Before we do something, we want to know why we are doing it. What is the benefit of doing it? You must have read and heard a lot about the purpose and benefits of fasting such as health benefits and spiritual objectives, etc. But all of these pieces of information are based on our limited understanding and our limited knowledge. Let’s see what Allah (SWT) tells us about the purpose of fasting:
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.” (Al Baqarah-183)
This means that the primary purpose of fasting is that we may become pious or muttaqi. This doesn’t mean that the act of fasting alone can make us pious. It means that the state of fasting provides the perfect atmosphere for the activities and deeds that can lead us towards righteousness. The month of Ramadan is sort of a boot camp to prepare us for living a life that pleases Allah (SWT) for the rest of the year. So, every year we get an opportunity to refresh and energize our iman for another year.
Beware, fasting often gives us a false illusion of piety; we think that since we are fasting, we are doing all the right things. However, there are many things that spoil our fast without people even realizing it.
The Prophet (SAW) said: “There are so many of fasting people who do not get anything out of fasting except thirst and hunger and there are so many of worshippers who do not get anything out of their waking up at night except being awake.”
How can we achieve Taqwa (piety)?
Keeping away from what’s forbidden and the things that displease Allah (SWT) and striving to please him because of the fear of Allah (SWT) is Taqwa.
‘’Keep from disobedience to God in reverent piety with all the reverence that is due to Him’’. (Al -Imran 102).
Umer bin Al-Khattaab (may Allah be pleased with him) asked Ubayy bin Ka‘b (may Allah be pleased with him) about the meaning of Taqwa. Ubayy bin Ka’b replied, “O Commander of the Believers! What would you do if you walked on a thorny road?” ‘Umar replied, “I would raise my garment and be cautious not to let my clothes get entangled in the thorns and strive not to step on one of them.” Ubayy bin Ka‘b said, “This is Taqwa.”
Having Taqwa or striving to achieve it is necessary for acceptance of good deeds. “Verily Allah accepts only from those who are Muttaqeen, or pious and righteous.” (Al-Ma’idah 27)
The reason fasting helps in achieving piety is because nobody except Allah (SWT) can truly know whether you have been abstaining from what is not permissible or not. When you fight all the temptations of your nafs for the fear of Allah (SWT), whether it is food, sexual relationships with your spouse, or anything else that is normally permissible, it increases your iman and taqwa.
Since fasting is a way to attain Taqwa, it is important to know what a fasting Muslim should and should not do.
Narrated by Abu Huraira ((may Allah be pleased with him)), “The person observing fasting should not use foul language, raise his voice, or behave foolishly and impudently, and if somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should say, ‘I am fasting.” (Bukhari)
Prophet (SAW) said, “Whoever does not give up false speech and false conduct, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)” (Bukhari)
“If you fast, then your hearing and sight should also fast, and your tongue should fast from backbiting and tale bearing. Do not harm your neighbor and be calm and dignified on the day that you fast. Do not make a day that you fast similar to a day that you do not.” Said Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him).
The Prophet (SAW) said: “Whoever observes fasts during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain the rewards of Allah, then all his past sins will be forgiven.” (Bukhari)
Let’s take full advantage of this blessed month by striving to achieve its true objective, which more than often, is lost in the festivities associated with Ramadan.