Fasting by Imam al-Haddâd (A translation of a section of his Nasâih al-Dîniyâh)
- The Status of Ramadân
- The blessings of Ramadân
- The etiquettes of fasting
- The Prophetic traditions regarding the fast
- Recommended actions
Imam al-Haddâd, may Allah shower him with mercy, said:
Know! O gathering of brothers, may Allah ease us and you towards ease and distance us from difficulty and forgive us in the next world and the first one, that Ramadân is a month of mighty status and rank with Allah and His Messenger, upon him be peace. It is the master of all months. Allah made fasting compulsory for the Muslims and prescribed it for them. The Exalted said:
O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint,- (al-Baqara 2:183)
In it, Allah descended His Book and made the Night of Power, which is better than a thousand months, among its nights. A thousand months is more than eighty years. Count and contemplate what this Night of Power is – a night that Allah has made greater than this long period. And Allah, The Exalted has said:
Ramadân is the (month) in which was sent down the Qurân, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong). (al-Baqara 2:185)
And He also said:
We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power: And what will explain to thee what the night of power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by Allah’s permission, on every errand; Peace! This until the rise of morn! (al-Qadr, 97:1-5)
He, The Transcendent, made us aware that the Qurân was descended in the month of Ramadân and then that He specifically sent it down on the Night of Power. The ‘descending’ was in one go from the Sacred Tablet (al-Lahw al-Mahfûz) to The House of Power (bayt al-‘Izza ) which is in the lowest sky and then it was revealed in portions by Jibrîl (Gabriel) by Allah’s command to His messenger, upon both of them be peace over a period of twenty three years. That is the period of Allah’s revelation to His Messenger, upon him be peace, as Allah revealed the Qurân when he was forty years old and he, upon him be peace and salutations passed away when he was sixty-three years old. That is what the critical scholars from the early and later generations have said.
The Messenger of Allah, upon him be peace, said regarding Ramadân: ‘Ramadân to Ramadân, Friday prayer to Friday prayer and compulsory prayer to compulsory prayer cover up what is between them if one avoids the major sins.’
And he, upon him be peace and salutations, said, ‘it is the month of steadfastness (sabr) and the reward of steadfastness is the Garden.’ And he said of it, ‘its beginning is mercy, its middle is forgiveness and its ending is freedom from the Fire.’
Allah, the Exalted, looks to the Muslims on its first night and He will not punish the one He has looked to and He forgives them on its last night.
Jibril (Gabriel) said to the Messenger of Allah, upon both of them be peace, ‘whoever reaches Ramadân and is not forgiven in it, may Allah distant him, say “amin”.’ The messenger said, ‘amin’. This is because the means of forgiveness in Ramadân are greater than in other months and therefore the only one who is prevented from forgiveness is one who, due to the iniquity of his rebellion against Allah and the enormity of his rebellion against Allah, causes distance and rejection from Allah’s door. We ask Allah for safety from His anger, His punishment and all His tribulations.
It has been related that the doors of the skies are opened as are all the doors of the Garden during Ramadân. The doors of the fire are locked and the minions of Shaytân are banished to the seas so that they cannot spoil the fast and the standing in prayer of the Muslims. A caller calls on each night of Ramadân ‘O desirer of good, come forward! O desirers of evil, go away!’
It has also been related that ‘whoever seeks proximity to Allah through a compulsory act will have the reward of seventy compulsory acts. Whoever seeks proximity to Allah through a superogatory act will have the reward of a compulsory act.’ The superogatory acts in Ramadân are of the status of compulsory acts in other months in terms of reward. The compulsory rewards are increased seventy times above those of other months.
And He upon whom be peace and blessings said, ‘whoever fasts the month of Ramadân and prays the night prayer with faith and sincerity will have his prior sins forgiven. Imân here means believing and ihtisâb means with sincerity. And Allah knows best.
The fast has etiquettes without which the fast will not be perfected.
Among the most important is to protect one’s tongue from lies, backbiting and falling into that which does not concern you and protecting your eyes and ears from looking at or listening to that which is not permitted and that which is superfluous.
Likewise, one should protect one’s stomach from consuming anything prohibited or doubtful especially when breaking one’s fast. One should make special effort to only break one’s fast with the permitted.
Some of the righteous predecessors have said, ‘when you fast, take care about what you break your fast with and with whom you break your fast’ indicating the importance of circumspection and scrupulousness about what one breaks one’s fast with.
Likewise, the fasting person should protect all his limbs from falling into misdeeds and after that, he should protect them from the superfluous. By this, he perfects his fast and is purified. How many fasting people tire themselves with hunger and thirst yet their limbs go on in disobedience and spoil the fast? Their exhaustion is wasted by that. As he upon whom be peace and blessing said, ‘how many fasting people gain nothing from their fast but hunger and thirst?’
Avoiding disobedience is a compulsion at all times for those who are fasting and those who are not, but a fasting person should be more careful and so the compulsion is firmer – so understand!
And he upon whom be peace and blessings said, ‘the fast is a shield and on the day when one of you fasts, one should not utter obscenities, act immorally or show ignorance; for if a person comes to curse or fight him, he should say, “I am fasting!”’
Among the etiquettes of fasting is to not sleep excessively during the day not eat excessively during the night, but to rather be moderate in that so that one feels the hunger and thirst and trains the self, weakens the passions and enlightens the heart. That is the secret of fasting and its purpose. The fasting person should avoid extravagance and excessive passion and delights as we have already mentioned. In this respect, the minimum should be that one’s extravagance in Ramadan and out of Ramadan should be the same. This is the minimum level expected, however, spiritual exercise and abstinence from the passions of the self have a great effect on the illumination of the heart, which is specifically requested in Ramadân. As for those who are more extravagant in their customs and passions in Ramadân than they are in other months, they are in delusion, deluded by the devil out of his envy of them. (He deludes them) so that they lose the blessings of their fast and that its lights and revelations do not manifest themselves and they do not feel presence with Allah, The Exalted, nor do they feel humility before Him, nor do they enjoy the intimate discourse with Him, nor recitation of His Book or His remembrance.
It was the practice of the predecessors, may Allah show them mercy, to reduce their customary behaviour and passions and increase their righteous actions specifically in Ramadân, although their biographies show that they had these qualities at all times.
Among the etiquettes of fasting is to not be excessive with worldly preoccupations in the month of Ramadân. One should rather free oneself from them to allow for the worship of Allah and His remembrance as much as possible. One should not enter into worldly preoccupations except where absolutely necessary or in fulfilment of the rights of those whom one is responsible for, such as family and the like. That is because Ramadân among the months is of the same status as Friday among the days. It is appropriate for the believer to dedicate his Friday and this month of his specifically to his next life.
Among the prophetic traditions is to hasten to breaking the fast with dates and if they can not be found then with water. He, upon whom be peace, used to break his fast before praying the maghrib prayer. He said, ‘my nation would always be in a state of goodness as long as they hasten to break their fast and delay their morning meal.’ Therefore, delaying the morning meal is also from the prophetic tradition.
It is also appropriate that the fasting person reduces the amount of food consumed and not to increase it so that the traces of the fast can be manifest and that he attains a portion of its secret and its purpose, which is the training of the lower self and the weakening of its passions. In hunger and the emptiness of the stomach, there is a great effect on the illumination of the heart and on energising the limbs to worship.
Satiety is the source of the hardening of the heart and laziness in acts of obedience. He, upon whom be peace, said, ‘the son of Adam has not filled a vessel worse than his stomach. A few morsels are sufficient for the son of Adam to straighten his back. And if this is impossible for him, then a third for his food, a third for his drink and a third for his breathing.’ Some of them have said, ‘when the stomach is satiated, all the limbs go hungry and if the stomach is hungry all the limbs will be satiated.’
I say, ‘hunger of the limbs indicates them seeking and being ardent about their passions; the tongue to speech, the eye to looking, the ear to listening and likewise the rest of the limbs. This leads them to superfluous desires when the stomach is full. With its emptiness, it finds its serenity and stillness and this is what is implied in the ‘satiety of the limbs’.
Among the most well established recommended actions is the feeding of fasting people with dates or a drink of water. He, upon him be peace, said, ‘whoever feeds a fasting person will have the equivalent of his reward without reducing his reward at all,’ meaning the reward of the fasting person. This reward is restricted to actually feeding the person at the time of his fast even if it is with a drink of water. As for the one who provides food for a fasting person once he has broken his fast at his home or in some other place, he will not receive this reward but he will attain the reward of feeding people and that is itself great. The reward of one who feeds a fasting person to his full, wherever he feeds him is great.