Sunday, July 22, 2012

RAMADAN and the Pillars of FASTING

In his Friday Sermon of 20 July 2012, the Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Sahib (atba) of Mauritius explained the spiritual significance of fasting, especially in the holy month of Ramadan. Drawing upon the Qur’anic prescriptions and prophetic traditions on this issue, Hadhrat Sahib (atba) identifies, in his speech, the main pillars of Fasting.   

Read the Extracts from the Friday Sermon:

O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous. (2: 184)

The definition of Siyaam, Sawm, Roza or fast, means to abstain from something. Allah makes us understand this meaning well from the Holy Quran, where He cites the example of Mary (upon her be peace) who said:

‘I have vowed to the Most Merciful abstention (that is, silence), so I will not speak today to (any) man.’ (19: 27)

When one reads these verses and reflect on each of them, one shall see that as a matter of fact, this is an act of worship which the believer does with sincerity for the sake of Allah alone whereby he abstain from food, drink and also sexual relations among other things. While these were legal for him during the other months, but while encountering the month of Ramadan, he has to abstain from these same things from dawn to dusk only for the pleasure of Allah. He does this only for His Rab and Allah gave him this instruction; and these commandments were revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and were later compiled into Book form – a perfect book wherein there is no doubt and which is a guide only for the righteous. This book is none other than the Holy Quran, and Allah says in that same Holy Book:

"The month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was sent down as guidance for mankind with clear proofs of guidance and discrimination. Therefore, whosoever of you is present (at home) in this month, let him fast therein..." (2: 186)

And in the same verse, Allah says

"Allah desires (to give) you facility and He desires not hardship for you, and that you may complete the number, and that you may exalt Allah for His having guided you and that you may be grateful". (2: 186)

In section 23 of the second chapter (Al-Baqara), Allah the Almighty has guided the believers on how to observe the fast and what are its rulings. And if a Muslim follows these commandments to the letter and makes it a must to understand the importance and the benefits of fasting, then he shall derive many rewards from it. 

The following Hadith makes us understanding this fact:

Narrated Abu Huraira (May Allah be pleased with him):

“The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Fasting is a shield (or a screen or a shelter). So, the person observing fasting should avoid sexual relation with his wife and should not behave foolishly and impudently, and if somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should tell him twice, ‘I am fasting.” The Prophet added, “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, the smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. (Allah says about the fasting person), ‘He has left his food, drink and desires for My sake. The fast is for Me. So I will reward (the fasting person) for it and the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten times.” (Bukhari)

In the same chapter (Al-Baqara) in section 24, verse 190, Allah reveals to His prophet (peace be upon him):

They ask you about the new moons. Say, ‘They are means for measuring time for the general good of mankind...

Narrated Ibn Umar (May Allah be pleased with him): I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) saying, “When you see the crescent (of the month of Ramadan), start fasting, and when you see the crescent (of the month of Shawwal), stop fasting; and if the sky is overcast (and you can’t see It) then regard the crescent (month) of Ramadan (as of 30 days)”. (Bukhari)

There are some pillars of fasting which must be respected:

 (1) The intention to observe the fast,
 (2) The appropriate moment to observe fasting, and
 (3) The deeds which annul fasting.

Pillars of fasting (1) The intention to observe the fast: Make the intention (Niyyah) in the heart. This is a first pillar to start this act of worship. The place of that intention is the heart, only in the heart and you invoke Allah also in your heart by reciting the following words: “Wa bi-sawmi ghadinn nawaytu min shahri Ramadhaan.” That is, “I make the intention to observe the fast during the month of Ramadan.”

Sometimes people wrongly think that the intention must be recited aloud. Verily, intention for any kind of acts of worship must be done silently, for if it is done aloud, this shall become an innovation (bidah) in the religion (Islam). Then, how a person must make his intention to observe the fast?

1.     Upon waking up, before one takes his Suhur (food before dawn); or

2.     At night before he goes to sleep, and has already made the intention to fast the next day. He therefore makes his intention in the heart and recites the wordings of intention for fasting, be it for fasting during the month of Ramadan or even missing fasts or voluntary fasts. Therefore, in any case, he has to affirm his intention in the night or when he wakes up, before having his Suhur.

3.     Narrated Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her): The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Actions are judged according to their intentions, and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Narrated Hafsa (May Allah be pleased with her): The Messenger of Allah said: “Whoever has not joined the fast before the Fajr prayer (that is, before dawn) then there is no fast for him” (Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud)

For voluntary fasts, there is no harm if someone affirms his intention to fast during the day, even after sunrise, provided that he has not committed anything which annuls his fast. Narrated Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her): “The Prophet came to us one day and said: 'Do you have any food?' I said, 'No'. He said: Then I will fast”. (Muslim)

Pillars of fasting (2) The appropriate moment to observe fasting: It is obligatory upon a believer to observe the fast from Fajr (dawn) till Maghrib (sunset). Allah the Almighty says: “And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread (of night). Then complete the fast until the sunset.” (2: 188)

Narrated ‘Adi bin Hatim (May Allah be pleased with him): “When the above verses were revealed: ‘Until the white thread appears to you, distinct from the black thread,’ I took two (hair) strings, one black and the other white, and kept them under my pillow and went on looking at them throughout the night but could not make anything out of it. So, the next morning I went to Allah’s Apostle and told him the whole story. He explained to me, “That verse means the darkness of the night and the whiteness of the dawn.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Pillars of fasting (3) The deeds which annul fasting fall into two categories. In the first category, there is only the need to replace a missed fast, while in the second category the believer has to both replace the missing days of fasting and to do expiation if while being in a state of fasting he has committed things which have displeased Allah, and which have annulled his fast. This is so because Allah has made the believers well aware of these facts through the revelations which He vouchsafed to His Prophet (peace be upon him) during the month of Ramadan, and also through the sayings and practices of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). For example, one Hadith mentions:

Narrated Abu Huraira (May Allah be pleased with him): “The Prophet said, “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)” (Bukhari)

The deeds which fall into the second category is when there is sexual relations while in a state of fasting. Therefore that person has not only to replace his fast but also expiate for this transgression. Thus, he has to free a slave, and if he cannot do that, then he must observe the fast for 60 days one after the other. And if he cannot even do that, he must feed 60 poor people by giving them the same measure of food that he and his family consume.

Before ending my sermon, it is my duty to say that we must all remember Allah, supplicate Him and seek His forgiveness. Verily, the days and nights of Ramadan are exceptional times which give the believers the opportunity to remember Allah and supplicate Him all the more, especially during specific times when invocations are most likely to be heard (by Allah). These moments are:

(1)  At the time of the breaking of the fast because the supplications of the faster is not rejected during that time.

(2)  During the third last part of the night when Allah descends to the earth’s sky and says: “Who is asking something of Me that I may give it to him? Who is asking forgiveness of Me that I may forgive him?” (Bukhari)

And remember Him (Allah), as He has guided you, for indeed, you were before that among those astray.

Ask forgiveness of Allah for He is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.

The best provision is fear of Allah, seeking means to the approval of Allah. And Allah is kind to (His) servants.