Ramadan: Beyond mere abstention from food and drink

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured, Life & Society Topics: Eating, Fasting (Sawm), Food, Ramadan Views: 10411

As Believers we have been commanded to fast the month of Ramadaan, the ninth month of Islamic lunar calendar; a month mentioned by name in the Qur'an [2:185] in relation to the Qur'an; a month containing "a night greater in value than a thousand months." [Q 97:3]. Siyaam/fasting in Islam basically involves abstinence from three primal physical needs of human beings (food, drink, and intimate relationships) from dawn to dusk during the entire month of Ramadaan.
Fasting, however, is far more than mere abstention from physical wants. Imaam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali made reference to three levels of fasting; ordinary fasting/sawm-ul-'umuum, special fasting/sawm-ul-khusuus and extra-special fasting/sawm-ul-khusuus al-khusuus. Let us relfect on each these levels of fasting:

A. Ordinary Fasting/sawm-ul-'umuum ~ means abstaining from food, drink and sexual satisfaction. 

B. Special Fasting/sawm-ul-khusuus ~ means keeping one's ears, eyes, tongue, hands, feet and all organs away from sin.  This includes ...

  • restrain from viewing anything that is blameworthy or reprehensible; 
  • guarding one's tongue from idle chatter, lying, gossiping, obscenity, rudeness and argumentation 
  • closing one's ears to everything reprehensible, for everything unlawful to utter is likewise unlawful to listen to. That is why Allah has equated the eavesdropper with the profiteer, "listeners to falsehood, consumers of illicit gain." [Q 104:1-2] Silence in the face of backbiting is therefore distasteful. Allah states "you are then just like them." [Q 4:140] That is why the Prophet (pbuh) said: "The backbiter and his listener are partners in sin."
  • keeping all other limbs and organs away from sin: the hands from being utilized for anything improper. the feet from stepping towards what is reprehensible and the stomach from questionable food and gluttony.
  • guarding one's chastity with due vigilance

C. Extra-special Fasting/sawm-ul-khusuus al-khusuus ~ means fasting of the heart, which implies abstaining completely from unworthy concerns and improper considerations; focusing rather on one's relationship with the Creator and one's duties to the creation of the Creator. This should engender sincerity, honesty, compassion, justice and love.

Islam emphasized the institution of fasting as highly spiritual and moral discipline; both in motive and form ...

  • In motive it demands purity of intention and honesty of purpose
  • In form it demands abstention from engaging in any form of unlawful and improper conduct. One is required to control one's urges, conquer one's desires and thus to discipline one's self. With discipline comes true control and the possibility of unleashing one's real inner power; the power to free one's self from the shackles of the base animal tendencies within our selves

The person who fasts is also referred to in the Qur'an [Q 9:112 & 66:5] as saa'ih / spiritual wayfarer. Fasting is indeed an exercise in pursuit of divine blessing, divine approval, and an attempt at manifesting the best of ethical values and moral practices. As Ramadaan moves on, we need to perpetuate the positive spirit we have imbibed and continue on the spiritual journey towards fulfillment and excellence. 


Shaykh Sadullah Khan is the Director of Impower Development International www.impowerinternational.com

  Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured, Life & Society
  Topics: Eating, Fasting (Sawm), Food, Ramadan
Views: 10411

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Older Comments:

We should remember the two joys a fasting person will enjoy. The first joy is everyday here in Duniya at the time of breaking ones fast. We all imagine the atmosphere at the time of Iftaar. Masha Allah every body is anxiously waiting to hear is time to break the fast! Subhanallah what a joy ! So this is the first joy. The second and the most important is at the time of death when we meet Allah (S.W.T).This is why Rasulullah said near meaning of the Hadith everyithing for the Son of Adam i.e Ibadah is for himself but fasting is only for ME and only ME will give its reward.Masha Allah what joy to go and meet our Creator you will have no fear nor sorrow. May Allah make us die with Imaan and attain the Pleasure of Allah Waridhwanullahi Akbar. So this the second joy which we will enjoy In sha Allah in the Hereafater in Jannah when we meet Allah (S.W.T) after death.He will give us such things which no eyes has ever seen no ear has ever heard and no human mind can think of what it is like. The Sahabah had attained the pleasure of Allah right from this Duniya Allah became pleased with them and they were pleased with Him.May Allah make us follow their footsteps with Ihsan and then Insha Allah we will attain the same pleasure of Allah (S.W.T).

Ramadan kareem