Gambia: True Spirit of Fasting

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Brothers in Islam! Essentially every work, which we do, has two components. The first is its purpose and spirit; the second, the particular form which is chosen to achieve that purpose. Take the case of food. Your main purpose in eating is to stay alive and maintain your strength.

The method of achieving this object is that you take a piece of food, put it in your mouth, chew it and swallow it. This method is adopted since it is the most effective and appropriate one to achieve your purpose. But everyone knows that the main thing is the purpose for which food is taken and not the form the act of eating takes.

What would you say if someone tried to eat a piece of sawdust or cinder or mud? You would say that he was mad or ill. Why? Because he clearly would not have understand the real purpose of eating and would not have owing constituted eating. Likewise you would also call someone mad who thrust his fingers down his throat to vomit up the food he had just eaten and then complained that the benefits said to accrue from taking food were not being realized.

Rather, on the contrary he was daily getting thinner. This person blames food for a situation that is due to his own stupidity. Although outward actions are certainly necessary, because without them the bread cannot reach the stomach, the purpose of eating cannot be achieved by merely fulfilling these outward actions.

The outward replaces the real

Perhaps you can now understand why our 'Ibadah has become ineffectual and empty. The greatest mistake of all is to take the acts of the prayer and fasting and their outward shape as the real 'Ibadah. If you do so, you are just like the four acts - taking a piece of food, putting it in the mouth, chewing it, and swallowing it - make up the process of eating.

Such a person imagines that whoever does these four things has eaten the food. He then expects that he should receive the benefits of eating irrespective of whether he pushed down into his stomach mud and stone, or vomited up the bread soon after eating it.

Otherwise, how can you explain, that a man who is fasting, and is thus engaged in the 'Ibadah of God from morning till evening, in the midst of that 'Ibadah tells a lie or slanders someone? Why does he quarrel on the slightest pretext and abuse those he is quarrelling with? How dare he encroach on other people's rights?

Why does he make money illegally and give money to others illicitly? And how can he claim, having does he make money illegally and give money to others illicitly? And how can he claim, having done he make money. Does this not resemble the actions of that person who eats cinders and mud and thinks that by merely completing the four requirements of eating he has actually done the job of eating?

How too can we claim to have worshipped Allah for many long hours throughout Ramadan when the impact of this who exercises in spiritual and moral upliftment vanished on the first day of next month?

During the 'Id days we do all that Hidus do in their festivals, so much so that in some places we even turn to adultery, drinking and gambling, and I have seen some degenerates who fast during the day and drink alcohol and commit adultery at night. Most Muslims, thank God, have not fallen so low but how many of us still retain any trace of piety and virtue by the second day of 'Id?

Wrong view of worship

The reason most of you behave as you do is that the very meaning and purpose of Ibadah has become distorted in your minds. You think that mere abstention from eating and drinking throughout the day is the fasting. You therefore are very particular to observe the minutest details about it. You fear God to the extent that you avoid even the slightest violation of these rules; but you do not appreciate that merely being hungry and thirsty is not the purpose but only the form.

This form has been prescribed to create in you such fear of God and love, such strength of will and character, that even against your desire, you avoid seemingly profitable thing which in fact displease Allah and do those things which possibly entail risks and losses but definitely please God. This strength can be developed only when you understand the purpose of the fasting and desires for the fear and love of God only.

But what happens as soon as Ramdan is over? You throw to the winds all that you have gained from the fasting, just as the man who has eaten food vomits it up by thrusting his fingers down his throat. Just as physical strength cannot be obtained from bread until it is digested, transformed into blood, which spreads through every vein, so spiritual strength cannot be obtained from the fasting until the person who keeps fast is conscious of its purpose and allows it to permeate his heart and mind and dominate his thoughts, motives and deeds.

Fasting as a way of piety

This is why Allah after ordaining the fast, has said that fasting is made obligatory on you, so that you may attain to God consciousness, 'La 'allakum tattaqun. Note that there is no guarantee that you will definitely become God conscious and righteous. Only someone who recognize the purpose of fasting and strives to achieve it will receive its blessings, someone who does not, cannot hope to gain anything from it.

Conditions of true fasting

The prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, has in various ways pointed out the real spirit of fasting and has explained that go hungry and thirsty while ignoring the spirit carries no value in the sight of God.

Abstention from falsehood

Once, he said : if one does not give up speaking falsehood and acting by it, God does not require him to give up eating and drinking (Bukhari). On another occasion, he said: many are the people who fast but acting by it.

The lessons are clear and unequivocal merely hungry and thirsty is not itself worship but a means for performing real worship. Real worship means desisting from violating the law of God out of this fear and this love of God, purposing activities that please Him, and refraining from the indiscriminate satisfaction of physical desires. If you fast while ignoring this essence of the fasting, you are simply causing unnecessary inconvenience to your stomachs.

Faith and self-scrating

The prophet, blessings and peace be on him, draws attention to another aim of fasting thus: whoever observes the fast, believing and counting, has all his past sins forgiven (Bukhari, Muslim).

Hunger for goodness

The prophet, blessings and peace be on him, once directed that a man, while fasting, ought to do more good works than usual and ardently desire to perform acts of kindness. Compassion and sympathy for his brothers should intensify in his heart because, being himself in the throes of hunger and thirst, he will all the more be able to realize the misery of other servants of God who are destitute.

In Ramadan, whoever provides food to a person who is fasting to break that fast will earn forgiveness for his sins, deliverance from the fire and as much reward as the one who is fasting, without reduction in the recompense of the latter (Baihaqi).

Abdullah Ibn 'Abbas tells that the prophet, blessings and peace be on him, used to become unusually kind and generous during Ramadan. No beggar in that period went empty-handed from his door, and as many slaves as possible were set free (Baihaqi).

Aisha Oumoul Moumineen Quranic Memorization and Islamic Education Boarding School for Girls will hold its 2nd Graduation Ceremony for 12 Girls who have memorized the Holy Quran at the Gambia Supreme Islamic Counsel Headquarter, MDI Road on the 5th August 2012, Time: 10:00am to 2:00pm

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