The Levels of Fasting (2/2)
Dr. Bilal Philips
The Psychological Level
This level helps the fasting person psychologically to control evil thoughts
and trains him or her, to some degree, how to overcome stinginess and greed.
The Prophet was reported to have said:
"Allah has no need for the hunger and the thirst of the person who does not
restrain himself from telling lies and acting on them even while observing the
fast." (Reported by Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
In this age of immediate gratification, when the things of the world are used
to fulfill human needs and desires almost as soon as they have them the
ability to delay gratification is an important skill. What is between
immediate gratification and delayed gratification is patience. During the
fast, the believers learn patience and the benefits of it.
From a psychological perspective, it is good to be somewhat detached from the
things of the world. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a good and full life
- in fact, one can and should expect that. However, it is important that
people are able to detach ourselves from material things so that they do not
become the most important part of their lives.
Fasting gives one the opportunity to overcome the many addictions which have
become a major part of modern life. Food, for many people, provides comfort
and joy, and the ability to separate oneself from it gives the fasting people
the psychological benefit of knowing that they do have some degree of control
over what they do and what they do not do.
The Spiritual Level
In order to establish this, the highest and most important level of fasting,
the level of God-consciousness, Prophet Muhammad made the renewal of the
intention for fasting a requirement before every day of fasting. He was
reported to have said:
"Whoever does not intend to fast before Fajr (the dawn) will have no fast."
(Reported by Abu Dawud)
The daily renewal of intention helps to establish a spiritual foundation of
sincerity essential for the spiritual cleansing effects of fasting to operate.
Sincere fasting purifies and atones for sin, as the Prophet said:
"Whoever fasts Ramadan out of sincere faith and seeking his reward from God,
his previous sins will be forgiven."
He was also reported to have said, "From one Ramadaan to the next is atonement
for the sins between them." Sincere fasting brings one closer to Allah and
earns a special reward. The Prophet informed that there is a gate in paradise
called Rayyaan reserved for those who fast and he also said:
"When Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are open." (Reported by Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
Fasting is primarily between the person and God, as no one can be sure that
any person is actually fasting. Because of this intimate aspect of fasting,
Allah was quoted by the Prophet as saying:
"Every act of Aadam's descendants is for themselves, except fasting. It is
meant for Me alone, and I Alone will give the reward for it." (Reported by
When combined with the previous levels of fasting, this level transforms a
person from within. It restores, revives and regenerates the fasting person's
spirituality and radically modifies his or her personality and character.
These are the precious products of a heightened state of God-consciousness.
On the first day of the following month, after another new moon has been
sighted, a special celebration is made, called Id al-Fitr. A quantity of
staple food is donated to the poor (Zakat al-Fitr), everyone has bathed and
put on their best, preferably new, clothes, and communal prayers are held in
the early morning, followed by feasting and visiting relatives and friends.
There are other fast days throughout the year. Muslims are encouraged to fast
six days in Shawwal, the month following Ramadan, Mondays and Thursdays, and
the ninth and tenth, or tenth and eleventh of Muharram, the first month of the
year. The tenth day, called Ashurah, is also a fast day for the Jews (Yom
Kippur), and Allah commanded the Muslims to fast two days to distinguish
themselves from the People of the Book.
While fasting per se is encouraged, constant fasting, as well as monasticism,
celibacy, and otherwise retreating from the real world, are condemned in
Islam. Fasting on the two festival days, Id al-Fitr and Id al-Adha, the feast
of the Hajj, is strictly forbidden.
Source: Why Do Muslims Fast?