Eight Prophetic Objectives of Fasting
Behind every Prophetic Sunnah there are noble spiritual maqāsid (aims and objectives) to obtain beyond merely performing the physical act itself. In-sha-Allah, this article will assist in directing your attention towards the noble spiritual objectives of fasting. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Verily actions are in accordance to intention(s).” (Bukhari 1, Muslim 1907) In other words, a person will obtain the merit of his action in accordance to what he intends from his it. Therefore, it is important that we learn the Prophetic Objectives behind fasting so that our actions and intentions are in accordance to the spirit of Prophet Guidance.
The eight Prophet Objectives mentioned in this article are as follows: elevation in spiritual degree, expiation of sins, suppression of carnal desires, increasing in charity, increasing in worship, gratitude for Allah (The Knower of Hidden Affairs), prevention from the danger of sin and acting in contradiction to what is lawful, and feeding others who are fasting.
This article is generally a translation of an excerpt taken from the book, Maqāsid Al-Sawm, by the great Shafi Imam, Ibn Abdus Salam (660 AH), famously known as Sultan of The Scholars—may Allah bless him. Also, there are a few additions of Hadith which I have added to support the topic.
1. Elevation In Spiritual Degree
(1) The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
When the month of Ramadan arrives, the gates of Paradise are opened, and the gates of Hellfire are closed, and the shaytans are shackled. (Bukhari 1899, Muslim 1709)
The opening of the gates of Paradise is in reference to the abundance of worship, which necessitates the opening of the gates of Paradise.
The closing of the gates of Hellfire is in reference to the small amount of sins, which necessitates the closing of the gates of the Fire.
The shackling of shaytans is in reference to the blockage of their whispers from those who are fasting because theshaytans have no hope that those fasting will respond to sin.
(2) It is also reported in a Hadith Al-Qudsi that he ﷺ said:
Every action of Bani Adam (mankind) is for himself, except fasting. Verily it is for Me; I will reward him for it. Fasting is a shield, therefore, when any of you are fasting, he should not engage in rafath (obscene language), nor sakhab(raise his voice in dispute). If a person happens to curse or fight him, then he should say, “verily I am a person fasting!” By the one whose grasp holds the soul of Muhammad, the smell of the stomach/mouth of a fasting person is more beloved to Allah on the Day of Judgement than the scent of musk. The fasting person enjoys two spirits of joy: when he completes his fast and when he meets his Lord. (Bukhari 1904, Muslim 1151)
As for Allah’s statement, “Every action of Bani Adam (mankind) is for himself except fasting for verily it is for Me; I will reward him for it”, the attribution of reward to Allah is an expression of honour, because in fasting there is no riyā(doing something for the sake of people) since the action is hidden. Moreover, hunger and thirst are not a means of worshiping any king on earth or any idol and thus, this action is for Allah alone.
As for His statement, “I will reward him”, even though that is the case with all acts of worship, the meaning here is to indicate the magnitude of reward by stating that He himself will handle the affair of granting His favour.
As for sakhab, it refers to disputing.
As for His statement, “fasting is a shield” it is in reference to fasting being a protection from Allah’s punishment.
As for rafath, it refers to obscene language.
As for His statement, “he should say verily I am fasting” it is in reference to reminding himself of fasting.
As for his statement, “the smell of the stomach/mouth of a fasting person is more beloved to Allah on the Day of Judgement than the scent of musk”, this means the reward of a smelling stomach/mouth of a fasting person is more beloved to Allah on the Day of Judgement than the scent of musk.
As for the two spirits of joy, the first is due to being granted tawfīq (Allah’s providence) to complete an act of worship. The second is due to being granted Allah’s reward.
(3) It is also reported that he ﷺ said:
Every action of Bani Adam (mankind) is multiplied; good deeds are multiplied between ten to seven-hundred. Allah states, “except fasting for verily I will reward him [because] he abandons his shahwa (carnal desires) and food for me.” (Sahih Muslim 1151)
His statement, “he abandons his shahwa (carnal desires) and food for me” means that since the fasting person has chosen to worship his Lord rather than obey his nafs (self-desires)–in spite of the strong impulsive nature of shahwa–Allah has rewarded him personally Himself. Whoever has a strong intention to commit a sin but abandons it out of fear of Allah, verily Allah says to theHafadha (the angels that record deeds), “Write for him a reward because he abandoned his shahwa because of Me.” (Bukhari 7501, Muslim 128)
(4) The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
Verily in Jannah there is a gate called Al-Rayyān, the People of Fasting will enter it on the Day of Judgement. No person shall enter it besides them. It will be announced, “where are the People of Fasting?” and they will enter through it. When the last of them enters, the gate will be locked and no person shall enter it thereafter. (Bukhari1896, Muslim 1152)
(5) The same narration is reported with slightly different wording:
Verily in Paradise there is a gate called Al-Rayyān, the People of Fasting will be called to it. Whoever is from the People of Fasting will enter it. Whoever enters it, will never thirst again.(Nasāi 4/168, Tirmidhi 765, Ibn Majah 1640)
As for their special honour of entering Jannah through the gates of al-Rayyān, they have been chosen specifically because of their degree of fasting.
(6) The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
Verily the person who is fasting, the Angels supplicate for him when a person eats in front of him until he finishes.(Tirmidhi 785, Ibn Majah 1748)
As for the supplication of the Angels when a person is eating in front of him, that is because he overwhelmingly suppressed his nafs to abandon food that was present before him. Thus, this was a compelling cause for their supplications (that is, their supplications of mercy and forgiveness for him).
2. Expiation of Sins
(7) This is based on the statement of the Prophet ﷺ:
Ramadan to Ramadan is an expiation of sins occurring between them, if that person abandons major sins. (Muslim 233)
(8) In another Hadith the Prophet ﷺ stated:
Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan, with faith and anticipation of reward, his previous sins are forgiven.
Meaning, whoever has faith in it being obligatory and anticipates his reward from his Lord, his previous sins are forgiven.
3. Suppression of Carnal Desires
(9) Hunger and thirst suppress the desire to commit sin. This is understood from the Hadith of the Prophet ﷺ:
Oh young folk! Whoever amongst you has the means for al-bā’ah (dowry for marriage) then marry because it is most enforcing in lowering the gaze and most safeguarding of his chastity. Whoever does not have the means, then he should fast because it is a wijā.(Bukhari 1905, Muslim 1400)
The word al-bā’ah refers to the dowry for marriage.
The word wijālinguistically refers to the castration of a stud animal. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ referred to the suppression of carnal desires metaphorically in relation to castration because it removes desires. Therefore, what is meant by fasting being a wijā is that it suppresses the carnal desires.
(10) It is also reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
Verily Shaytan flows through Bani Adam like the flowing of blood. Thus, narrow the means of desire with hunger.(Bukhari 2039, Muslim 2175)
4. Increasing in Charity
(11) Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ was the utmost generous person in khair (bringing goodness and benefit to people). He was the utmost generous during the month of Ramadan…(Bukhari 1902, Muslim 2308)
(12) It has been reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
The best charity is charity [given] in Ramadan. (Tirmidhi 668, Shu’ub Al-Iman 3819)
5. Increasing in Worship
This is because when he is reminded about the hunger and thirst of people in the Hellfire, it encourages him to increase in worship in order to save himself from the fire.
6. Gratitude for Allah, The Knower of Hidden Affairs
When a person fasts, he becomes aware of Allah’s bounties upon him regarding satiation and quenching. Thus, he shows gratitude. The value of bounty is not realized until it is gone.
(13) It has been reported from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ that he said:
My lord presented to me the opportunity that He make the valley of Makkah gold for me. I replied, “O my Lord! But I [wish] to be satiated one day and hungry the next…When I am hungry, I humble myself before you and thank you. When I become satiated, I give thanks to you and praise you.(Tirmidhi 2378)
7. Prevention From the Danger of Sin and Acting in Contradiction to What is Lawful
That is because the nafs, when it is satiated, has an appetite for sin and yearns for things which contradict what is lawful. However, when it is hungry and thirsty it has an appetite for food and drink. The nafsturning its attention towards the thought of food and being occupied with that, is better than having an appetite for sin and wrong action. For this reason, some of the Salaf (righteous predecessors) preferred fasting over all other forms of worship. When they were asked why, they replied:
For Allah to see my soul pulling me towards food and drink is more beloved to me than Him seeing my soul when it is pulling me towards sin when it is satiated.
8. Feeding Others Who Are Fasting
(14) From the noble objectives of fasting is feeding other people who are breaking their fast. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ stated:
Whoever feeds a person who is breaking his fast, he gets the same reward as him without any subtraction from the reward of the fasting person. (Tirmidhi 807, Ibn Majah 1746)
Therefore, whoever feeds thirty-six people (who are breaking their fast) every year, it is as if he fasts an entire lifetime. Fasting also has many other benefits, such as, assisting in a healthy mind and body. It has been reported in a Hadith that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Fast and you will be healthy.” (Al-Mu’jam Al-Awsat 8312, Al-Tibb Al-Nabawi by Abu Nu’aim 113)
May Allah make us from those who fast in accordance to Prophetic Guidance, in order to please Him and obtain the highest of rewards and closeness to Him, Ameen.
- إذَا جَاءَ رَمَضَانُ فُتِحَتْ أَبْوَابُ الْجَنَّةِ وَغُلِّقَتْ أَبْوَابُ النَّارِ وَصُفِّدَتْ الشَّيَاطِينُ
- كُلُّ عَمَلِ ابْنِ آدَمَ لَهُ إِلَّا الصِّيَامَ فَإِنَّهُ لِي وَأَنَا أَجْزِي بِهِ وَالصِّيَامُ جُنَّةٌ وَإِذَا كَانَ يَوْمُ صَوْمِ أَحَدِكُمْ فَلَا يَرْفُثْ وَلَا يَصْخَبْ فَإِنْ سَابَّهُ أَحَدٌ أَوْ قَاتَلَهُ فَلْيَقُلْ إِنِّي امْرُؤٌ صَائِمٌ وَالَّذِي نَفْسُ مُحَمَّدٍ بِيَدِهِ لَخُلُوفُ فَمِ الصَّائِمِ أَطْيَبُ عِنْدَ اللهِ مِنْ رِيحِ الْمِسْكِ لِلصَّائِمِ فَرْحَتَانِ يَفْرَحُهُمَا إِذَا أَفْطَرَ فَرِحَ وَإِذَا لَقِيَ رَبَّهُ فَرِحَ بِصَوْمِهِ
- كُلُّ عَمَلِ ابْنِ آدَمَ يُضَاعَفُ الْحَسَنَةُ بِعَشْرِ أَمْثَالِهَا إِلَى سَبْعِ مِائَةِ ضِعْفٍ يَقُولُ اللُه إِلَّا الصَّوْمَ فَإِنَّهُ لِي وَأَنَا أَجْزِي بِهِ يَدَعُ شَهْوَتَهُ وَطَعَامَهُ مِنْ أَجْلِي
- إِنَّ فِي الْجَنَّةِ بَابًا يُقَالُ لَهُ الرَّيَّانُ يَدْخُلُ مِنْهُ الصَّائِمُونَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ لَا يَدْخُلُ مَعَهُمْ أَحَدٌ غَيْرُهُمْ يُقَالُ أَيْنَ الصَّائِمُونَ فَيَدْخُلُونَ مِنْهُ فَإِذَا دَخَلَ آخِرُهُمْ أُغْلِقَ فَلَمْ يَدْخُلْ مِنْهُ أَحَدٌ
- إِنَّ لِلْجَنَّةِ بَابًا يُقَالُ لَهُ الرَّيَّانُ يُدْعَى لَهُ الصَّائِمُونَ مَنْ كَانَ مِنَ الصَّائِمِينَ دَخَلَهُ لَمْ يَظْمَأْ أَبَدًا
- إنَّ الصَّائِمَ تُصَلِّي عَلَيْهِ الْمَلَائِكَةُ إذَا أُكِلَ عِنْدَهُ حَتَّى يَفْرُغُوا
- وَ رَمَضَانُ إِلَى رَمَضَانَ مُكَفِّرَاتٌ لِمَا بَيْنَهُنَّ إِذَا اجْتُنِبَتِ الْكَبَائِرُ
- مَنْ صَامَ رَمَضَانَ إِيمَانًا وَاحْتِسَابًا غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ ذَنْبِهِ
- يَا مَعْشَرَ الشَّبَابِ مَنْ اسْتَطَاعَ مِنْكُمْ الْبَاءَةَ فَلْيَتَزَوَّجْ فَإِنَّهُ أَغَضُّ لِلْبَصَرِ وَ أَحْصَنُ لِلْفَرْجِ وَ مَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَعَلَيْهِ بِالصَّوْمِ فَإِنَّهُ لَهُ وِجَاءٌ
- إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ لَيَجْرِي مِنِ ابْنِ آدَمَ مَجْرَى الدَّمِ فَضَيِّقُوا مَجَارِيَهُ
- However, note that the last part of the Hadith, “thus, narrow the means of desire with hunger”is not in Buhkari and Muslim. Allah knows best.
- كَانَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَجْوَدَ النَّاسِ بِالْخَيْرِ وَكَانَ أَجْوَدُ مَا يَكُونُ فِي رَمَضَانَ حِينَ يَلْقَاهُ جِبْرِيلُ
- Here I have added these two Hadith (which Ibn Abdus Salam did not mention in his book) because they explicitly mention the virtue of increasing in charity during Ramadan. Under this section Ibn Abdus Salam mentioned the following: This is because the fasting person, when hungry, he is reminded of what it feels like and this encourages him to feed the hungry. It is said in poetry, “ Verily those who have mercy upon those affected by deep love are those who are affected by love.” It has been reported that Prophet Sulaiman (or Prophet Yusuf, may Allah’s peace and blessing be upon them both) never used to eat until all of his devotees ate. When he was asked why, he replied, “I fear that if I fill my stomach, I will forget the hungry.”
- This Hadith is not part of Ibn Abdul Salam’s book. I added it because it is a clear example of Prophetic Gratitude, which fits in perfectly with the subject here. Allah knows best.
- عَنْ أَبِي أُمَامَةَ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ , قَالَ وَحُدِّثْنَا بِهَذَا الْإِسْنَادِ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ عَرَضَ عَلَيَّ رَبِّي عَزَّ وَجَلَّ لِيَجْعَلَ لِي بَطْحَاءَ مَكَّةَ ذَهَبًا فَقُلْتُ لَا يَا رَبِّ وَلَكِنْ أَشْبَعُ يَوْمًا وَأَجُوعُ يَوْمًا أَوْ نَحْوَ ذَلِكَ فَإِذَا جُعْتُ , تَضَرَّعْتُ إِلَيْكَ وَذَكَرْتُكَ وَإِذَا شَبِعْتُ حَمِدْتُكَ وَشَكَرْتُكَ - Taken from hadithguidance.com of Ustadh Abdus Shakur Brooks