Friday, 25 November 2011

Inner Secret of Fasting

Assalaamu'alaikum wa rahmatullah

Just a reminder for myself and sharing to beloved brothers and sisters may everyone be blessed. I had been very sad when my classmate of Palestine talked about the importance for me to take food because I used to fast. I realize about that, I am tiny and skinny unlike other build-up men. Even if I do not live in Gazah, but poor people are everywhere. I was a poor kid from a poor family when I was a child where we were pressured by the life in a big city (Kuala Lumpur) if not as big as New York city but it is still a city and a capital of a country. I am used to skip my meals and sometimes just taking veggies. Lack source of protein from malnutrition where I didn't take fish too. I was traumatized to see blood from the fish when I was a young child, hahahaa. It develops to be a habit now. I tried to take fish especially those with scales but I just can't so I avoid meals which consist fish or other seafood if I could sense them.

I never recommend others to perform intense optional fasting except to some friends that I know whom are memorizing the Glorious Quran as it is a way to ask Him to pour down the wisdom. It is for their own benefit to protect the "Quran" in their heart because nowadays the bearer of the Quran is very hard to find. I am just concerned about their well-being and wishing them luck. Just fast every week, two days in Monday and Thursday "if free." And obligatory to fast full month in Ramadan if able. I am also trying to memorize the Glorious Quran again after I had left it. I just recommend everyone to perform middle path as Islam is the middle path, no less, no over the limit. We just be human-being, not angel and not demon.

Even when my mum tried to fast too because she saw me did that, I became very angry. I don't want her or anyone to feel exhausted. I did that because I wanted to slow-down my mind from negative thoughts and as an offering for Him wishing He forgives my sins and my grandparents because I think I had wronged them. I didn't have the chance to apologize to them except that I only saw "grandpa" in dream during quarter of Ramadan 2009. Now I also began to feel bad that I had wronged parents and burdening them because I am still stuck here and they would have to support me while I don't want them to worry... :'(

Virtue of Fasting

Indeed the fast is only virtuous due to two significant concepts:

1. It is a secret and a hidden action. No one from the creation should be able to see it. Showing off cannot enter into fasting.
2. It is a means to subjugate the enemies of the God. It is due to that, His enemies embark upon the son of Adam and misguiding them through desires.

Through the notes, we know that the fast is a special quality which is not found in anything else. And that, it makes people close to the God as what He says in the Quran: "The fast is (only) for Me and I will reawrd it."  This connection is enough to show the status of fasting in the view of the God. Similarly, the Ka'abah is highly dignified due to its close connection to Him as what had been stated by the God: "And sanctify My House."

What strengthen the desires? Eating and drinking strengthen a wild desire. There are many reports indicating the merits of fasting and they are all well known by everyone.

Recommended Acts of Fasting

The pre-dawn meal and delaying in taking it is preferable as well as hastening to break the fast and doing so with dates. Be generous in giving during Ramadan Mubarak and try to increase charity according to the way of the messenger of the God, Muhammad s.a.w. Try to study the Quran while fasting and perform i'tikaf (meditating in masjid) during fasting. During Ramadan everyone could also perform this while free and increasing charity in the last 10 days.

In two valid hadiths, mother Aishah r.a reported: "When the last 10 days (of Ramadan) would come, Muhammad s.a.w would tighten his waist wrapper and he spend his night in worship, waking up his family for prayers." 

The scholars mentioned two views concerning the meaning of "tighten his waist-wrapper":

I. It means turn away from wife (or husband for sisters in faith).
II. It is an expression denoting prophet's eagerness and diligence in performing charity to offer to the God. 

During Ramadan, there is also special exertion in the last 10 nights where Muhammad s.a.w was seeking the Night of Power or Leylat al-Qadar as what is mentioned in Surah al-Qadar.  

Explanation of the Inner Secrets of Fasting

There are three levels of fasting...

1. General Fast

It is refraining of the stomach and private parts from fulfilling their desires through this discipline.  

2. Specific Fast

Refrain from one's gaze, tongue, hands, feet, hearing and eyes as well as the rest of the body from committing sinful acts. These acts of protecting parts of body is to protect the heart and mind from those which lead to negativity.
3. Further Specific Fast

Heart's abstention from its yearning after worldly affairs and thoughts which distance one away from the God as well as its abstention from all the things which associates the God with them.

Characteristics of Specific Fast

From the characteristics of the specific fast is that one lowers his gaze and safeguards his tongue from the repulsive speech that is forbidden, disliked, or which has no benefit as well as controlling the rest of body parts. 

A hadith reported by al-Bukhari mentioned: "Whoever doesn't abandon false speech and the acting which leads to it, the God is not in need of him leaving off his food and drink" (Saheeh Ibnu Dawud, Tirmidzi, Ibnu Majah). 

Another characteristic of the specific fast is that one doesn't overfill himself with food during the night after the breaking of fast. Instead, just eat in due measure, for the son of Adam doesn't fill a vessel more evil than his stomach. If a person were to eat his fill during the first part of the night, he would not make good use of himself for remembrance during the night. 

In the same manner, if he eats to his fill for pre-dawn meal, he does not make good use of himself until the noon. It is because excessiveness in eating for what is intended by the fast is that one savours the taste of hunger and becomes one who abandons desires. 

Characteristics of Further Specific Fast

Know that the one who has been given intellect, knows the objective of fasting. Therefore, he burdens himself to the extent that he will not be able to do that which is more beneficial than it. Ibnu Mas'ud would fast very little and it is reported he used to say that he would grow weak in prayer if he fast. So, he prefers the prayers over optional fasts. Some of the companions mentioned that fasting optional fast would weaken them in their recitation of the Quran if they perform optional fasting. So, they observe less optional fasts until they were able to balance their recitation. Every individual is knowledgeable of his condition and of what will rectify it. Choose to perform what is important first in optional acts of worship.

Recommended Fasts

Everyone should know the preference of fasting is established in certain virtuous days. Some of these virtuous days occur every year such as:

1. Fasting Six Days of Shawwal
2. Fasting during Arafah Day
3. Fasting during Ashura
4. Fasting during 10 days of Dzulhijjah and Muharram

Some occur every month such as:

1. Fasting during the first part of the month
2. Fasting during the middle part of the month
3. Fasting in the last part of the month

Some occur every week:

1. Monday
2. Thursday

The most virtuous recommended fasting is the fast of prophet Dawud a.s. He would fast one day and break his fast the next day. It serves the three objectives:

1. The soul is given its share on the day the fast is broken.
2. And on the day of fasting, it completes its worship in full.
3. The day of eating is the day to be thankful to the God. 

Fasting day is the day for patience. While our faith is divided into two halves that of the thankfulness and that of the patience. It is the most difficult struggle for the soul. It's due to that, every time the soul gets accustomed to a certain condition, it would transfer itself to that.

As for fasting everyday, there is a report by Muslim from the hadith narrated by Abu Qatadah which says, Umar r.a asked prophet Muhammad s.a.w: "What is the case if one were to fast everyday? So, prophet Muhammad s.a.w answered: "He did not fast nor did he break his fast."

This is concerning the one who fast continuously, even during the days in which fasting is forbidden. So beware with this. Check the calender and ask the guided teachers. Don't do anything without consulting nor getting the knowledge because we have Quran and Sunnah. If we have no knowledge, we must acquire ones and don't just blindly follow people without evidence. 

In South East Asia and South Asia, there are many spiritual movements which do not come from Quran and Sunnah basis but from Hindu-Buddhism roots as they try comply within local customs and traditions but they had forgotten that religion and custom have a thin line which differentiate them. Just be careful of who are the teachers, it means don't simply follow without further researches. And the God knows everything better than others.

Source: Mukhtasar Minhaj al-Qasideen
Translator: Isma'eel bin al-Arkan
Editor: Abu Khaliyl

Allahumma salli 'alaa Muhammad wa 'ala aali Muhammad... Sealed with prayer for mercy, peace, and love, amin!

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