Tuesday, June 6, 2017

{But to Fast Is Best for You}

One of the favors of Allah Almighty upon this Ummah (Muslim community) is that He laid down for it – in this religion – that which sets its worldly and otherworldly affairs right. Among the most important things that He ordained is fasting the blessed month of Ramadan .

Acts of worship in Islam are duties for trial and a measure that shows how firmly faith rests in the soul of a Muslim. They are also means that make faith firm. They are to faith like water to trees and plants.

The verses of fasting do not enumerate the types of good things that we are to attain as a result of observing this worship. In this way, reward for this worship remains unlimited and varied, as shown by historical and social experience and reality. Through such experience and reality, we can grasp some aspects of such goodness, as follows:

1. Fasting is an effective tool for educating one to have free will:

There is no worship that curbs a Muslim from his desires and pleasures for a continued period like this one. It trains a Muslim's will to resist whims, pleasures, and allurements of life. If we ponder the area of disparity between people in this worldly existence, we will find that they differ in their will and capability. People's natural capabilities are close, but the primary disparity among them pertains to how firm their will is. One's will subjects his capability and directs it and helps him regulate his time and curb his wild whims and inclination to comfort and trivial things. Hence, fasting comes to develop such will and accustoms it to turn toward good and resist whims. Therefore, a Muslim's neglect of this rite is viewed among the ordinary public as an indication of deficient manhood. This explains why many Muslims observe fasting while they neglect prayer, despite its greater importance in Islam. Ibn Al-Jawzi, may Allah have mercy upon him, mentioned that there is a type of people who will not neglect to fast Ramadan even if they are whipped to abandon its fasting, and will not perform prayer even if they are whipped to pray. This is only because people view lack of fasting as lack of manhood and do not view abandonment of prayer as such. His statement {But to fast is best for you} , after mention of the concession for the sick and travelers to break their fast, indicates that it is preferable for a Muslim to fast, despite the tolerable illness or not-so-hard travel. Thus, as he achieves his will, a Muslim goes through some kind of hardship and suffering for the sake of Allah, The Exalted. This also teaches Muslims to not look for excuses to shirk their duties.

2. Fasting is passive worship. How?

It is abstention from the different kinds of invalidators of fasting. Hence, it is far removed from showing off. Violating this worship in secret is quite easy. Therefore, fasting Ramadan constitutes an opportunity for developing scruple within the soul of a Muslim. Developing this scruple is the core of successful individual education. It is perceivable that this scruple does not grow unless it is trusted and relied upon in several affairs. In this, it is similar to muscles, which grow if one uses, moves, and relies upon them. Hence, we see weak scruples in the case of those people who perform virtuous acts and fulfill their duties as a result of coercion from their parents or society. They do what they do in acquiescence to external pressure. When such pressure weakens or vanishes, they will engage in vices and abominable and immoral acts in a way proportionate with the amount of pressure that they were subjected to in the past. This drives us to strike a balance between social oversight and the development of internal scruple through sound education at home.

3. Fasting yields obvious health and economic benefits:

It rids the body of some accumulated fat and relieves the stomach of the hard work it conducts throughout the year – in addition to other known health benefits. The fast results in a forced 40 percent reduction in food and drink consumption, which is common in other days. This helps save money and food resources for the Muslim Ummah.

4. One of the virtues of Ramadan is that it has become a season for doing a variety of righteous deeds:

Fasting this month goes beyond the concept of engaging in one act of worship, to a list of numerous other aspects of the divine teachings. It includes qiyam al-layl (voluntary night prayer), frequent recitation of the Quran, observing i'tikaf (ritual retreat) in the mosque, performing congregational prayer in large numbers, and giving Zakatul-fitr (almsgiving at the end of Ramadan) and hoping for the forgiveness and generosity of our Lord as the Ummah rejoices in its day of eid. It is as if this month is an intense season for acts of worship and righteous deeds in the life of Muslims, which does not come at any other time.

5. Fasting constitutes a form of social contact and communication:

Personal daily circumstances, interests, social situations, and ambitions draw a group of isolating spectra that separate each person from the others, giving rise to lost or weak contact. Lack of communication in any given society is one of the biggest obstacles to growth, harmony, and the ability to withstand the different kinds of disasters and outside aggression. Hence, when the members of the Muslim society abstain from food at the same time, regardless of their social conditions, and eat at the same time, in addition to other congregational rites which they usually perform in this blessed month, this is one of the most effective means for unity and harmony and removing barriers that are created by the different circumstances.

Fasting today:

The role of sublime principles is to adapt and direct the life of people in accordance with their essence and elements. These principles, however, do not work in a vacuum; rather, they conflict with several matters, which include: inherited traditions, pressing circumstances, wild whims and desires, and erroneous interpretations and concepts about the Islamic system and principles. This all produces a social reality that is represented by people's ongoing inclination to make the divine teachings part of their culture. This part may be solid or soft, in line with the extent of people's tendency to Islam. Sublime principles are what makes the divine teachings direct culture and dominate it. Therefore, the most serious defects in religious commitment are these that hit the Ummah in its teachings and principles from its public culture. The principles cease to direct the action or deviate from their goals and objectives. Thus, they do not serve the purpose intended from their ordainment. Then, the continuous struggle will be the attempt to keep the divine teachings clear, bright, and distinct from the common habits and traditions.

Praise be to Allah! In our Muslim society, there are still those who are keen to observe the fast in the most proper manner, and they are increasing in number. However, in observing the fast, the vast majority of this Ummah have deviated from its objectives, mentioned above. Whereas the righteous predecessors used to regard Ramadan as an opportunity for performing different kinds of good deeds, many Muslims spend the night in different kinds of diversion, and when the time for Fajr approaches, they eat delicious food to their fill and then sleep before performing the Fajr prayer. If this sleeping person is an employee, his work begins later than in other months. So, he drags his feet to go to work, completing his sleep there. If he is not an employee, then, to him, Ramadan is the month of sleep. He remains asleep until shortly before Maghrib, thus missing more than one obligatory prayer. Nevertheless, the slogan raised by many employees is that Ramadan is a month of worship, not of work (worship that we have demonstrated some aspects thereof above).

As for self-discipline through hunger in this month, this is clearly not the case at all. Merchants embark on preparing the food needs for Ramadan two months early. Some entities estimate that, in Ramadan, the consumption of Muslims rises three times over their consumption in other months. Ramadan has become a heavy burden on governments that provide subsidized commodities for their citizens.

The righteous predecessors used to supplicate Allah for six months before Ramadan to make them live until the coming of this blessed month. And when it ended, they would supplicate him for another six months to accept the good deeds that they performed during it. By contrast, the media in the Muslim world today gives the feeling that Ramadan is an unwelcome guest – unavoidable trouble. Hence, many programs turn to entertainment through permissible and impermissible things. Thus, the blessed month has turned into a season of play and diversion!

What happens to many Muslims during this blessed month is understandable, for the Ummah is now in a state of civilizational stagnation, in which its principles cease to act and are dominated by formalities and traditions. Its armies do not fight, its creative members produce nothing, the virtues have become mere slogans, and acts of worship have transformed into habits. It will either continue in this state until it comes to an end and will no longer be the distinguished Ummah or Allah Almighty will resurrect it again and revive its glorious past – indeed, this is never difficult for Allah to do.

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