Fasting-Its inner dimensions
Fasting is a mode of worship that is not exclusive to the religion of Islam. In fact, it has been prevalent in every religion, though in varied and diverse forms. As Allah says in the Holy Qur’an Ch 2,V183: ‘Oh ye who believe, fasting has been enjoined upon you just as it was enjoined on those before you so that you may attain righteousness’
Islam outlines the purpose of the human existence in Ch52 V56 of the Holy Qur’an: ‘Verily,We created not men and Jinn except to worship Me.’ All the modes of worship in Islam are designed in a way that helps to fulfil this underline objective. In this article, we shall aim to illustrate how fasting prepares an individual for fulfilling the purpose of his existence.
The word for fasting in Arabic is ‘Saum’. Literally, Saum means abstinence. As opposed to the prayer, the Hajj and the Zakat,fasting is devoid of an external visible form because it involves not doing something that one routinely does rather than doing something that one does not routinely do. It is quite possible that one could secretly eat or drink without being observed by a human being but what stops the fasting person from doing so is the fear of Allah. This strengthens him in the conviction that he can hide from or deceive anyone except Allah and makes him less prone to committing sin or abuse.
Another hallmark of fasting is that it is a prolonged exercise which spans over a major part of the day and encompasses a whole month and recurs every year. By subjecting the human personality to this regular and rigorous time- keeping and discipline it moulds him into a responsible individual. Moreover, the benefits of this exercise are multiplied manifold because millions of Muslims participate in it together, and there is a general atmosphere of devotion, piety and benevolence. The Prophet saw said that Allah Ta’ala says ‘every deed of the son of Adam is multiplied ten times to seven hundred times. However fasting is exclusively for Me and I shall reward it as much as I deem fitting’.
Also, fasting teaches you to abstain from lying. The Prophet (saw) said ‘whoever does not abstain from lying or acting upon falsehood, Allah is not in need of him to give up his food and drink.’ In another Hadith it is said ‘numerous are those fasting persons who do not achieve anything from their fast except starvation and thirst, and numerous are those standing in night prayers who achieve nothing from their prayers except sleeplessness.’ This proves that the aim behind fasting is not self infliction but rather disciplining one’s self towards obedience.
Also the Prophet (saw) said: Fasting is a shield. So when one of you is fasting he should not indulge in quarelling or shouting. If someone abuses him or tries to fight him, he should say, ‘I am fasting.’
In another Hadith, The Prophet(saw) said ‘whoever fasted in Ramadan with Eiman and seeking reward from Allah, Allah will forgive all his sins’. The Muslims have been instructed to strive harder in earning good deeds when fasting especially in feeding the fasting person and other forms of charity and showing kindness to fellow human beings, irrespective of their religion or their cultural affiliations.