Importance of Observing Inward Aspects
Now you may say: 'Suppose someone confines himself to
curbing his appetite for food and drink and his sexual desire,
to the neglect of the inward aspects. According to the
experts in jurisprudence (Fiqh) his Fast (Saum) is valid.
So what are we to make of this?'
You must realise that the scholars of external legality are
concerned only with such obligations as fall within the capac-
ity of ordinary heedless people, wholly caught up in the affairs
of this world.
As for those learned in knowledge of the Hereafter, the
meaning they attach to validity is acceptance, and by accept-
ance they mean attainment of the goal. According to their
understanding, the goal of Fasting is the acquisition of one of
the qualities of God, Great and Glorious is He, namely stead-
fastness (samadiya), as well as following the example of the
angels by abstaining as far as possible from the desires of the
flesh, for they are immune to such passions. The human status
is superior to that of the animals, since man is able by the light
of reason to tame his lust; yet it is inferior to that of the angels,
in that he is subject to carnality and put to the test in combat
with its temptations.
Whenever man falls prey to lust, he sinks to the lowest of
the low and joins the animal herd. Whenever he curbs his
desires, he ascends to the highest of the high and attains the
angelic level. The angels are near the presence of God, Great
and Glorious is He, so those who follow their example and
model themselves on their character will likewise draw near to
God, Great and Glorious is He. To resemble one who is near
is to be near. This nearness, however, is not spatial but
If this is the secret of Fasting among men of profound
spiritual understanding, what benefit is to be derived from
postponing a meal only to combine two meals after sunset,
while indulging in all other passions the whole day long? If
there were any good in such conduct, what could the Prophet,
on him be peace, have meant by saying: 'How many of those
who Fast get nothing from it but hunger and thirst?' (Nasai
& Ibn Majah).
This is why Abul Darda' said: 'How fine is the sleep of the
wise and their non-Fasting! Don't they just put to shame the
Fasting and wakefulness of fools! A mere atom from those
possessed of certainty and true piety is better and weightier
than seeming mountains of worship by the misguided.' For
the same reason one of the scholars said: 'How many who Fast
are not keeping Fast, and how many who do not keep Fast are
The Fasting non-Faster is he who keeps his limbs and
organs pure of sin while still eating and drinking; the non-
Fasting Faster is he who goes hungry and thirsty while giving
full licence to his limbs and organs. Those who understand the
significance of Fasting and its secret meaning are aware that
he who abstains from food, drink and sexual intercourse,
while breaking Fast by involving himself in sin, is like one who
performs his ablution by wiping part of his body three times
(in compliance with the external legal requirement), yet
neglects what is really important, namely the actual washing.
Because of this stupidity his ritual Prayer is rejected. By
contrast, he who does not abstain from eating, yet does Fast in
the sense of keeping his organs Free from all that is unworthy,
is comparable to one who washes the proper parts of his body
only once each. God willing, his ritual Prayer is acceptable,
since he has paid due attention to the essentials, even if he has
omitted the details. But he who combines the two may be
compared to one who not only washes each part of the body,
but does so three times each, for he attends to essentials and
details alike, and this constitutes perfection.
The Prophet, on him be peace, once said: 'The Fast is a
trust, so let each of you keep this trust!" (Kharaiti; Hasan)
And when he recited the words of God, Great and Glorious is He:
'Surely God bids you restore trusts to their owners.'
[al-Nisa', 4: 58]
he touched his ears and his eyes, saying: 'Hearing is a trust and
sight is a trust.' (Abu Dawud) If speech were not likewise a trust
of the Fast, the Prophet, on him be peace, would not have said:
'Say: "I am Fasting!"' (Bukhari & Muslim).
In other words: 'My tongue has been entrusted to
my care, so how can I release it to answer your insults?'
It therefore becomes apparent that every act of worship has
both an outer and an inner aspect, a husk and a kernel.