Thursday, 8th June 2023

Fasting and its typologies – Part 2

By Afis Oladosu
15 April 2022   |   3:32 am
Fourth. A fasting Muslim is expected to not do anything that the Almighty has forbidden. In other words, the value accruable to the believer would be redeemed in full once we keep all our limbs and organs.....

Fasting | Photo Parade

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

Fourth. A fasting Muslim is expected to not do anything that the Almighty has forbidden. In other words, the value accruable to the believer would be redeemed in full once we keep all our limbs and organs away from sin. It is meaningless to abstain from lawful food only to break one’s fast on what is unlawful. A man who fasts like this may be compared to one who builds a castle but demolishes a city. The unlawful is a poison: it is deadly to religion, while the lawful is a medicine, beneficial in small doses but harmful in excess.

One important caution that is very relevant here is the need for the believer to avoid over-eating during this season. Our Prophet reminds us that there is no receptacle more odious to the Almighty than a belly stuffed-full with lawful food. Of what use is the fast as a means of conquering the enemy (Shaytan) and abating appetite, if at the time of breaking it one not only makes up for all one has missed during the daytime, but perhaps also indulges in a variety of extra foods? It has even become customary to stock up for Ramadan with all kinds of foodstuffs, so that more is consumed during that the month than in the course of several other months put together. This habit negates the goal of fasting which is that the believer should experience hunger and thereby put his or her appetitive desires under control. This is one of the very first conditions for spiritual development. Of what value would that fasting be therefore if the stomach is starved at dawn only for its appetitive cravings to be set free at dusk?

In other words, when a believer indulges in excessive food consumption during the month of fasting, it only shows that he is still far away from reaching the goal of fasting altogether. Such individuals would be seen craving and desiring everything edible during the iftar sessions. Such individuals would run after all delicacies and luxuries on offer. Such belong to the category of the faithful who fast in order to eat not eat in order to fast. Their passion for the earthly which usually lay dormant at dawn is usually unleashed at dusk. People who fall into this category usually derive minimum reward from fasting. This is because their goal for engaging in the act is not seek the pleasures of the Almighty but the satisfaction of their basal instincts or desires.

Brethren, the argument here is this- the main objective of fasting is to weaken the forces of evil which often afflict and affect the soul through indulgence in the satisfaction of our human appetitive desires. This usually comes into fore through acts of eating, drinking, sleeping and sexual intercourse. Fasting has been ordained to set us free from these shackles. It has been established to assist us discover the angelic in us. By forsaking those conveniences of life that we have become accustomed to during the past eleven months, we rise about the trappings of Shaytan. There can be no benefit from fasting when the objective behind it is food and more food!

Therefore, during the month of Ramadan, let your heart swing like a pendulum between fear and hope. For we do not know, for certain, if our fasting will be accepted, and through that become one of those who would find His favour. In other words, we should pray to Him to accept our acts of worship despite their inadequacies. After erecting the pillars of the Ka’aba together with his son Ismail (a.s), Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) knew he still had to supplicate to Him to accept the effort as acts of worship! “And (remember) when Ibrahim was raising the foundations of the House and [with him] Ismail, (he prayed): “Our Lord, accept [this] from us.
Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing (Quran 2: 127).

It is related of al-Hasan ibn Abil Hasan al-Basri that he once passed by a group of people who were laughing merrily. He said: ‘The Almighty, Great and Glorious is He, has made the month of Ramadan a race-course, on which His creatures compete in His worship. Some have come in first and won, while others have lagged behind and lost. It is absolutely amazing to find anybody laughing and playing about on the day when success attends the victors, and failure the wasters. By God, if the veil were lifted off, the doer of good would surely be preoccupied with his good works and the evildoer with his evil deeds.”

Those who are focused on attaining eternal bliss hardly have time to indulge in idle sport; those who are destined to suffer eternal reprimand usually find ease in displeasing the Almighty.
From al-Ahnaf ibn Qays: it is reported that he was once told: ‘You are an aged elder; fasting would enfeeble you.’ But he replied: ‘By this I am making ready for a long journey; obedience to God, glorified is He, is easier to endure than His punishment.’
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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, Nigeria

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