Fasting does not mean abstaining from food and drink only, rather…‏

It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it, Allaah has no need of his giving up his food and drink.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (1804).

And it was narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “It may be that all a fasting person gets from his fast is hunger and thirst, and it may be that all a person who prays at night gets from his prayer is sleeplessness.” Narrated by Ahmad (8693); classed as saheeh by Ibn Hibbaan (8/257) and by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Targheeb (1/262).

The Sahaabah and the early generations of this ummah were keen for their fasting to be a purification for their souls as well as their bodies, free from disobedience and sin.

‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: Fasting does not mean abstaining from food and drink only, rather it is also abstaining from lying, falsehood and idle speech.

Jaabir ibn ‘Abd-Allaah al-Ansaari said: When you fast, then let your hearing, sight and tongue fast from lying and sin and stop abusing servants. Be tranquil and dignified on the day of your fast, and do not let the day you do not fast and the day you fast be the same.

It was narrated that Hafsah bint al-Sireen – who was a scholar of the Taabi’een – said: Fasting is a shield, so long as one does not make holes in it it, and making holes in it means gheebah (backbiting).

It was narrated from Maymoon ibn Mahraam that the least of fasting is giving up food and drink.

These reports were quoted by Ibn Hazm in al-Muhalla (4/308).

So it is no wonder if we learn that some scholars regarded the fast as invalid if a person falls into sin during his fast, even though the correct view is that this does not invalidate the fast, but undoubtedly it detracts from it and goes against the real meaning of fasting.

Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:

Backbiting damages the fast. It was narrated from ‘Aa’ishah, and al-Awzaa’i also said this, that backbiting breaks the fast of the fasting person and he has to make up that day. Ibn Hazm went further and said: It is invalidated by every sin that a person commits deliberately, when he is aware that he is fasting, whether it is an action or a word, because of the general meaning of the words “he should not utter obscene speech or behave in an ignorant manner” and because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it, Allaah has no need of his giving up his food and drink.” End quote. Fath al-Baari (4/104).

Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:

As for the thing from one which must abstain when fasting, perhaps you will be surprised if I tell you that the thing from one which must abstain when fasting is sin. A person must abstain from sin when fasting because this is the primary aim of fasting, because Allaah, may He be blessed and exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):

“O you who believe! Observing As-Sawm (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious)” [al-Baqarah 2:183].

It is not so that you may become hungry, or so that you may become thirsty, or so that you may refrain from relations with your wife! No; He says “that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious).” This is the primary aim of fasting. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) affirmed that when he said: “Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it and ignorant behaviour, Allaah has no need of his giving up his food and drink.” So if a person refrains from disobeying Allaah, this is true fasting. As for outward fasting, this is abstaining from things that invalidate the fast and refraining from things that break the fast from dawn until sunset as an act of worship towards Allaah, because of the verse in which Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“So now have sexual relations with them and seek that which Allaah has ordained for you (offspring), and eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night), then complete your Sawm (fast) till the nightfall” [al-Baqarah 2:187].

We call this kind of fasting outward fasting, which is the fasting of the body only. As for the fasting of the heart, which is the primary aim of fasting, this means refraining from disobedience towards Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted.

Based on this, if a person observes the fast outwardly, in the physical sense, but he does not fast in his heart, then his fast is severely deficient, but we do not say that it is invalid, rather we say that it is lacking. Similarly, we say concerning prayer that the aim of prayer is humility before Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted, and prayer of the heart comes before prayer of the limbs, but if a person prays physically but not with his heart, not focusing at  all, then his prayer is very deficient, but it is still valid as it appears to be, but is very deficient. Similarly the fast is very deficient if a person does not refrain from disobeying Allaah, but it is valid, because acts of worship in this world are to be judged as they appear to be. End quote.

Liqaa’aat al-Baab il-Maftoohah (116, p. 1).

The scholars divided patience into three categories:

patience in obeying Allaah, patience in refraining from disobeying Him, and patience in accepting the Divine decree. Fasting combines all these kinds of patience.

Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:

The best kind of patience is fasting, for it combines all three types of patience. It is patience in obeying Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted, and it is patience in refraining from disobeying Him, because a person gives up his desires for the sake of Allaah even though his self may be longing for them. Hence it says in the saheeh hadeeth that Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted, says: “All the deeds of the son of Adam are for him, except fasting. It is for Me and I shall reward for it, because he gives up his desire and his food and drink for My sake.” Fasting also involves patience in accepting the consequences which may result in hunger and thirst for the fasting person. End quote.

Jaami’ al-‘Uloom wa’l-Hikam (p. 219).

Whoever manages to fast as Allaah has prescribed will attain a great reward from his Lord, may He be blessed and exalted. It is sufficient for him to know that Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“Only those who are patient shall receive their reward in full, without reckoning” [al-Zumar 39:10]

In order for the Muslim to protect his fasting from being deficient due to committing sins, he must achieve patience in refraining from sin. One of the scholars said that patience in refraining from sin is greater than the other two types of patience.

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:


Here there is an issue which people debated about: which type of patience is better – patience in refraining from sin or patience in obeying Allaah? One group of people suggested that the former is better, and they said that patience in refraining from sin is the attitude of the siddeeqeen, as some of the salaf said: Good deeds are done by righteous and immoral alike, but no one has the power to refrain from sin except a Siddeeq, and because the motive to commit sin is greater than the motive to stop being obedient, because the motive to commit sin is pleasure, but the motive to stop being obedient is laziness and sloth, and undoubtedly the motive to commit sin is stronger.


They said: Sin may be promoted by one’s own self, whims and desires, the shaytaan, worldly reasons, a man’s companions, a desire to imitate, and natural inclinations. Any one of these factors may cause a person to commit sin, so how about if they are combined and prevail over the heart? What patience can be stronger than patience in refusing to respond to them? If Allaah did not give him patience, he would not be patient by himself.

This argument, as you can see, is very strong and very clear.

End quote

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