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THE MAIN AIM OF FASTING DURING RAMADAN

Sadeeqi Naseer


The blessed month of Ramadan is once again upon us and Muslims are obligated to
fast from dawn to dusk for the entire month, except those who are old, travelling, ill
or unable to fast. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and compulsory for every
believing Muslim.
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those
before you that you may become righteous.” (Quran 2: 183)
According to the Quran, fasting has been commanded to us as it was commanded to
all other communities of faith before Islam so that we become God conscious. The
purpose of fasting is to make you aware of the Lord and spirituality. There is no other
experience like fasting. It not only recharges the spiritual batteries that get depleted
through the year but also detoxifies the physical body.
The Ramadan is not only about giving up from food and water. It involves fasting of
appetite, senses, mind, and heart. It includes abstaining from sexual activities,
immoral acts and irresponsible acts like lying or hurting others. The ability to control
one’s desire gives a person the willpower to resist temptation and remain disciplined
by submitting one’s will to Allah. It requires a person to remain focused on Allah and
spiritual matters. Ramadan is the perfect time to come close to Allah and to reconnect
with Him.
The main aim of fasting is to develop the quality of righteousness (taqwa), inwardly
and outwardly, by abstaining from sinful deeds and training ourselves to control our
thoughts and desires. Fasting is a deeply spiritual practice that is meant to benefit us
in body, mind,and heart.
The word taqwa comes from the root meaning “to guard” and it is variously
translated as mindfulness, righteousness, and God-fearing piety. As to the definition
of taqwā, the clearest way to understand it is through the definition that was provided
by Abū Hurayra (ra). Someone came to him and asked, “What is taqwā?” He
responded by asking the man if he has ever walked through a thorny road. He said,
“Yes.” He asked, “What did you do?” He replied, “Whenever I saw thorns I would
avoid them or adjust my clothes to keep them safe.” Abū Hurayra told him,
“That’s taqwā”. Fasting is meant to instill this virtuous quality within us and its
associated virtues of good character, generosity, patience, purity of heart, and so on.

In this way, fasting acts as a shield which protects us from sin and ultimately from
the punishment of Allah in the Hereafter.
‘Uthman ibn Abi Al-‘As reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be
upon him, said:
“Fasting is a shield from the Hellfire just like the shield of any of you in battle.”
Source: Sunan Ibn Mājah 1639, Grade: Sahih
There are three levels of fasting that correspond to its outward and inward
components: abstaining from food and drink, abstaining from sins, and abstaining
from bad thoughts.
Al-Ghazali writes:
“ Know that there are three degrees of fasting: the fasting of common people, the
fasting of the elite, and the fasting of the elite of the elite. As for the fasting of the
common people, it is retraining the stomach from fulfilling its desires as has been
mentioned. As for the fasting of the elite, it is restraining one’s hearing, sight, tongue,
hands, feet, and all limbs from sin. As for the fasting of the elite of the elite, it is the
fasting of the heart from unworthy concerns and worldly thoughts and to restrain it
entirely from everything besides Allah the Exalted. If we do not abstain from bad
words while fasting as well as sins and bad inward statements, then our fasting has not
achieved one of its most important purposes. Allah certainly does not need any of us
to fast, so we must remember that the benefits our fasting might be nullified by these
sins. In addition to keeping away from sins, we can use the exercise of fasting as a
means to develop self-control over our low desires. Fasting generates will power within
the heart that can be transferred to other situations in which we need to overcome
temptation.
Zuhair reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“If one of you is invited to a meal while he is fasting, then let him say: Indeed, I am
fasting.” “ṢaḥīḥMuslim1150, Grade: Sahih”
If we can turn down a delicious meal and refreshing drink when we are hungry and
thirsty, then we can strengthen our will power to overcome other desires as well. For
this reason, the Prophet told young men who could not get married to fast in order to
control their natural urges.
Ibn Mas’ud reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“O young men, if you are able to support a wife, then get married. Verily, it restrains
the eyes and protects the private parts, but whoever is not able to do so then he has
the duty to fast because indeed it is a means of control’.” (Sahih Muslim, 1400).
Fasting also helps us in preventing the soul from fulfilling sinful desires and lusts. This
quality of self-control is one of the reasons people enter Paradise.
Allah said: “(Those) who feared the position of his Lord and prevented the soul from
(unlawful) inclination, Then indeed, Paradise will be (his) refuge.” (Qur’an, 79:40-41)
Likewise, fasting should be a means of developing control of our anger. For this
reason, Muslims should not argue or respond to slander while fasting.
Abu Huraira reported: “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him)
said: ‘The strong are not the best wrestlers. Verily, the strong are only those who
control themselves when they are angry’.” (Sahih Muslim, 2609) . Moreover, fasting
is a means for compassion for the poor and gratitude for the favors of Allah.
Abu Huraira reported: “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him)
said: “Look to those lower than you, and do not look to those above you, lest you view
the favors of Allah as trivial’.” (Sahih Muslim 2963)
The discomfort we feel while fasting should remind us of the suffering of those in
poverty who do not enjoy food security or clean water. By reflecting on their situation,
this should cause us to give in charity in order to relieve their suffering and to be
grateful for the blessings of Allah.
Finally, by fulfilling the purpose of fasting, a Muslim will be rewarded with salvation
in the Hereafter, protection from the Hellfire, and entry into Paradise. Every day
somewhere a Muslim is emancipated from the Hellfire due to his virtuous fasting.
Ramadan offers us an opportunity to exercise moral restraint for a positive spiritual
growth. It helps us to realize that nothing could give us a sense of spiritual fulfilment
than taqwa which can only be achieved by understanding the divine message and
following it in day-to-day life. It provides us with an opportunity to stop and think,
reflect back on our actions and make amendments. It is the perfect time to
contemplate our lives in light of Islamic teachings, see this world and our purpose with
a better understanding and clearer objectives. Some of the small sacrifices that we
make on this journey will definitely allow us to come closer to Allah and reap greater
rewards in the Hereafter May Allah accept from us all our good deeds in this month
and forgive us for our shortcomings. Ameen.

(Author is doing M.sc Jiwaji University Gwalior
Email. [email protected])