Abu Umaamah r.a.a. said: "I said: 'O Messenger of Allah, tell me of an action by which I may enter Paradise'. He said: 'Take to Fasting, there is nothing like it.' " [An-Nasaa'ee, Ibn Hibbaan, Al-Haakim, Saheeh]
In this hadeeth, the Prophet (s.a.w.) singled out fasting when asked about a deed that leads its doer to the best of rewards, Paradise. This fact alone is sufficient for us to understand the greatness of fasting.
Mere knowledge of the importance and superiority of fasting, however, is not enough for a Muslim to attain Allah's pleasure and then, in shaa' Allah, His great reward.
Indeed, the Prophet (s.a.w.) has said: "Perhaps a person fasting will receive nothing from his fasting except hunger and thirst." [Ibn Maajah, Ad-Daarimee, Ahmad, al-Baihaqee, Saheeh] This hadeeth should raise our concern about fasting and increase our desire to perform this act of worship with the best intention and in accordance with the Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w.).
The first step for a Muslim to realise is the fact that fasting the month of Ramadhan is obligatory and that Allah has prescribed it for us in His Book:
"Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may attain taqwaa." [2:183]
Thus Allah Ta`aalaa teaches us that Fasting is an obligation and a means to attain taqwaa, that which increases believers in their ranks with Allah swt:
"The most honoured by Allah amongst you are those best in taqwaa." [49:13]
Furthermore, we should realise the words of the Prophet (s.a.w.) in which he tells us that Allah the Exalted said: "The most beloved deeds with which my slave comes closer to Me are the obligatory deeds." [Saheeh al-Jami']
Virtues of Fasting as mentioned in the Qur'an and Sunnah
- The reward for fasting is immense, as mentioned in the following Hadeeth:
"Every action of the son of Adam is given manifold reward, each good deed receiving then times its like, up to seven hundred times. Allah the Most High said, 'Except for fasting, for it is for Me and I will give recompense for it, he leaves off his desires and his food for Me.' for the fasting person there are two times of joy; a time when he breaks his fast and a time of joy when he meets his Lord, and the smell coming from the mouth of the fasting person is better with Allah than the smell of musk." [al-Bukhaaree]
Also, Sahl ibn Sa`d said that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said: "Indeed there is a gate of Paradise called ar-Rayyaan. On the day of Resurrection those who fast will enter through it; no one enters it except for them, and when they have entered, it is closed so that no one enters it, so when the last of them enters it, it is closed, and whoever enters it drinks, and whoever drinks never becomes thirsty." [Ibn Khuzaimah, Saheeh].
- Fasting is a shield against the Fire:
"Fasting is a shield with which a servant protects himself from the Fire." [Ahmad, Saheeh]
- On the Day of Judgement, "Fasting will say: O My Lord I prevented him from food an desires so accept my intercession for him." [Ahmad, al-Haakim and Abu Nu'aim, Hasan]
- Fasting is a means for one's sins to be forgiven. The Prophet (s.a.w.) said: "He who fasts Ramadhan, due to Iman and hoping for reward (from Allah) then his past sins are forgiven." [al-Bukhaaree, Muslim]
- The supplication of the fasting person is answered: "There are in the month of Ramadhan in every day and night those to whom Allah grants freedom from the Fire, and there is for every Muslim an supplication which he can make and will be granted." [al-Bazzaar, Ahmad, Saheeh]
- Fasting is an expiation for various sins, as mentioned in the Qur'aan, in verses: 2:196, 4:92, 5:89, 5:95 and 58:3-4.
- The fasting person will be among the true followers of the prophets and the martyrs: `Amr ibn Murrah al-Juhaanee r.a.a. said: "A man came to the Prophet (s.a.w.) and said: 'O Messenger of Allah, what if I testify that none has the right to worshipped but Allah and that you are the Messenger of Allah, and I observe the five daily prayers, and I pay the zakaah, and I fast and stand in prayer in Ramadhan, then amongst whom shall I be?' He said: 'Amongst the true followers of the prophets and the martyrs.' " [Ibn Hibbaan, Saheeh]
- Fasting is a shield against one's base desires, as the Prophet (s.a.w.) told the youth: "O youths, whoever amongst you is able to marry then let him do so, since it restrains the eyes and protects the private parts, and he who is unable, then let him fast because it is a shield for him." [al-Bukhaaree, Muslim]
Once we realise the greatness of fasting and what achievement it leads to, we must put all our efforts in performing fasting in the best manner possible. And since fasting is worship, it must be done solely for Allah's sake, and no intention is accepted, other than pleasing Allah and seeking His Face with all one's sincerity. Without a correct intention, no deed is of any value in the Hereafter. We Muslims must constantly verify our intentions and consider why we perform fasting. Do we do so merely because it is the practice of our parents and friends, or do we do so because it is part of our tradition, or perhaps because we simply want to conform to our environment in order to avoid any problems? A Muslim who realises that only that which is with Allah remains, and that He (Swt) is the only One who grants and withholds, would not be of those to which the Prophet (s.a.w.) alluded in the Hadeeth: "On the Day of Judgement, a caller will cry out, 'Whoever performed a deed for someone other than Allah may seek his reward from that for which he performed the deed' " [Saheeh al-Jami].
By Br. Isa al-Bosnee [This article was published in the 11th issue of Nida'ul Islam magazine, January-February 1996]
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