Abu Umamah r.a. asked: “O Messenger of Allah, tell me of an action by which I may enter Paradise.” The Messenger of Allah s.a.w. replied: “Take to Fasting, there is nothing like it.” [An-Nasaa'ee, Ibn Hibbaan, Al-Haakim, Sahih]
For Muslims who are currently fasting in this blessed month of Ramadhan, the wisdom of this Hadith is easily understood as we go through the struggles of fasting. What fasting does is, among others, develop our discipline, our willpower, our physical and spiritual strength, our emotional empathy for others, our inspiration to help others, and the list goes on…
But Muslims also know that fasting is not easy. Mere theoretical knowledge of the greatness of fasting in itself is not enough to attain Allah’s Pleasure. One has to fast sincerely for the sake of Allah s.w.t., disciplining the body and soul to maintain the fast for 30 continuous days, with the view of purifying his deeds, intentions and being, in order to achieve the objective of becoming a more God-conscious person (muttaqin).
As such, our Beloved Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. issued a warning for us to be more concerted in our efforts during fasting, in the following words: "Perhaps a fasting person will receive nothing from his fasting, except hunger and thirst." [Ibn Majah, Ad-Dharimee, Ahmad, al-Baihaqi, Sahih]
Fasting is more than mere abstaining from food and drinks. It demonstrates not merely our potential, but our ability and capacity to control psychological aspects of our behavior, such as our reaction to things that displeases or angers us. Ironically, it is in these moments of physical emptiness (from food and drinks) that we learn how to manage our ego and emotion judiciously – by portraying a more respectable and honourable response. On any other day and month, this internal processing of our reactions gets truncated.
And simply by such acts of benevolent restraints, our actions become acts of ‘ibadah and we get rewarded in multiple portions by the Most Gracious and Most Generous s.w.t. SubhanAllah!
This reflection convinces me on one elementary point: fasting transcends beyond merely being a simplistic ritual. In Surah al-Baqarah verse 183, Allah s.w.t. says: “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed upon you as it was prescribed to those who came before you; that you may become God-Conscious (Taqwa).” This Taqwa is only achieved when, due to the deed of fasting, it transforms us to become a Muslim who is constantly conscious of his complete dependence on His Lord, as a Muslim who is constantly hungry and thirsty for His Lord’s Mercy and Benevolence upon him, and as a Muslim who is continuously in a state of self-improvement through the acts of self-restraint.
Sometimes, I cannot help but to think that this is a tall order for anyone to achieve. But, through the Grace of Allah s.w.t., I am also reminded that being a Muslim of piety is a process and a personal journey that each and everyone of us take. Importantly, we must not give up – and we are only judged by our best efforts.
A final reflection for me to conclude is this: I am raised in my consciousness that I cannot do and achieve this alone. And so, with no where to turn, I turn my hopes completely to my Creator for His Help in realizing the person that I am intended to be.
In my readings, I came across a beautiful quote by our female Islamic scholar, Shaykha Fariha Fatima. It reads as follows:
“There are as many forms of fasting as there are organs of perception and sensation, and each of these has many different levels. So we ask to fast from all that Allah does not love for us, and to feast on what the Beloved loves for us. Let us certainly fast from the limited mind, and all that it conjures up. Let us fast from fear, apart from fear and awe of Allah's majesty. Let us fast from thinking that we know, when Allah alone is the Knower. Let us fast from thinking negatively of anyone. Let us fast from our manipulations and strategies. Let us fast from all complaint about life experiences that Allah gives us. Let us fast from our bad habits and our reactions. Let us fast from desiring what we do not have. Let us fast from obsession. Let us fast from despair. Let us fast from not loving our self, and from denying our heart. Let us fast from selfishness and self-centered behavior. Let us fast from thinking that only what serves us is important. Let us fast from seeing reality only from our own point of view. Let us fast from seeing any reality other than Allah, and from relying on anything other than Allah. Let us fast from desiring anything other than Allah and Allah's Prophets and friends, and our own true self. Essentially, let us fast from thinking that we have any existence separate from Allah.”
And I humbly beseech from Allah s.w.t., Amin ya Rabbal ‘Alamin.