Introduction

Praise be to Allah, the Lord of all worlds, and blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammed, his infallible progeny and the righteous among his companions.

The Almighty, never promulgates any law unless there is a great purpose behind it in serving the interests of mankind, guiding them along the sublime path of piety and towards the lofty heights of perfection.

He, the Exalted sent messengers and prophets as blessings to the humankind, to take them out of the labyrinths of uncertainty and aimlessness, guide them to the right path, and inspire in them a virtuous life, which ultimately will be of benefit in the world to come. Allah did not forbid mankind from anything except what might bring certain harm; and He did not enjoin anything except that which is of benefit both in this present world and the hereafter.

As part of His unbounded grace, the All-wise has enjoined the month of fasting as an obligation on all those who profess to be Muslims. Hence, fasting Ramadhan could very well be described as Allah's banquet. It is among the wonderful aspects of Islam which build human character and personality, and help mould social life.

A Muslim while fasting experiences the aesthetic pleasure of Allah's proximity and the joy of divine blessings. The feeling thus instills the will in the believers to lead a life of content, filled with Allah's remembrance and ever responsive to His command.

A Muslim who fasts experiences feelings of great spirituality and a profound sense of exaltation. He is sure of himself and is confident of moving towards perfection, because he consciously musters all his senses to direct his powerful will to serve and please his Creator.

Fasting is not confined to one's inner self alone but also has its social effects in influencing the community as an integrated whole. A fasting community enjoys all the comforts and pleasures resulting from obedience to the Almighty. The society consequently consolidates itself directing its energies towards constructive public welfare. The members of such a society feel a sense of responsibility towards each other, characterized by mutual cooperation and kindness. It is a society almost free of crime, jealousy and hatred. A society which asserts its supremacy over the mundane world of matter, and feels proud of its adherence to spiritual values.

Fasting, therefore, is a duty of many-fold benefits. One of its significant effects is that it strengthens in the individual and society the will to resist temptation and defy the forces of evil, injustice and deviation. A believer's soul, having tasted the pleasures of fasting, will never submit to other than Allah, and will never entertain the idea of worshipping other than Him.

Al-Balagh Foundation in presenting this booklet on fasting seeks to perform its duty of inviting people to Allah and proclaiming His eternal message. It hopes the booklet will be of benefit to our dear readers whose enthusiasm has been a source of inspiration for us. We humbly implore Allah, the Most Exalted to guide the Ummah along the blessed path of Islam, and to accept the selfless deeds of fasting Muslims. He is the Most Excellent Patron, the Most Excellent Helper.

AL-BALA GH FOUNDATION

THE PROPHET'S SERMON ON THE ADVENT OF RAMADHAN

As we said before, holy Ramadhan is Allah's Banquet, spread out for all His creatures without the difference of class, caste, rank, race, language or geographical barriers. It is not just a month of mere rituals, as some may misbelieve, but on the contrary signifies the very peak of spiritual purification, which Islam has perfected;

The word Ramadhan is derived from the root ramadh which indicates heat' and restlessness', and is said to signify the hardships of a fast, like

thirst for example. A hadith from the Prophet says, Ramadhan burns the sins and the faults as fire burns wood. Before discussing further the spiritual and physical dynamism of fasting, let's start with those eternal words of Allah's last and greatest Prophet, which continue to ring even today in the ears of the believers.

Imam Ali bn Musa ar-Ridha (a.s.)* relates on the chain of authority of his illustrious forefathers from Lmam Au (a.s.) that once on the advent of Ramadhan, Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.)* delivered the following sermon:

(( أيها الناس انه قد اقبل اليكم شهر الله بالبركة والرحمة والمغفرة ,شهر هو عند الله أفضل الشهور,وأيامه أفضل الايام ,ولياليه أفضل الليالي, وساعاته أفضل الساعات ... وهوشهردعيتم فيه الى ضيافةالله , وجعلتم فيهمن أهل كرامة الله ,أنفاسكم فيه تسبيح ,ونومكم فيه عبادة وعملكم فيه مقبول, ودعاؤكم فيه مستجاب,فاسألو الله ربكم بنيات صادقة,وقلوب طاهرة,ان يوفقكم لصيامه وتلاوة كتابه,فان الشقي من حرم غفران الله في هذا الشهر العظيم, واذكروا بجوعكم وعطشكم فيه جوع يوم القيامة وعشه, وتصدقوا على فقرائكم ومساكينكم, ووقروا كباركم,وارحموا صغاركم,وصلو ارحامكم, واحفظواالسنتكم, وغضوا عما لايحل النظر اليه أبصارركم وعما لايحل الاستماع اليه السماعكم ,وتحننواعلى أيتام الناس يتحنن على أيتامكم, وتوبواالى الله من ذنوبكم , وارفعوا اليه ايديكم بالدعاء في أوقات صلاتكم فانها افضل الساعات, ينظرالله عزوجل فيها بالرحمة الىعباده,... يجيبهم اذا ناجوه, ويلبيهم اذا نادوه,ويعطيهم اذا سألوه, ويستجيب لهم اذا دعوه.

أيها الناس ان انفسكم مرهونة باعمالكم,ففكوها باستغفاركم, وظهوركم ثقيلة من أوزاركم, فخففوا عنها بطول سجودكم, واعلمواان الله اقسم بعزته ان لايعذب المصلين والساجدين, وان لا يروعهم بالنار يوم يقوم الناس لرب العالمين.

أيها الناس من فطرمنكم صائما مؤمنا في هذا الشهر كانله بذلكعند الله عتق رقبة, ومغفرة لمامضى من ذنوبه,قيل:يارسول الله , فليس كلنا نقدر على ذلك, فقال(ص) ((اتقوا النار,ولوبشق تمرة,اتقوا النار,ولوبشربة من ماء))


* (a. s.) stands for: alayhi / alayha / alayhim as-salaam (peace be upon him/her/them). * (saw.) stands for: sal-lallahu alayhi wa alihi wasallam (may Allah shower His blessings on him and his progeny).

"0 People! the month (Ramadhawt)of Allah has come with His mercies, blessings and forgiveness. Allah has decreed this month the best of all months. its days are the best among the days, its nights are the best among the nights and its hours are the best among the hours. This is a month in which you have been invited by Him (to fast and to pray). Allah has honoured you in it. in it, every breath you take is (has the reward af) Tasbih' (the praise of Allah), your sleep is worship, your good deeds are accepted and your invocations answered."

"Therefore, you must invoke your Lord in right earnest with hearts that are free from sin and evil, and pray that Allah may help you to keep fasts, and to recite the Holy Qur'an. Indeed! miserable ic the one who is deprived of Allah's forgiveness in this great month. While fasting, remember the hunger and thirst on the Day of Judgement. Give alms to the poor and the needy. Pay respect to your elders, have sympathy for your youngsters and be kind towards your relatives and kinsmen. Guard your tongue against unworthy words, and your eyes from scenes that are hot worth seeing (forbidden) and your ears from sounds that should not be heard."

"Be kind to orphans so that if your children become orphans they will also be treated with kindness. Do repent to Allah for your sins and supplicate with raised hands at the times of prayer as these are the best times, during which Almighty Allah looks at His servants with mercy, (He) Answers if they supplicate, Responds if they call, Grants if they ask, and Accepts if they entreat.

"0 people! you have made your conscience the slave of your desires. Make it free, by invoking Him for forgiven ess. Your back is breaking under the heavy load of your sins, so prost rate yourself before Him for long intervals and make it lighter."

"Do understand fully well that Allah has promised in the name of His Majesty and Honour that He will not take to task such people who perform Salaat and Sajda (prostration), and that He will guard their bodies against the fire of hell on the Day of Judgement." "0 people! if anybody amongst you arranges for the :ftar (food for ending of fast at sunset) of way believers, then Allah will give him the reward as if he had set free a slave, and He will forgive his previous sins."

Then the companions of the Prophet (s.a.w.) asked, "But everybody amongst us does not have the means to do so." The Prophet replied:

"Keep yourself away from the fire of hell, though it may consist of only half a date or even some water ~f you have nothing else." "0 people! anybody who in this month cultivates good manners, will walk over the Sirat (bridge leading to Paradise) on the day when feel will tend to slip."

"Anybody who in this month may take light work from his servants, Allah will make easy his accounting, and anybody who does not annoy others in it, Allah will keep him safe from His wrath on the Day of Judgement. Anybody who respects and treats an orphan with kindness in it, Allah shall look at him with kindness on that Day."

"Anybody who treats well his kinsmen in it, Allah will bestow His Mercy on him on the Day of Judgement, while anybody who ma/treats his kinsmen in it, Allah will keep him away from His Mercy." "Whoever offers recommended prayers in it, Allah will save him from hell, and whoever observes in it obligatories, his reward will be that of seventy such obligatories that were observed in other months."

"Whoever recites repeatedly blessings (Salawat) on me in it Allah will keep the scales of his good deeds heavy (on Judgement Day) whilst the scales of others will be tending to lightness. Whoever recites in this month, an Aya (verse) of the Holy Qur'an, his reward will be that of reciting the whole Qur'an in other months."

"0 people! the gates of Paradise remain open in this month. Do pray to your Lord that they may not be closed for you. While the gates of Hell are closed, do pray to your Lord they may never be opened for you. Satans have been handcuffed, invoke your Lord ntt to let them dominate you." Amir AI-Mu'mineen Au (a.s.) said :

"1 asked, 0 Messenger of Allah, what is the best of deeds in this month?' He replied: 0 Abu'l Hassan, the best of deeds in this month is to be far from what Allah has forbidden."*

Fasting - Worship

"0 you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those that were before you, so that you may be godfering. (Fast) A certain number of days. But whoever of you is sick or on a journey, then (he shall fast) the (same) number of other days and for those who are able(with hards-hip to fast) a redemption by feeding a needy poor person. But whoever volunteers to do good it is better for him; and to fast is better for you,if you know.

The month of Ramadhan in which the Qur'an was sent down to be a gyidance for mankind and as clear signs of guidance and a criterion (between right and wrongl. Therefore, whoever of you is present at the month, fast it; and whoever is sick, or on a journey, then (fast) the (same) number of other days; Allah desires ease for you, and desires not hardship for you; so that you should complete the nwnber (of days decreed), and exalt Allah for His guiding you, so that you might be thankful."

Holy Qur'an (2 :183 - 185)

A Definition Of Fasting

Originally, in Arabic the word as-sawm meant aI-Jmsak i.e. to abstain totally from any act including eating, drinking, walking, speaking etc. Thus, the Arabs used to refer to' a horse refusing to run or to be fed, as!a'im i.e. fasting. As is clear the word sawm is ancient and was used in a different context by the Arabs before Islam. Then, however it did not have the specific meaning given to it by Islam as a term denoting a certain religious obligation.


* Shi eikh Saduq - Uyun Akhbar ar-Rid/ia.

As an Islamic term, it means to refrain intentionally from what breaks fasting. *

To a Muslim, fasting is not just refraining from eating and drinking but carries the added significance of worship, psychological comfort, morality and legislation. It is neither the irrational motionless Imsak of pre-Islamic Arabs nor the mere abstaining from eating and drinking, but is in fact the building of one's character, control over desires, and an inspiration towards social and scientific creativity.

Allah has commanded this sanctified duty and enjoined it on the Muslims, as He had enjoined it on the believing nations before. He assigned the blessed month, the month of Ramadhan, for every adult and healthy Muslim as a period of fasting. This sacred ordinance was prescribed by Allah, the Exalted for all believers and revealed in the preceding month of Sha'ban, nearly a year and a half after the Hijrah.*

Gradually, the Almighty revealed numerous other verses about the month of Ramadhan and the rules of fasting. In the light of these divine injunctions,the Prophet expounded the merits of fasting, its significance, regulations, effects, benefits and great reward. Hence, Fasting is one of the pillars of Islam, and a religious duty for all those who believe in Monotheism, and consequently whoever denies it is a disbeliever.

It is an apparent sign of obedience, submission and servitude to Allah, the Exalted. By fasting, a Muslim expresses his submission to Allah's command, his response to His will, and the control over his own desires and wishes, at the Almighty's behest. In Ramadhan a Muslim's abstaining from food, drink, sexual intercourse, etc. during the prescribed hours, is the very manifestation of the creatures' obedience to the Creator's Will.


* Mohaqqiq al-Hilli, Shara'e al-Islam. * The Prophet's auspicious migration to Medina, (622 AC.) ivhich marks the start of the Islamic calendar.

This self-deprivation represents a state of self-control, and of overcoming carnal pleasure, desire and enjoyment, for the blissful love of Allah, His proximity, and the eagerness to obtain His consent. It is a triumph of pristine love over one's desires and wants. It characterizes the control over transient pleasures for the eternal ones promised by the Almighty.

This response to divine commandments represents and incarnates true servitude, and is a brilliant display of spirit, intellect and decisive will power.

By fasting,a person keeps himself away from the pleasures of life, with no preventive or hindrance factor, except that of obeying Allah and showing genuine devotion to His commands. A hadith succintly explains this fact : "A fasting person is in a state of worship, even when (asleep) in bed, except when he backbites wwther Muslim."*

"... Every breath you take is (has the reward oj) Tasbih (praise to Allah) and your sleep in worship..." *

In a moving speech, the Messenger of Allah describes the believing soul that fasts for love of Allah out of truthfulness and sincerity, and thus the whole day becomes an altar of worship, and each and every activity of the fasting body, provided it abstains from loathsome acts, is nothing but worship embodied. The Prophet describes the sleep of a fasting Muslim,even the very breathing to be acts of worship, because they emanate from a body regarded as being in continual worship through abstaining from tasting delicious and lawful things, solely out of obedience to the Creator. The Almighty Himself extols fasting and attributes it as a special blessing for mankind as is clear from a hadith Qudsi.


* Al-Kulayni, al-Fni mm aI-Kafi. vol. 4, The Book of Fasting. p. 190/3rd edition. * Prophet's Sermon - Uvun Akhbar ar-Ridha.

The Prophet said:

"Allah, the Exalted says: Fasting is (exclusively) for Me and I will reward it."

The eighth Imam, Au ibn Musa ar-Ridha (a.s.) quotes his ancestor the Prophet on the chain of authority of his noble forefathers:

"0 people, anybody who a, this month cultivates good manners will walk over the Sirat (bridge to Paradise) on the day when feet will tend to slip... " *