We can feel someone coming – very close, perhaps only a few days away. The face is becoming clearer and more radiant. It is Ramadan! Allah has given us the opportunity to receive this beautiful guest again. Allah says laqad jaa’akum shahrun mubarakun there has come to you a very blessed month – the fasting of which has become obligatory on you.
Virtues of this month:
- This is a month of jood (magnanimity), karam (generosity), imaan (faith), taqwa (true God-consciousness), and sabr (patience & forbearance).
- Allah will keep his servant away from jahannam (hellfire) for 70 autumns (years). This abd will be kept away from the fire of Hell and the effects of the fire of Hell. This could be 70 years of time or 70 years distance of the speech of light, Allahu Alam.
- Barakah – The little we do in Ramadan will be multiplied. Allah blesses and makes fruitful our efforts in Ramadan as long as they are sincere. This is a month that is Mubarak (blessed).
- The gates of jannah (heaven) are open; the gates of hell are closed. It’s easy to do good in Ramadan. Those who want to do good it’ll be easier for them.
- Similarly, it’s difficult to do evil in Ramadan.
- Shaitan is removed so what remains is your nafs. You can learn a lot about your nafs. What kind do you have? Baheemi, Sabawi, Malaiki?
- Every day an angel calls in Ramadan: O Seeker of Goodness, Abshir (glad tidings) O Seeker of Evil, Aksir (break down).
- Our quloob (hearts) clear more every day and might hear the call of the angels in a way we don’t realize.
- From Ramadan to Ramadan removes the effects of dhunoob (sins) of the past year as long as we avoided major sins. (I.e. shirk (associating partners w/God), riyaa (showing off), backbiting, ribaa (usury), zinaa (unlawful relations), kathib (lying), disobedience to parents, theft, killing human life unjustly and so on. Many people fast and lie!! And yet lying is one of the worst of sins.
Inner Dimensions of Ramadan:
Rasulullah [saw] said: Verily everything has a haqeeqah (reality, essence, true heart of it). For example, the haqeeqah of imaan is when you find that whatever has befallen you was never meant to miss you, and what has missed you was never meant to befall you. In either case you are at peace, and even pleased.
Ramadan is from the Arabic word ramadha which means ‘sunburn’ and has the concept of burning. Thus Ramadan is the burning of the dhunoob (sins). Fasting washes/burns the dhunoob off our lives and stops it from impacting us. Every dhanb has an effect on our lives whether we are aware of it or not. Another meaning is from the word ramadh which means a soft rain during the fall season in desert environments. It’s not torrential, just a soft kind of rain. This rain resuscitates, reinvigorates, cleanses, and removes the dust, stain, dirt and filth. Ramadan is also one of the instruments of hyperbole in language. This is a month during which there is intense cleansing like the rain cleanses the earth from filth. Ramadan intensely cleanses us from the filth of dhunoob and purifies our quloob (hearts).
Sawm in the Arabic language is to stop doing something, quiescence, serenity and tranquility. They Arabs used to say saamat ar reeh; the wind stopped blowing, and is now tranquil and calm. Similarly if one can say saamat al hail, the horses stopped running. So this brings the concept of stopping and serenity to our fasting. When Maryam said she vowed not to speak she used the word – Sawma – “I have vowed to the Most Loving a fast- I shall not address anyone today”.
These are some of the beautiful inner dimensional meanings of fasting. Being aware of these meanings is helpful and enriching because when u know the value of something you cherish it more. When you don’t know its value you don’t benefit from it. It’s like when a child is given a pearl or a diamond. For the child it’s a stone or piece of glass. They are not mature enough to know the value of what they have. When we are not mature intellectually and spiritually, we do not pay attention and benefit from the beauty of the haqeeqah of things such as sawm.
One of the internal meanings of sawm is to discipline the nafs in resisting the lower nafs. This training of our nafs is called riyadat-un-nafs. The word riyadah is now modern word for sports. Those of old meant riyadah to discipline and tame the self with focus, awareness and knowledge.
We are saying we won’t allow ours nafs or shaytan to drag us like cattle.
Even If a man or woman has collected much in the realms of knowledge, accompanied many aalims, this person shall not acquire the status of a “man” ‘a person who’s attributes are noble’ except through riyadah. This is active, arduous taming and disciplining of the nafs through the processes of tazkiyat an nafs and fasting. Tazkiyah’s four pillars include less eating, less sleeping, less talk, and less intermingling with people.
Benefits of Fasting:
Rasulullah [saw] said: Verily the devil runs in the human being along the passageways of the blood. Whether this is literal or allegorical or both, shaitan (the devil) runs in the very blood of the human being. So shaitan can have access to all of us. After that hadith it is said: Then restrain the passageways of shaitan by hunger and fasting. When shaitan finds the blood full of food then shaitans runs, but if the blood is not carrying enough food for shaitan, then he won’t be in the bloodstream and won’t have access to our hearts and person. So eating excessively strengthens shaitan and the nafs. Eating too much kills the heart.
An Aalim said: If the whispers of shaitan fall and land in the meadows of hunger they shall lose their way and shall invalidate and disappear. In other words, the effects of shaitan will evanesce. When we eat to our fullness it allows the soil, seeds and water for the growth of shaitan within us.
Fasting liberates our hearts from low baseless expedient consumerist desires. Rasulullah [saw] speaks of a hill that we have to cross and fasting helps us cross that hill in a way where we arrive to Allah unburdened. Rasulullah [saw] said: Verily there lies in front of you a steep hill that will not be crossed by those with a heavy burden and therefore I love to lighten my burden for that hill. This can be the hill of Dunya (the world) and if we carry loads of desires we won’t be able to climb or the hill of Akhirah (hereafter) where we have to cross the siraat and the scale.
Three Types of Fasting:
- The first type is where we refrain from eating and drinking. Many people do that and just that. A hadith says: If one of you while fasting does not desist from false testimony then God is in no need of his/her refraining from eating and drinking. This means the haqeeqah of fasting is not just withholding from eating and drinking
- This second type is ‘sawm ad-dhunoob‘ refraining from committing by our senses that which is sinful and disobedient to Allah or indulging excessively in what is lawful.
- The third and highest type is the fasting of the qalb (the heart) from characteristics that are not beloved to Allah. This could be from harboring arrogance, delusion inside or having a strong love and attachment for dunya. This fast is to keep the heart from being attached to or loving other than Allah (khaalis at tawheed). Attachment to parents, spouse or children is normal and a rahmaa (mercy), this is considered a love through Allah. Our Hubb (love) is only for Allah and hubb towards anyone else is hubb thru Allah.
Hadith and Wisdom on Fasting:
Dhunnun al -Misri said: If you seek to remove the harshness of your heart than be consistent in your fasting. Some companions fasted all year except the days of Eid. That helps the heart become soft, gentle and clear and to know and understand Allah and the words of the Rasul better. If we are people that indulge in shahawat (desires) and yet our quloob are stained we will rarely be able to see underlying truths in the words of Allah and Rasulullah or even to see events around us and that happen to us clearly.
When things happen to us that are negative, we rarely connect them to a cause and to our relationship with Allah. Those who are sensitive always make the link. Dhun-nun said: Whenever I ate to satiation, I disobeyed Allah or I had the urge to commit a sin. (At his level what is a sin. It’s not like us. Not like us lying cheating adultery etc. when these people speak of maasiyah it is at a different level and order.)
Abu Taleb al-Makki counseled the mureed (seeker of Allah) to fast 4 days out of 7 at least. He reached this conclusion from a text of rasulullah [saw] that said those who in this dunya who eat to satiation often and eat the most shall be of those who live in hunger for longer periods of time in akhirah. So Abu Taleb draws from this that it’s not an obligation, but that a mumin seeker should spend more time in hunger than satiation. So he recommended fasting more days in a week than not!
Rasulullah [saw] even said the sawm of Dawood was the ‘most beloved to Allah’ alternating fasting one day and breaking the next.
Rasulullah [saw] said: A few bites of food suffice the child of Adam. If one has to eat more then eat 1/3 solid food, 1/3 liquid, and leave 1/3 empty for air. Many of us break all the rules! We begin by eating until we’re full, every meal, every day!
Rasulullah [saw] said fasting is not a hunger to punish the body, but to cleanse the qalb and discipline the body.
One of the ulema said the month of Ramadan, in the midst of the remaining months of the year, is like Yusuf [as] amongst his eleven brothers. On account of Yusuf’s prayer and barakah Allah forgave the sins of his eleven brothers. So he said Ramadan is Yusuf.
May the barakah of this month be for us a means by which Allah forgives our transgressions the remaining 11 months.
May Allah make for us our Ramadan as Yusuf and may he help us internalize these haqaiq of sawm.