Fasting and Faith

By Maulana Syed Mohammed Hashim Fazil Shamsi


Allaah pours His enormous bounties and manifests His choicest grace in innumerable ways during the holy month of Ramadhan and thus the month takes on a special sanctity and stands out distinct and hallowed amidst ceaseless flow of time. This is the month of fasting. This is the month of glorious divine revelation – The Infallible Qur’aan. This is the month of the triumph of truth over the forces of evil, darkness, heathenism and tyranny. This is the month of worship and prostration, of righteousness and abstinence, of boundless blessings, of ready forgiveness, of eternal salvation and of immense heavenly reward.


A night of grace falling in this month is more sacrosanct than all the sanctities associated with a thousand nocturnal vigils of the pious ones. In this holy month optional prayers have been raised to the status of the obligatory and those obligatory bring forth seventy-fold extra recompense. In this holy month all the doors of Paradise are flung open; while those of Hell are shut tight and the devil and his disciples are kept in leash.


In the holy month of Ramadhan our devotion becomes more intense, our nobler qualities attain a certain consummation and our faith in the One Creator strikes firmer roots. We are trained to receive the bounties of this world and of the next and a thoroughly new spirit is infused in us so much so that our personalities undergo a complete overhaul. Allaah says


“O Believers, fasting is made obligatory to you as it was made obligatory to the communities preceding you, in order that you may become righteous.”


This gives rise to a number of questions. Who is the righteous one? What benefits does one derive from the act of righteousness? How does fasting make one righteous? Righteousness ordinarily means abstinence and resistance to temptations. Things that may injure our health are to be avoided with a studied care and this alone ensures a sound physique. Physicians cure the ailments of the body. For the purpose they prescribe medicines and advise abstinence from certain foods. Before ailments, preventive measures are taken and special instructions issued so that the danger of disease may be averted. Much in the same way, spiritual maladies threaten to undermine our spiritual health and so these must be checked before they get aggravated. If we are steeped in the delights of the senses, our spiritual being will stand paralysed. Our life on the earth is transitory, so are all its joys and charms. A time will come when all hectic activities associated with human existence will be terminated. But on the contrary, our spiritual life is an everlasting and eternal one. So its delights and ecstasies are as permanent as are its afflictions and anguish. So he who is not a slave to temptations and does not pollute his soul with impurities and strives for a life of eternal blessings is the wisest, as only a clean and untarnished soul is fit to be united with the oversoul.


Temptations tend to doom one’s soul. The carnal desires are the fetters that strangulate the soul and it loses its innate delicacies and radiance. Temptations are the devil’s traps and their obvious baits are foods and drinks and various manifestations of sexual appetite. The only way to escape this trap is to gain control over the restive desires and muzzle their persistent demands. When desires are effectively curbed and restrained, our soul will stay safe from the devil’s trap and this safety of soul is the best guarantee of our temporal achievements too.


In the struggle of life, what ensures success is determination and unswerving steadfastness. If constant efforts and perseverance are lacking, one is not likely to succeed even in the mundane affairs, let alone the conquest of the world of spirit.


A man who can spurn all the choicest delicacies for the sake of Allaah is alone capable of resisting all worldly temptations and of finally accomplishing astounding feats of physique and intellect and thus his feather-light soul will be eminently suited to a celestial flight promising union with the infinite being, which incidentally marks the highest culminating point in the successful career of a human soul. According to Hadith, Allaah says:


“Fasting is for Me and I Myself am the reward thereof.”


Thus we can gain physical health, spiritual illumination and even worldly glory through fasting. Man is freed from the bondage of evil desires and enlisted among those especially chosen by God Himself for His lavish bounties. It is they who deserve to be called the righteous ones. Fasting is important too from religious points of view. With self purified and soul made delicate through fasting, a man instinctively desists from all such evils that are likely to cause disruption in society. Sins which might stain the whole social fabric are dissolved through the institution of fasting. Thus fasting helps create a balanced and tension-free society where strife ceases and goodwill grows; where everything is in perfect accord with everything else. To achieve highest degree of piety fasting is a purifying process while recitation from the Qur’aan and Taraweeh (special prayers during Ramadhan) remedy the maladies of the soul. During this holy month, a Muslim renews his pledge of eternal bondship to Allaah by reciting and understanding the Qur’aan and thus bringing about great harmony between his body and soul, between his inner self and the outer. His renewed pledge binds him to a life of constant piety under the guidance of the Qur’aan and this transformation enables him to appear before God with a light conscience and illuminated spirits.


During the holy month of Ramadhan there is a night of indescribable pageantry which Allaah Himself asserts to be a night having precedence over a thousand months. One who prays at this sacred night will be deemed to have prayed for a thousand months at a stretch. Such easy access to total grace!


It was during this holy month that Truth confronted Falsehood in the battle of Badr. On the 17th Ramadhan this encounter took place and some 313 fasting, poorly clad and poorly equipped Muslims clashed with the enemies of Allaah much bigger in size and material resources and of course, with superior weaponry, and inflicted such a crushing defeat on them that the annals of warfare have fewer parallels to match this feat of chivalry and valour.


The battle of Badr is a clear vindication of the infallibility of the Qur’aan and the Divine promise that Truth shall always triumph. This battle reminds us that full reliance on Allaah is the key to all victories and the matter of equipments and resources is at best of subsidiary consideration. In any battle fought in the name of Allaah and for the sake of Allaah, victory shall be on the side of the righteous ones.


The Qur’aan proclaims in unequivocal terms that Islam alone is the religion approved by Allaah. Among the revealed scriptures, the Qur’aan alone has the distinction of being enshrined in the hearts of people and thus secure against all interpolations and distortions. All prophecies made before the advent of Islam pointed to the fact that Allaah would have His laws (The Qur’aan) inscribed on the hearts of men.


In the last ten days of the holy month Etikaff (intensive meditations within the confines of the mosques) is a source of special benediction. The night preceding the Idd days is called Jaiza and is profusely blessed because Allaah in His infinite pleasure opens the treasure-house of his bounties for the devoted ones. Most people, overwhelmed with the anticipated joys of Idd, ignore this night and spend it in frivolities. This night spent in fervent prayers guarantees manifold rewards, acceptance of a month-long penance and piety and a life made pure, as that of a newborn, innocent babe.






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