Why Fast ?
It has been related from Hazrat Abu Hurayrah (Radhiallaahu anhu), he says that Rasulullah (Sallallaahu alayhi Wasallam) said: “Whomsoever fasts during the month of Ramadaan out of deep sincere faith, with hope for an abundant reward from Allah, all his past sins will be forgiven, and he who passes his nights in devotions out of deep sincere faith, with hope for an abundant reward from Allah, and also he who keeps awake on the sacred night (Laylatul Qadr) their previous sins will be forgiven.”
IMPORTANCE OF MOTIVE AND NIYYAT
Everybody knows that a voluntary murder is abhorred by all civilisations and that all religions condemn such a murderer to Hell, whereas the innocent victim in question, the martyr merits Jannat. Everybody also knows that the defence of a rightful cause (against an aggressor) is a duty: and the one who kills an aggressor is considered to be a hero who merits all the rewards in this world and the hereafter. Is not the difference between these two killings of merely the intention? Similarly if one abstains from eating and drinking only on the prescription of a doctor, will he not be doing the same act as the one who gives up eating and drinking in compliance with the command, and for the sake of Allah? Allah is our Creator, Lawgiver who is going to revive us after death and to demand accounts of our actions in the present world. Whoever will have obeyed Him, shall obtain His pleasure, even if we have not understood the underlying secrets of His commandments. The fasting enjoined by a religion, by a revealed law must entail Divine pleasure if we accomplish it. And what spiritual and worldly benefit can be greater than the eternal pleasure of our Lord? Material motives should not be allowed to mar the purity of the intention. Let our fast be wholly and solely for the pleasure, and in compliance with the commands of Allah. Hence the celebrated saying of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam). “Indeed acts are judged according to their intentions.”
Shah Waliullah Dehlavi, a predominant personality of the 18th century, a great scholar and also a great saint, respected on all hands, In his celebrated work “Hujjatullah ul Baalighah” has made some penetrating remarks on the spiritual aspects of fasting:-
“Since the excess of animality hinders the emergence of angelic aspects, it was necessary that one should try and dominate one’s animality. Since the excess of animality and the accumulation and abundance of its stratas have their origin in food, drink and indulgence in carnal pleasures, a fast accomplishes what abundant food cannot. Therefore the method of dominating the animality is the diminishing of causes (of the excess of animality). That is why there is a uninamity among all those who desire the emergence of the angelic aspect in man as to diminish and reduce these. (eating, drinking etc.) There is no difference among the peoples of the world in spite of the difference of their religions and the distance between their respective countries. Moreover the ultimate goal is that the animality of man should become submissive to mans angelic side, so that the animality acts according to the inspirations and dictates his angelism, take colour from its colour, and his algelism prevents his animality from taking mean and lowly colours and getting abject impressions-like a wax getting the impression of a seal. To attain this, there is no method other than this. The angelic side of man should select something according to its own exigencies and should inspire and suggest this to the animal side of man; and that the animality should submit to this inspiration, not, act obstinately or rebel against it. Angelism should continue again and again to inspire its exigencies to the animality, and the animality should continue to submit to these exigencies, so that it becomes accustomed to them and proficient in them …”
Students learn for several months continuously, then they get a vacation. Employees work for six days a week, the seventh day being a holiday for leisure and rest. Men exert mental and physical energy the whole day, where after the repose of sleep renovates their faculties for the next day. Even machines and tools require relaxation, and we observe this for motor cars, aeroplanes, locomotives, etc. Is it therefore not reasonable to think that the stomach and the digestive organs also require rest? In fact modern medicine has also reached the same conclusion, and a large number of doctors in Europe, America, etc. prescribe, for various chronic diseases, forced hunger and thirst for longer or shorter periods according to the exigencies of the sickness and the physical capacities of the sick person.
They have also found various glands that secrete certain acidities in the stomach on account of hunger and thirst, and that these acidities kill many a germ which produce different diseases. Statistics have also shown that several digestive and other diseases are less abundant among people who have the habit of fasting every year.
We know that man requires a change of climate, air and water from time to time. Doctors send the person recovering from sickness for convalescence to a place other than his habitual living place. The more fortunate pass a time for vacation outside their home. In other words, it is necessary to change the normal habits from time to time. This is also a kind of rest. We see, for instance, that cultivators use their fields alternatively and give “rest” to the ground also. Continuity being harmful, Islam has forbidden the fasting during the whole year, even for those who want spiritual benefits thereby. Experience has also shown that if one fasts for ever, it becomes a habit, a second nature and therefore such a person does not profit by it as does the one who fasts with intervals. In fact, if one fasts for more than forty days consecutively, it becomes a habit; and if one fasts for less than a month, it has not much effect.
Those who fast on medical prescription or even under compulsion – as a discipline or such – do get the material benefits inherent in fasting; but there being no intention of a spiritual search, they do not benefit thereby spiritually. Muslims fast with the intention of complying with the order of Allah. They therefore have a piety and its reward; and at the same time they do not loose the physical and material benefits of the fasting. From whichever point of view one may study the Muslim way of fasting, it compares favourably with its counterparts in other civilisations.