Allāh -The Most High – said:
شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ ۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ ۖ ﴿١٨٥﴾
“The month of Ramaḍān in which the Qurʾān was revealed, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance of the Criterion between right and wrong. So whosoever of you sights the crescent for the month of Ramaḍān, he must fast that month.”
Allāh’s Messenger (ﷺ) said:
“Islām is built upon five: Testifying that none has the right to be worshipped except Allāh and the Muḥammad is the Messenger of Allāh, establishing the Prayer, giving the Zakāh performing Ḥajj to the House, and fasting in Ramaḍān.”1
He (ﷺ) also said:
“There has come to you Ramaḍān, a blessed month, in which Allāh has made it obligatory to fast. During it the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hellfire are closed, and the rebellious devils are chained. In it is a night (Laylat al-Qadr) which is better than a thousand months. He who is deprived of its good has truly been deprived.”2
From the many important lessons to be learnt from fasting are:
1. Gaining Taqwá
Fasting has been legislated in order that we may gain taqwá as Allāh – the Most High – said:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ ﴿١٨٣﴾
“O you who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed upon those before you in order that you may attain taqwá.”
Talq ibn Habeeb (d.100H) – raḥimahullāh – said:
“When fitnah (trial and tribulation) appears then extinguish it with taqwá.” So he was asked as to what taqwá was, so he replied: “Taqwá is to act in obedience to Allāh, upon a light (i.e. īmān, faith) from Allāh, hoping in the Mercy of Allāh. And taqwá is leaving acts of disobedience to Allāh, upon a light from Allāh, due to the fear of Allāh.”3
“This is one of the best definitions of taqwá. For every action must have both a starting point and a goal. And an action will not be considered as an act of obedience, or nearness to Allāh unless it stems from pure īmān (faith in Allāh). Thus, it is pure īmān – and not habits, desires, nor seeking praise or fame – that should be what initiates an action. And the preparation showed, to earn the reward of Allāh and to seek His good pleasure.”4 So Fasting is a means of attaining taqwá, since it helps prevent a person from many sins that one is prone to. Due to this, the Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Fasting is a shield with which the servant protects himself from the Fire.”5 So we should ask ourselves, after each day of fasting: Has this lasting made us more fearful and obedient to Allāh? Has it aided us in distancing ourselves from sins and disobedience?
11. Seeking Nearness to Allāh
The Prophet (ﷺ) said:
“Allāh said: Whosoever shows enmity to a friend of Mine, I shall be at war with him. My servant does not draw near to me with anything more beloved to me than the obligatory duties that I have placed upon him. My servant continues to draw nearer to Me with optional deeds so that I shall love him.”6
The Prophet (ﷺ) said:
“Whosoever reaches the month of Ramaḍān not have his sins forgiven, and so enters the Fire, then may Allāh distance him.”7
So drawing closer to Allāh – the Most Perfect – in this blessed month, can be achieved by fulfilling one’s obligatory duties; and also reciting the Qurʾān and reflecting upon its meanings, increasing in kindness and in giving charity, in making duʿāʾ (supplication) to Allāh, attending the Tarāwīḥ Prayer, seeking out Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Power and Pre-Decree), a night which is better than a thousand months, attending gatherings of knowledge, and striving in those actions that will cause the heart to draw closer to its Lord and to gain His forgiveness. Our level of striving in this blessed month should be greater than our striving to worship Allāh in any other month, due to the excellence and rewards that Allāh has placed in it. Likewise from the great means of seeking nearness to Allāh in this month is making Iʿtikāf (seclusion in the mosque in order to worship Allāh) – for whoever is able.
Imām Ibn al-Qayyim (d.751H) – raḥimahullāh – said:
“Allāh also prescribed iʿtikāf for them, the objective being that the heart becomes fully preoccupied with Allāh – the Most High – concentrated upon Him alone, and cut-off from being preoccupied with the creation. Rather, the heart is only engrossed with Allāh – the Most Perfect – such that loving Him, remembering Him, and turning to Him takes the place of all the heart’s anxieties and worries, so that he is able to overcome them. Thus, all his concerns are for Allāh, and his thoughts are all directed towards remembering Him and thinking of how to attain His Pleasure and what will cause nearness to Him which leads him to feel content with Allāh instead of people. This, in turn, prepares him for being at peace with Allāh alone, on the day of loneliness in the grave, when there will be no one else to give comfort, nor anyone to grant solace, except Him. So this is the greater goal of Iʿtikāf.”8
111. Acquiring Patience
Imām Aḥmad (d.241H) – raḥimahullāh – said:
“Allāh has mentioned ṣabr (patience) in over ninety places in His Book.”9
The Prophet (ﷺ) said:
“The month of Patience, and the three days of every month, are times for fasting.”10
Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr (d.464H) – raḥimahullāh – said:
“What is meant by the month of Patience is the month of Ramaḍān … So fasting is called patience because it restrains the soul from eating, drinking, conjugal relations and sexual desires.”11
He (ﷺ) said:
“O youth! Whoever amongst you is able to marry then let him do so; for it restrains the eyes and protects the private parts. But whoever is unable, then let him fast, because it will be a shield for him.”12
So fasting is a means of learning self-restraint and patience. With patience we are able to strengthen our resolve to worship Allāh alone, with sincerity, and also cope with life’s ups and downs. So – for example – with patience we are able to perform our Prayers calmly and correctly, without being hasty, and without merely pecking the ground several times! With patience we are able to restrain our souls from greed and stinginess and thus give part of our surplus wealth in Zakāh (obligatory charity). With patience we are able to subdue the soul’s ill temperament, and thus endure the ordeal and hardships of Ḥajj, without losing tempers and behaving badly. Allāh – the Most High – said:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ حَرِّضِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ عَلَى الْقِتَالِ ۚ إِن يَكُن مِّنكُمْ عِشْرُونَ صَابِرُونَ يَغْلِبُوا مِائَتَيْنِ ۚ وَإِن يَكُن مِّنكُم مِّائَةٌ يَغْلِبُوا أَلْفًا مِّنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لَّا يَفْقَهُونَ ﴿٦٥﴾ الْآنَ خَفَّفَ اللَّهُ عَنكُمْ وَعَلِمَ أَنَّ فِيكُمْ ضَعْفًا ۚ فَإِن يَكُن مِّنكُم مِّائَةٌ صَابِرَةٌ يَغْلِبُوا مِائَتَيْنِ ۚ وَإِن يَكُن مِّنكُمْ أَلْفٌ يَغْلِبُوا أَلْفَيْنِ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ ﴿٦٦﴾
“O Prophet, urge the Believers to fight … So if there are one hundred who are patient, they shall overcome two hundred; and if there be one thousand, they shall overcome two thousand, by the permission of Allāh. And Allāh is with the patient ones.”
Thus, without knowledge and patience, nothing remains, except zeal and uncontrolled emotions, shouts and hollow slogans, speech that does not strengthen, but rather weakens, and actions that do not build, but rather destroy! So in this month, we should strive to develop a firm resolve for doing acts of obedience, and to adorn ourselves with patience – having certainty in the saying of our Messenger (ﷺ): “And know that victory comes with patience, relief with affliction, and case with hardship.”13
1v. Cultivating Good Manners
The Prophet (ﷺ) said:
“Whosoever does not abandon falsehood in speech and action, then Allāh the Mighty and Majestic has no need that he should leave his food and drink.”14
He (ﷺ) also said:
“Fasting is not merely abstaining from eating and drinking. Rather, it is also abstaining from ignorant and indecent speech. So if anyone abuses or behaves ignorantly with you, then say: I am fasting, I am fasting.”15
These narrations point towards the importance of truthfulness and good manners. Thus, this blessed month teaches us not only to abstain from food and drink, but to also abstain from such statements and actions that may be the cause of harming people and violating their rights – since the Messenger (ﷺ) said whilst descriibng the true Believer: “A Muslim is one from whom other Muslims are safe from his tongue and his hand.”16 Thus it is upon us as individuals, to examine the shortcomings in our character, and to then seek to improve them – modeling ourselves upon the character of the last of the Prophets and Messengers, and their leader, Muḥammad (ﷺ) – aspiring also for the excellence which he mentioned in his saying: “I am a guarantor for a house on the outskirts of Paradise (or whosoever leaves off arguing, even if he is right; and a house in the centre of Paradise (or whosoever abandons falsehood, even when joking; and a house in the upper-most part of Paradise for whosoever makes his character good.”17 So by shunning oppression, shamelessness, harbouring hatred towards Muslims, back-biting, slandering, tale-carrying, and other types of falsehood, we can be saved from nullifying the rewards of our fasting – as Allāh’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: “It may be that a fasting person, receives nothing from his fast, except hunger and thirst.”18
v. Sensing Muslim Unity
The Prophet (ﷺ) said:
“Fast when they fast, and break your fast when they break their fast, and sacrifice the day they sacrifice.”19
Imām at-Tirmidthī (d.275H) – raḥimahullāh – said:
“Some of the People of Knowledge explained this ḥadīth by saying: Its meaning is to fast and break the fast along with the Jamāʿah and the majority of people.”20
Thus, in this blessed month we can sense an increased feeling of unity and of being a single Ummah due to our fasting and breaking our fast collectively. We also feel an increased awareness about the state of affairs of the Muslims and of the hardships that they endure, because: “During the fast a Muslim feels and experiences what his needy and hungry brothers and sisters feel, who are forced to go without food and drink for many days – as occurs today to many of the Muslims in Africa.”21 Indeed, the unity of the Muslims – and their aiding and assisting one another – is one of the great fundamentals upon which the Religion of Islām is built, as Allāh – the Most High -said:
وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا ۚ ﴿١٠٣﴾
“And hold fast altogether to the rope of Allāh and do not be divided.”
Allāh – the Most High – also said:
لَا يَسْتَأْذِنُكَ الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ أَن يُجَاهِدُوا بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنفُسِهِمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِالْمُتَّقِينَ ﴿٤٤﴾
“The Believers – men and women – and friends and protectors to one another.”
Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymīyyah (d.728) – raḥimahullāh – said:
“The welfare of people will not be complete – neither in this world, nor in the Hereafter – except with ijtimāʿ (collectiveness), taʿāwun (mutual cooperation), and tanāṣur (mutual help); mutual cooperation in order to secure benefits, and mutual help in order to ward off harm. It is for this reason that man is said to be social and civil by nature.”22
Thus, we see that Islām lays great importance in bringing hearts together and encouraging ijtimāʿ (collectiveness). This is not only reflected in the month of Ramaḍān, but also in the other acts of worship as well. So, for example, we have been ordered by the Prophet (ﷺ) to pray the five daily Prayers in congregation, and that it has been made twenty-seven times more rewarding than praying it individually.23 Likewise, this similar collective spirit is demonstrated in the act of Ḥajj (Pilgrimage). Even in learning knowledge and studying it, blessings have been placed in collectiveness, as Allāh’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: “No people gather together in a house from the houses of Allāh, reciting the Book of Allāh and studying it amongst themselves, except that tranquility descends upon them, mercy envelops them, the angels surround them, and Allāh mentions them to those that are with Him.”24 Likewise, even in our everyday actions such as eating, Islām teaches us collectiveness. Thus, when some of the Companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) said to him: O Messenger of Allāh, we eat but do not become satisfied. He replied: “Perhaps you eat individually?” They replied, Yes! So he said: “Eat collectively and mention the name of Allāh. There will then be blessings for you in it.”25 Indeed, even in the etiquette of sitting the spirit of collectiveness is demonstrated. So, one day the Prophet (ﷺ) came across the Companions who were sitting in separate circles, so he said to them: “Why do I see you sitting separately!”26 Similarly, Abū Tha‘labah al-Khushanee (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu) said: Whenever the people used to encamp, they used to split-up into the mountain passes and valleys. So Allāh’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: “Indeed your being split-up in these mountain passes and valleys is from Shayṭān.” Thereafter, whenever they used to encamp, they used to keep very close together, to such an extent that it was said: If a cloth were to be spread over them, it would cover them all.27
Thus, Ramaḍān is a time to increase our sense of unity and brotherhood, and our commitment to Allāh and His Religion. And there is no doubt that this sense of unity necessitates that: “We all work together as required by Islām as sincere brothers – not due to ḥizbiyyah (bigoted party spirit), nor sectarianism – in order to realize that which is of benefit to the Islamic Ummah and to establish the Islamic society that every Muslim aspires for so that the Sharīʿah (Prescribed Law) of Allāh is applied upon His earth”28 So we must examine ourselves during the month of Ramaḍān and ask: What is my role? – and each of us has a role – in helping this precious Ummah to regain its honour, and return to the Ummah its comprehensive unity and strength, and victory that has been promised to it? Likewise, we should reflect upon our own character and actions and ask: Are they aiding the process of unity and brotherhood, or are they a harm and a hindrance to it?
So we ask Allāh to grant us the ability to change ourselves for the better, during this blessed month, and not to be of those who are prevented from His Mercy and forgiveness. Indeed He is the One who Hears and He is the One to Respond.
- Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by al-Bukhārī (1/48) and Muslim (no.16), from Ibn ʿUmar (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu).
- Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by Sūrah al-Nisāʾī (no.1992), from Abū Hurayrah (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu). It was authenticated by Shaykh al-Albānī in Takhrīj al-Mishkāt (no.1962).
- Related by Ibn al-Mubārak in Kitābuz-Zuhd (p.473) and Ibn Abī Shaybah in his Kitābul-Īmān (no.99).
- Risālat at-Tabūkiyyah (p.26) of Imām Ibn al-Qayyim
- Ḥasan: Related by Aḥmad (3/241), from Jābir (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu). It was authenticated by Shaykh al-Albānī in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Targhīb (no.970).
- Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by al-Bukhārī (11/48I). from Abū Hurayrah (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu).
- Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by Aḥmad (2/246) and al-Bayḥaqī (4/204), from Abū Hurayrah (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu). It was authenticated by Shaykh ʿAlī Ḥasan al-Ḥalabī in Ṣifat-Sawmin-Nabī (p.24).
- Zād al-Maʿād (2/87) of Ibn al-Qayyim.
- Related by Ibn al-Qayyim in Madārij as-Sālikīn (2/152).
- Related by Aḥmad (2/163) and Sūrah al-Nisāʾī (1/327), from Abū Hurayrah. It was authenticated by al-Albānī in Irwá’ul-Ghalīl (4/99).
- At-Tamhīd (19/61) of al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr.
- Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by al-Bukhārī (123) and Muslim (no.123), from Ibn Masʿūd (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu).
- Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by Aḥmad (1/203) and at-Ṭabarānī in al-Kabīr (11/100), from Ibn ʿAbbās (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu). It was authenticated by Shaykh Salīm al-Hilālī in as-Sabrul-Jamīl (p.43).
- Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by al-Bukhārī (4/99), from Abū Hurayrah (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu).
- Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by Ibn Khuzaymah (no.1996) and al-Ḥākim (1/130) who authenticated it. Refer to Ṣaḥīḥ al-Targhīb (no.1075).
- Related by al-Bukhārī (I/53) and Muslim (no.40), from ‘Amr Ibn al-ʿĀs (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu).
- Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by Abū Dāwūd (no.4800) and al-Bayḥaqī (10/249), from Abū Umāmah (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu). It was authenticated by al-Albānī in al-Ṣaḥihah (no.273).
- Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by Aḥmad (2/441) and Ibn Mājah (I/539), from Abū Hurayrah (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu). It war authenticated in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Targhīb (no.1076).
- Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by at Tirmidthī (no.693), from Abū Hurayrah (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu). It was authenticated by al-Albānī in al-Ṣaḥihah (no.224).
- Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidthī (3/311).
- From the words of Shaykh ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Ibn Bāz, as occurs in Majmūʿul-Fatāwá wal-Maqālātul Mutanawwi’ah (5/211).
- Al-Hisbah fil-Islām (p.9) of Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymīyyah.
- Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by al-Bukhārī (2/109) and Muslim (no.650), from Ibn ʿUmar (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu).
- Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by Muslim (no.339), from Abū Hurayrah (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu).
- Ḥasan: Related by Abū Dāwūd (no.3764), from Wahshī Ibn Harb (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu). It was authenticated by al-Ḥāfiẓ al-ʿIrāqī in Takhrījul-Iḥyā (2/4).
- Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by Muslim (no.331), from Jābir Ibn Samurah (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu).
- Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by Abū Dāwūd (1/409) and Ibn Hibbān (no.1664). Shaykh al-Albānī authenticated in Takhrījul-Mishkāt (no.3914).
- Suʾāl wal-Jawāb Hawla Fiqhil-Wāqiʿ (p.24) of Shaykh Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Albānī.