when alone, and they are so easy to do and in our hands, we refrain from it out of fear of Allaah.
- In another Hadeeth, Abu Hurairah (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu) narrated that the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Allaah will give shade to seven on the Day when there will be no shade but His (one of them is): a man who refuses the call of a charming woman of noble birth for illegal sexual intercourse with her and he says: ‘I am afraid of Allaah.’” [Al-Bukhaari]
When the unlawful action (matter) comes to the Muttaqee, and he restrains himself from violating the prohibition because of his fear of Allaah, then this person has reached a degree of honor with Allaah and he will be shaded on the Day of Judgment and be admitted into Paradise.
Miqdad ibn al-Aswad (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu) narrated that the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “On the Day of Resurrection, the sun will draw so close to the people that there will be left the distance of only one mile.” Sulaim ibn ‘Amir said: ‘By Allaah, I do not know whether he meant by “mile” the mile of the (material) earth or an instrument for applying collyrium (kohl) to the eye.’ The people will be submerged in perspiration according to their deeds, some up to their knees, some up to their waist and some will have a bridle of perspiration, and while saying this, the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) pointed his hand towards his mouth.” [Muslim]
These are the honored (chosen) people with Allaah because of what they have in their hearts of Taqwa.
- The story of the three people in the cave is another example of having true Taqwa established in the heart; their Taqwa protected and prevented them from committing prohibited actions.
Taqwa is the strong handhold with which one holds in order to be protected from the plots of the Shaytaan.
Beware of losing the Reward of your Fasting
There are many people who exhaust the credit of their fast as soon as they get it. One might observe fast during the day in Ramadan with utmost righteousness, recite Qur’an, make Du’aa and pray Maghrib. He prays Taraweeh prayer and may even weep from the recitation of the Imaam. He offers the Salaat with humility and Khushu’ thereby ascending with his faith to high ranks. However, when he returns home at night he sits in front of the TV flipping through the channels, watching both good and evil programs and committing sins with his eyes, whether intentional or unintentional, till Suhoor time.
In this way he has wasted the credit that he collected from his fast during the day.
No wonder these people come out of Ramadan without any change in them; they waste the Taqwa they collect day after day.
O slave of Allaah! Be mindful, you are in need of every atom of Taqwa that you gain from your fasting. Don’t forget about the Day when you will pass over the Siraat. Collect as much Taqwa as you can and beware of the plots of Shaytaan who wants to deceive you and make you lose your credit of Taqwa and faith and make your fast, recitation of the Qur’an, and acts of worship to become scattered particles of dust.
والله يريد أن يتوب عليكم ويريد الذين يتبعون الشهوات أن تميلوا ميلا عظيما
“Allaah wishes (wills) to accept your repentance, but those who follow their desire wish that you (believers) should deviate tremendously away from the right path.” [Surat an-Nisaa’ (4:27)]
May Allaah shower mercy on a person who knows the reality of fasting and observes fasting faithfully, hoping for the reward from Allaah, and who seeks Taqwa in every minute and makes his sole and greatest concern to attain Taqwa from his fasting.
How fasting is a way to Taqwa? By Shaikh Hasan ‘Abdul-Hameed al-Bukhaari [The teacher in al-Masjid al-Haram and the staff of Umm al-Qura University]