O you who believe! Fasting is ordained for you... may acquire self-restraint.
Divine Injunctions About Ramadhan
The third Divine Command in the Chapter of Virtue is about fasting. A special style of expression has been adopted here. Earlier mankind was called upon in general to worship Allah-SWT : “O People! Worship your Rabb-SWT ”. But here the address is direct: “O you who believe! Fasting is ordained for you, as it was for those before you.” The reason for this change in expression is obvious. The first addressee was mankind and the second are the Muslims, and for them has been made a special arrangement for spiritual training and attainment of Mercy.
In fact, a human being comprises a Spirit and a physical body. Just as the body is a solid dense form of matter, the Spirit is extremely subtle, subtler than the angels including those bearing Allah-SWT’s Throne. The Spirit is united to the physical body so that the body can worship Allah-SWT.Now when this physical body, in spite of its multifarious needs and availability of means to fulfil them, prefers to enforce upon itself the laws of Allah-SWT rather than its own desires, it qualifies for His-SWT nearness. The Spirit by itself could remain engaged in Allah-SWT’s worship, but this act would have been similar to that of the angels who ceaselessly worship Allah-SWT.Since they have no encumbrances to deter them from worship, they make no progress beyond the status assigned to them. But when man enters the practical life, he possesses a definite standing in terms of knowledge and practice. He is conversant with the provisions of the world and their characteristics; he needs them and derives comforts and pleasure from them.
If he employs the code laid down by Allah-SWT for exploiting these resources he is blessed with His-SWT nearness and truly becomes human. But if he becomes hedonistic and gets lost in the fulfillment of his desires, he falls from the exalted status of humanity, and becomes far worse than the animals. The level where a person ignores his desires and prefers Allah-SWT’s obedience above everything is acquired only when his Spirit is strong to overwhelm the faculties of his physical body. This is possible only when the Spirit has established its connections with Allah-SWT and the superlative form of this connection is that of the Prophets-AS. It is so strong that they can never act against Allah-SWT’s Will, and are innocent. The rest of the creation connects itself to Allah-SWT through the Prophets-AS. Whosoever takes Shahadah gets linked with Allah-SWT , and once enrolled as a believer qualifies for His-SWT special addresses and rewards. Whereas Allah-SWT prescribed ways for fulfilling the needs of the physical body, whereby, along with satiation, Allah-SWT’s obedience may also be observed. At the same time, He-SWT has also prescribed obligatory worship, that are financial, physical and of life itself.
Worships indeed are the food for the Spirit and the provisions for its life. Those who get connected to Allah-SWT are provided with the sources to attain further spiritual strength and Allah-SWT’s nearness; of these fasting is one of the major means. That is why it has been made obligatory for the believers. It is such an important worship that it was obligatory for the earlier believing nations too, with variation in the days or the details. It is obligatory for the Muslims, so that they can establish a strong connection with Allah-SWT called Taqwa, which is the real aim of fasting. The literal meaning of Saum (fasting) is to abstain and in terms of Shari'ah it stands for abstaining from eating, drinking and coitus from dawn to dusk. If after dawn or before sunset anything is eaten, no matter how little, the fast is invalidated.
As far as the benefits of fasting are concerned, these are plenty; rather it is one of the pillars of Islam. Whereas a Muslim abstains from all forbidden things around the year, during the blessed month of Ramadhan he abstains from even the permissible things for a prescribed time, thus demonstrating the highest level of obedience to Allah-SWT’s Commands. By doing so he develops a semblance with the angels in spite of living on earth and possessing a material existence, which facilitates him in acquiring Allah-SWT’s Mercy. As a result he attains Taqwa; a special relationship with Allah-SWT and the Holy Prophet-SW that checks his limbs against wrongful actions. It does not let him transgress the limits set by Allah-SWT .
A fixed number of days! But if any of you is sick or on a journey, for him is the like number from other days. And for those who face hardships is redemption: the feeding of a poor man. But whoever does good of his own accord, it is better for him. And it is better for you to fast, if you only knew.
The days of fasting are few in number, whereas to enjoy foods and drinks, elven months are open. Only one month is ordained for fasting, and that too carries exemptions for the sick and the traveler, who may not fast during their sickness or journey However, they must complete their count after the prescribed month, when healthy or stationed so that they are not deprived of the blessings altogether. The term ‘sick’ refers to that patient who would have to endure an unbearable pain by fasting or whose disease is most likely to aggravate. The term ‘traveler’ refers to that person who leaves for a destination accessible after three days of journey on foot. This distance, according to a consensus of the jurists, derived from the sayings of the Holy Prophet-SW and the practice of the Companions-RAU, is forty-eight miles. When a traveler intends to stop over for fifteen days at a particular station during his journey, he becomes like a resident. But if the intended stay is only for a couple of days and he is ever ready to move, but for some genuine reason, continues to extend his stay, and even if the duration exceeds fifteen days he would still be considered a traveler. He must stay for fifteen interrupted days in various cities, he would still be a traveler. If the patient after recovery, and the traveler after returning home, survives the number of days required to complete their counts, it is incumbent on them to fast for the missed days. However, if they die before getting this opportunity, they are absolved of the responsibility. Besides, there is no restriction on the order in which the count is completed. The only requirement is to fast for the number of days missed, even at random and leave the rest to Allah-SWT , Who-SWT knows best.
Fine For Not Fasting
This refers to that category of people who are neither sick nor traveling, but would not like to fast and are willing to pay compensation in lieu. In the early days of Islam, it was prescribed for them to feed one needy person. But the next revelation revoked it and laid down that every one but the sick and the traveler will fast during Ramadhan. However, those travelers, sick or old who do not have the strength to fast, or those sick or old who have no hope of recovery must pay the ransom. The quantity prescribed for ransom is almost one kilo and six hundred forty seven grams of wheat and its market price must be paid to one needy. Neither should the amount be divided amongst two nor should the ransom for many days be given to one person at one time. If a person cannot afford ransom, he must beg for Allah-SWT’s forgiveness and must make a resolve that he would pay it as soon as he has the means. Although availing these concessions is also piety, yet it is far better to fast, because the merit attained by fasting cannot be had through ransom. Therefore, it is better to fast, and it may not be taken as something ordinary, for this month enjoys a special excellence over the rest.
Ramadhan is the month in which the Quran was revealed... may be thankful
The Superiority Of Ramadhan
It is this blessed month in which the Quran was revealed, which is Allah-SWT’s own Message. It is the sublime guidance for the entire mankind, adorned with clear signs differentiating between truth and falsehood. Amongst all possible imaginable material or spiritual blessings it is the most superior gift that a helpless and humble creation is addressed by its carefree Creator with Mercy and is honoured with His-SWT Message. Praise be to Him-SWT !
It is this blessed month in which the Divine Message was revealed. According to Hadith all the Divine Books and Scriptures were revealed during Ramadhan. The Quran itself was sent down from the Guarded Tablet to the earthly heavens, in an auspicious night of Ramadhan. And then, over a period of twenty-three years, it was continuously revealed unto the most sacred Qalb of the Holy Prophet-SW. Ramadhan is a month of great benediction. Therefore, whosoever is present in this month must fast. Being present means that a person qualifies for fasting i.e. is a Muslim, an adult and sane. If a non-believer embraces Islam, or if a minor turns an adult any time during Ramadhan, they will be obliged to fast for the rest of the month without having to worry for the days missed before this event. But if a Muslim turns insane he will fast for all missed days after he regains his senses. Similarly a patient, a traveller or a menstruating woman will fast for the days they have missed, as soon as they are able to. The term ‘being present’ also alludes to sighting the moon or getting the news from a reliable witness, or the completion of thirty days of Sh'ban, whence the month of Ramadhan will commence. However, if the weather is cloudy on the twenty-ninth of Sh'ban and the moon is not sighted, or if no reliable evidence is provided, there will be no fasting on the following day. The Holy Prophet-SW prohibits fasting in case of doubt.
Days And Nights Of Six Months
In certain countries days and nights extend over a period of six months each. These are exceptional circumstances as the month of Ramadhan cannot be identified there as such and besides the Hanafi scholars have enjoined upon those people to offer their five Salat according to their six-month long day for example, if the dawn follows immediately after Maghrib, the ‘Isha’ prayer will not be obligatory anymore. Maulana Thanvi-RUA agrees with this opinion. Some scholars have adopted a different view in light of the Hadith which alludes to the indications of the appearance of Dajjal (the Anti-Christ), whence the day will be as long as seven years, and then two years lesser. The Companions-RAU are reported to have inquired, “O Messenger-SW of Allah-SWT ! How would one offer Salat?” He-SWT replied that these would be offered by approximation, completing five in a day.
This means that the number of Salat to be offered in a year-long day would be the same as offered in one year. Therefore, those people will have to offer their Salat by approximation.
There is a subtle point here, that during the time of Dajjal, the day will not become actually longer but will feel as such because of the conditions he would create. The Salat for one year will have to be offered by approximation in the year-long day. But in the countries under discussion, where the day is actually of six months while in the rest of the world six months pass by against their one-day the situation demands that they should have only five Salat obligatory in their whole day while fasting will not be obligatory because of non-identification of Ramadhan. But it is far better to be careful. Just as they determine their timings with the help of watches, in order to keep in touch with the rest of the world, they should do the same for worship, which, for the Spirit, is like food for the body. If food is a necessity for the sustenance of physical body, the worship too, is necessary for the Spirit. When such people make so much effort to assign the timings for their meals why shouldn’t they do the same for their spiritual nourishment?
To reiterate the point, whosoever finds Ramadhan must fast, and for the patient and the traveller there are concessions. They can miss their fasts during ailment or journey as the case may be, but must complete the count afterwards, and Allah-SWT makes things easier for mankind.
The Spirit Of Eid
The believers must praise the magnificence of Allah-SWT , as He-SWT guided them, gave them existence, faculties, senses, wisdom and blessings. He-SWT is all-Powerful to withdraw these if He-SWT so desires; yet He-SWT only commands a willing restraint for a while, with the promise to bless them with a special reward for this act.
Praise be to Allah-SWT ! Such generosity can only be His-SWT Attribute, as He-SWT is the Most Magnificent. Thus Muslims must acknowledge His-SWT Favours and be grateful to Him-SWT for the mercy and blessings being showered on them.
And when My-SWT servants ask you about Me-SWT , ...so that they are led aright.
The Acceptance Of Prayers
One aspect of fasting is exemplary obedience, the other is the acceptance of Payers by Allah-SWT.Since a person observing fast forsakes everything that can distract him, such as food, coitus etc., thus his entire attention is focused upon Allah-SWT.This condition is declared ideal for His-SWT nearness and acceptance of prayers. Allah-SWT is in fact, always very close; it is man who gets so entangled in his needs that these absorb all his attention. But when he forsakes all these things by Allah-SWT’s Command, he is blessed with a special degree of Divine nearness.
Allah-SWT addresses the Holy Prophet-SW: “When My-SWT servants ask you about Me-SWT , tell them I-SWT am very close.” The term ‘My-SWT servants’ refers to those busy serving Allah-SWT ; who have all their attention focused on Him-SWT and so they attain His-SWT nearness and their prayers are accepted. And all this is possible only when they are determined to obey Him-SWT , for which first of all they must acknowledge His-SWT Magnificence and believe in Him-SWT and His-SWT Attributes. And then dedicate all their efforts to the execution of His-SWT Commands so that they may qualify for His-SWT nearness and the acceptance of prayers. This indeed is the aim of life and the path of righteousness. It also indicates that the prayers of a fasting person are answered, a fact also supported by Hadith. Besides the words ‘I-SWT am very close’, imply that supplication must be made quietly and within oneself.
Love making with your women on the night of the fast,... other people’s riches.
Lives Of Companions-RAU-A General Standard
It must be understood that Allah-SWT , having declared the Companions-RAU as a standard, has implemented the laws of Islam. That is why people upon seeing the Karamah of the Aulia sometimes wonder, why did so many originated from the Aulia and not from the Companions-RAU who enjoyed a singular status. One of the reasons is that they were declared as a general standard, and if they found any injunction difficult to execute, Allah-SWT made it easier for them. For their great favours, the entire Ummah is indebted to them. Take this particular injunction, for example. In the beginning, the rule of Ramadhan was that one was allowed to eat, drink or have coitus after Iftar only, until he remained awake. But once he slept the next fast would commence. Some of the Companions-RAU could not resist going to their wives, but did not conceal this fact like we would have done, and went to the Holy Prophet-SW the very next morning and confessed their mistake.
Some of the Companions-RAU faced a different situation. Like Hadhrat Qais bin Sarfa-RAU of the Ansar; who returned home one evening, after a daylong labour and found that there was nothing to eat. His-RAU wife went out to arrange for some food, but before she returned he had fallen asleep and thus the fast had commenced. So when he woke up he could not eat anything. The next afternoon he fainted because of weakness. Thus Allah-SWT permitted food, drink and marital relationship with the spouses through the night, and fixed the time of commencement of fast. One was allowed to sleep during the night and eat before the appearance of the white thread of dawn. Rather eating at dawn became a Sunnah.
Husband And Wife
The marital relationship with wives was permitted during the nights of Ramadhan, as it was difficult for some to resist, with the provision that this relationship must not be maintained only for lust, but the objective ordained by Allah-SWT must be sought for. The contract of marriage called Nikah is indeed a sacred covenant whereby a man and a woman together lay the foundation of a family and perform the noble task of procreation and preservation of human race. It is, therefore, imperative that they be co-operative, loving and sincere towards each other. By doing so, they will contribute good and noble individuals to the society. They should rear a generation in such way that they become chosen servants of Allah-SWT .
Husband and wife are one another’s garment. It is the attire, which is a source of elegance as well as protection from the weather. It covers up the physical body safeguarding modesty and concealing its shortcomings. Both spouses should mutually safeguard one another in terms of wealth, honour and life. They must try to be a source of mutual comfort and pleasure. Allah-SWT made things easier for them, and forgave their previous mistakes, so from now on they may eat and drink and copulate during the nights of Ramadhan until the white streak of dawn becomes distinct from the darkness of night. Then the fast ought to be completed till dusk.
The Status Of Sunnah
The injunction repealed here is not proved from Quranic text, but was acted upon on the instruction of the Holy Prophet-SW. But here it has been declared as Allah-SWT’s Command; because it is a command endorsed by the Sunnah.
Therefore, now the timings for starting and breaking the fast have been fixed, that is, it is permissible to eat and drink until the breaking of dawn becomes distinct from the darkness on the horizon. On mere doubt, it is not correct to commence the fast early. The Holy Prophet-SW is reported to have said: ‘Do not stop eating on the Azan by Bilal-RAU as he calls out while it is still night. But commence your fast on the Azan by Ibn-e Kulthum-RAU who calls out at dawn’.
But these instructions apply to those who can read the horizon correctly, others must be very careful and must either ask someone or hear the Azan themselves. If someone ate beyond the defined time, assuming it wasn’t over yet, discovered his mistake, he must fast for another day to complete the count although he will not be guilty. The fast lasts till sunset, and is not into the night, as is clear from the Quranic words E-lall-Lail.
When the darkness emerges from the East after sunset and before it spreads, the fast must be broken. If someone, by mistake, breaks his fast minute or so before time and later discovers that it was not correct, he must fast for another day to complete the count. But if the commencement is delayed deliberately or breaking of fast is hastened, expiation would be mandatory. Therefore, those who call out the Azan must be very careful as many people rely on them for their Ramadhan schedule. Now the rule of I’tekaf also stands clarified. Sexual relationship with the spouse is not permitted during I’tekaf, which means retreating to the masjid during Ramadhan, with definite rules, and to do so in the last ten days of the month is the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet-SW. Men can stay only in masaajid for I’tekaf and that also in those masaajid where the congregational Salat is held five times a day. As for eating and drinking the rules are the same except that marital relations with wife are not permitted. Engaging in any needless conversation or leaving the masjid without a genuine excuse is not allowed either. Fiqh books may be consulted for details pertaining to I’tekaf. These are the limits laid down by Allah-SWT , so keep away. There should be no over stepping of these limits during fasting, including kissing, hugging between spouses, and it is desirable and cautious to prefix and suffix a minute or so in commencement and breaking of the fast respectively.
The wealth and possessions of one another must not be seized unlawfully. Nor should anyone misinform those in authority, so that it may help one to usurp the wealth of others. This injunction, in a way, is the essence of fasting because a person, despite possessing permissible and pure food, delays its intake from dawn to dusk just to obey Allah-SWT.So does it then befit him to take anything unlawfully from anyone?
Well-Known Means Mandatory To Earn Livelihood
It is obviously unbecoming of a believer to usurp the wealth of others by deceit, which is a detestable act with Allah-SWT.In fact, the good or bad aspect of wealth is judged by the means employed to earn it, a principle accepted by all nations of the world. It is almost universally agreed that stealing, robbing, or deceit etc. are incorrect means of attaining wealth. And there are certain means, which are acceptable to some but not to others. The reason being that, the thought process of every nation is commensurate with her temperament and national interests. That is why no universally acceptable law could be enacted, despite so many international conferences. As a result, perpetual enmity continues to prevail between various nations.
Islam is a Divine Law for the entire mankind laid down by the Creator of the universe Who-SWT not only gave life to His-SWT creations but also created their needs, provided the means for fulfilling them and taught the method to benefit from these means. This method alone can ensure peace and safeguard the rights of everyone. It is a balanced and a comprehensive code in conformity with natural, needs. For example, the things of common interest such as air, water, wild forests etc. are free for all to share.
The law of individual ownership, including transfer of property, has been enacted for things, which when shared, may disrupt the human society. Great emphasis is laid on the fact that, whosoever, works hard for acquiring provisions of life should not be deprived of his rights, nor should he harm others by usurping theirs. That is why mutual consent of both parties has been made mandatory in all such matters, whether it is transfer of ownership, division of inheritance, terms of payment of wages or buying or selling. And all those means have been made unlawful which have any element of deceit or transgression, such as charging money for an uncertain or unknown commodity or service which affects the rights of the public at large, e.g. gambling, interest etc. These matters cannot become legal even if the parties concerned agree upon the terms of transactions. Misappropriating the wealth of others is in reality wasting one’s own wealth, because when it becomes a common practice, the wealth of the swindler will suffer the same consequences. For example, if the milkman adulterates milk to earn extra money, he would, in turn, be similarly robbed by the grocer. And when everyone violates the rights of others, it will result in widespread unrest on earth.
No one should covet the possessions of others, nor should anyone initiate lawsuits to usurp the rights of anyone. Islam not only spells out the rules for earning, but also guides on ways of spending, because squandering wealth violates the rights of inheritors. The vision of a believer must focus far beyond the attainment of wealth, unto the obedience of Allah-SWT , a prerequisite for peaceful eternal life. Thus, the act of spending in this world should not only be beneficial here, but it should also contribute to eternal salvation. Food plays a vital role in the formation of human temperament. If it is permissible, the conduct be noble, leading to righteous deeds; otherwise it shall corrupt both thought and conduct. According to Hadith, the prayers of a person using prohibited food are never answered and all his worship goes in vain. May Allah-SWT spare Muslims from this trial!