Fasting and its typologies – Part I
O! YE who believe, fasting has been made compulsory upon you, as it was made compulsory for those who came before you…Quran 2: 183
This is therefore a reminder. Recall, that fasting became obligatory for Muslims during the second year after the Hijra (migration of the Prophet from Makkah to Madinah). Thus, the Prophet fasted nine times in the month before he transited from this world to the other. The Almighty says: “O you who have to believe Fasting is decreed upon you as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous (Quran 2: 183).
As we continue this year’s (1443 A.H) fasting, it is important to bear in mind that this spiritual exercise can be divided into three. According to Imam al-Ghazali, there are ordinary fasting (șawm al-ʻUmmῡm), fasting of the elites in the spiritual realm (șawm al-khawāș) and fasting of the elite of the believing elite (șawm khawāș al-khawāș).
The first, which is ordinary fasting, means abstaining from food, drinks, and sexual intercourse during the day though the person fasting may indulge in vain talks and watch forbidden scenes and images. This type of fasting is of the lowest level.
The second type of fasting which is fasting of the elite implies a type of fasting that entails, in addition to abstinence from eating and drinking) keeping one’s ears, eyes, tongue, hands, feet and all other organs of the body free from sins. The third variant or form of fasting- fasting of the elite of the believing elite- refers to the fasting of the heart from unworthy concerns and worldly thoughts. It implies a type of fasting in which the servant disconnects himself or herself completely from this world and set her face and concern upon those mercies and favours that only the Almighty, the Great and the Glorious could grant. This kind of fasting is broken by thinking of worldly matters, except for those matters that are conducive to religious ends, since they constitute provisions for the Hereafter and are not exclusively of and for this lower world.
It is has been suggested by those imbued with discernment and knowledge of the spiritual states of the heart that it is not an ideal or a virtue for one to be concerned throughout the day with arrangements for breaking fast. Such anxiety stems from a lack of trust in the bounties of the Almighty and from a lack of faith in His promised sustenance. To this third degree belong the Prophets, the friends of the Almighty.
Now how can the believer join the elite of the believing elite through his fasting? Simple. Try and follow the following steps: one: see not what displeases the Almighty. Prophet Muhammad, on him, be peace, says: “The furtive glance is one of the poisoned arrows of Satan, on him be God’s curse. Whoever forsakes it for fear of God will receive from Him, Great and Glorious is He, a faith the sweetness of which he will find within his heart”.
Two- speak not what displeases the Almighty. Guarding one’s tongue against idle chatter, lying, gossiping, obscenities, rudeness, arguments and controversies during the month of Ramadan are ways by which one could attain higher stations with the Almighty through fasting. Someone observing fasting is expected to be taciturn on worldly matters except such become absolutely necessary. He is expected to engage in much remembrance of God, the Great and the Glorious. This is why recitation of the glorious Quran is one of the most virtuous deeds a believer could engage in during the month. The Prophet is quoted to have said: “Two habits annul Fasting: backbiting and telling lies”.
Three. While abstinence from chattering and idle talks is a virtue during the month, someone fasting is equally expected to avoid listening to things that are forbidden or reprehensible. The rule or principle is this- that which is unlawful to utter is likewise unlawful to be heard.
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Afis Ayinde Oladosu Ph.D
Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies,
Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies,
University of Ibadan,