Secrets of Fasting

The following notes are from a talk given by Shaykh Thaqib Mahmood in Luton. Any mistakes or oversights in the notes are completely my own.


Allah swt has indeed blessed us by allowing us to enter the blessed month of Ramadan again, and it is due to the mercy of Allah swt and the du’a of the blessed Prophet saw Allahumma balighna Ramadan!

Ramadan derives from the word ramada, which means to be scorched by the sun and this, if reflected upon could be seen in the light that our sins are being incinerated in this most holy of months.

This month is a month of opportunity! One should see this month as a guest who attempts to honour his host, if this is done attentively then one will receive multiple benefits. The word fursa traditionally meant to take one’s turn to pull water from the well to gain benefit and reward. This is quite fitting as Ramadan is the month of opportunity and a chance to incinerate our sins and to drink from the well of imaan!

Imam Haddad points out that two very significant and cosmic events occurred in the month of Ramadan;

  1. The Fath of Makkah, and;
  2. The Battle of Badr

These were major occurrences in the history of the Ummah, indeed in the world and universe, and they both occurred in the month of Ramadan. Therefore we should also seek to change and better ourselves, obviously that change may not be on proportions of that scale, however, at least at a micro level (within ourselves) we should attempt to change for the better by making the most of this opportunity with both hands and taking the optimum benefit from this month.

The blessed Prophet saw said; the one who observes Ramadan with a state of imaan and with sincerity, whatever wrongs he had (minor sins) will be wiped away.

However it is important to bear in mind that it is one thing to remove a bad action from oneself, it is another thing altogether to deal with the consequences of years of persistent unlawful actions. Although the Mercy of Allah swt is never far away, if the self has been engaging in a unlawful action for years, one cannot expect that in one night and a few prayers later that effect that wrong action had upon one’s heart will somehow magically be removed. Don’t delude yourself, these things take time and this is the true struggle! With the onset of Ramadan, we now have the opportunity to address these personal issues and vices!

The month of Ramadan has a momentous standing with Allah swt and the blessed Prophet saw. It is the master of the months.

Fasting, however is not something which is specific to the Ummah, previous ummahs also had this as is mentioned in Surah Baqarah, verse 83. Although previous nations do not adhere to the fast as it was originally revealed to them as seen in the case of the Christians. Esa as fasted for forty days in the desert before going to give dawah, this would later become to be known as Lent, yet it is not practised today in the same form as Esa as, with the Christians perhaps giving up chocolate for the duration of Lent.

It is amazing how the fasting of the Muslims is a proof of the truth of Islam, and how the practise of fasting is observed by Muslims today as it was in the time of the blessed Prophet. And this is not just specific to the act of fasting, this is for so many of our practices, indeed nearly all of our practices in the Ummah are the same, with the exception of one or two sects.

This is the month in which the Holy Qur’an was revealed too. The entire Qur’an in its preserved Tablet was moved from the Lawhal Mahfuz to Baitul ‘Iz. Also, according to the majority opinion, this was the month in which the Qur’an was revealed to the blessed Prophet saw with the verse of Iqra which saw the onset of Prophecy. Again we see major changes occurring in the month of Ramadan.

Surah Qadr was also revealed in this month on the Night of Power, meaning the movement of it from the Lawhal Mahfuz to Baitul ‘Iz. Imam Haddad says that the Night of Power can happen anytime throughout Ramadan, but is most probable to occur during the last ten days.

Virtues of Ramadan

The blessed Prophet saw said; From Ramadan to Ramadan, from Juma’a to Juma’a, from prayer to prayer (fard) acts as expiation for one’s wrongs. (Provided that they are not major sins) In the instance of major sins one must make a conscious repentance and its integrals are four;

  1. Sincere regret
  2. Uprooting of the wrong action (take a serious look at the causatives of the wrong action and uproot them as one would with weeds in the garden. If one just takes them from the surface area, the weed will grow back, however if one takes them out from the root, then the weed will never grow again!)
  3. Repentance
  4. If one has oppressed another by taking their rights, for example slandering or hurting their feelings, the right MUST be returned by asking for forgiveness from that person.

In this month, things have been made so easy by the fact that we are even made aware of what to ask for;

  1. In the first ten days ask for the Mercy of Allah
  2. In the second set of ten days ask for forgiveness
  3. In the last ten days ask for the freeing from the fire. (Shykh Thaqib recommended the du’a Allahumma nasalooka ridaakal wal jannah wa na’oodhu bika min sakhatika wan-naar)

Maximise in the recitation of the Holy Qur’an, even to the extent that if one cannot read Arabic, then one should at the very least read the Holy Qur’an in English, so long as one has a portion of the Qur’an!

The blessed Prophet saw said that Gibra’il as came to him saw and said; the one, who comes to Ramadan and is not forgiven, may Allah swt make him distant. To which the blessed Prophet saw replied “Ameen”.

Imam Haddad states that this is due the fact that Ramadan is so open and plentiful in benefit, and if one fails to take from it, may it be as such that he is made to be distant.

Allah swt says; fasting is for me and its reward is with me. All other acts have an enumeration to their rewards, fasting however does not; it is an eternal reward with the Eternal!

Sufian Ayana has stated that this is the proof of the Day of Judgement in that one shall see his deeds flying into other peoples accounts, whom he has wronged, until such time that the only deed he will have left remaining will be the act of fasting. At this point Allah swt will intervene by stating that fasting is a deed that is only for Him swt and that He swt will bear the burden of His swt slave. This person will then be told to enter paradise!

This is also a month of sabr. Allah swt says; indeed We have rewarded the patient without enumeration. Fasting is an act of patience (having to go without food/water, people, trials of fasting etc), so therefore we see that there is no enumeration to the reward!

In this blessed month the doors of Jannah are opened and the doors of jahannam are locked. The most rebellious of the shayateen are shackled and driven into the sea so that they cannot cause corruption upon the fasts of the Muslims.

Another from its virtues is that it affects the caprice. When fasting one dwindles the influence and strength of one’s caprice to engage in haraam due to the lack of food and water intake. Added to this, with the shayateen locked up, all the normal hindrances to committing acts of worship are now removed by this act of fasting, so there no longer remains any excuse to not do good works.

However, one should bear in mind that should one take from that which should not be taken from in this month and does not benefit from it but rather diminishes in good acts; it could be that Allah swt has written wretchedness for him.

Make yourself purposeful in your movements, especially within this month! If you do not need to visit the market place (a common place for the shayateen to frequent) then refrain from doing so. Make use of your time!

Every night an angel will call out upon creation: Oh the one who wants good; Come! Come! As for the one who wants evil; Distant! Distant!

In this month we see the obligatory acts of worship being multiplied by 70 times and nafl acts of worship holding the same enumeration in reward as fard ibaadah. Imam Nakhai stated that one rakat in this month is like a thousand nafls and that one tasbih is like a thousand tasbihs.

Today, people go crazy when they see sale signs in the stores, and even though they don’t always purchase what they thought they had, they are nevertheless unconcerned due the fact they paid next to nothing for their purchase. What then of this month and what is ‘up for offer?’ And when Allah swt promises something, know that it is guaranteed!

Manners of Fasting

From its manners is to try and perfect the fast in excellence and goodness. The most important aspect of this is protecting the tongue from lying and backbiting and also discussing issues that have no importance. One should also protect one’s eyes and ears from anything which is deemed to be from that which is not correct.

In Imam Hanbal’s Musnaf we find the hadith of two women who had been fasting and asked if the Prophet saw for permission to break their fasts. The blessed Prophet saw had them brought to in his saw blessed company and a container was placed in front of them and they induced vomit. What was expelled was flesh and blood. They admitted to have spoken of others who had not been present. Whenever the Prophet saw was in the company of those who engaged in this, the Prophet saw would either correct them or leave their company. Allah swt says; would any of you like to eat the decaying flesh of your very own brother?

The one who trusts in Allah, Allah suffices him! We see this become manifest within the Seerah of the Prophet saw, where one of the Sahabah was captured by the Quraysh and shackled. One day the mistress of the house found him unshackled and eating ripe grapes when they should not have even been in season!

The Prophet saw would fast perpetually (not eating at night either) and some from the Sahabah wished to follow suit and copy this act such was their love for the blessed Prophet saw! The Prophet saw told them; I am not like you, my Lord gives to me eat and drink. The blessed Prophet saw was given spiritual sustenance, and although the Sahabah no doubt received some element of this, it wasn’t to the extent that they too would be able to fast perpetually.

One should be observant of one’s limbs! If one engages in wrongdoing with them, this will retract from the fast. To fast is to fast of the limbs, that is to say to have a sensory fast also! Upon the limbs is where the true fast is.

One should protect the stomach from eating that which is unlawful/haraam at the time of opening the fast.

Likewise, one should also ask himself whether he has taken the optimum steps to get what he wanted from the fast. Actions are through intentions.

The Prophet saw said; fasting is a shield.

In testing moments, one should try their best to remain quiet. If one is fearful of being struck, he should make clear that he is fasting.

One should refrain from excessive sleep and food.

The master of the people is the one who serves. This is due to their fulfilling the hopes of others. If one is to fulfil the hopes of another, Allah will fulfil his hopes in the akhirah. Therefore, to help those in need is a huge sadaqa! For example, a sister cannot engage in extra ibaadah due to having to help out at home with the cooking, or a brother likewise cannot engage in extra ibaadah due to work commitments (and vice versa :-0). In this instance it is indeed a matter of perspective. Both are engaged in fard ibaadah, the sister in khidmah and the brother in giving sadaqa. This is ibaadah!

Ibn Rajab commented upon how amazing fasting is as a Believer is in a twenty-four state of ibaadah. This due to the command to stop eating when the time stops for eating and having patience to go without the very thing that gives us life and energy. And then upon the opening of the fast for the sake of Allah, when we display gratitude for the food that we are able to eat. This fast and its methodology prepares us for the trials of life; having patience in hardship and then gratitude when the hardship is removed. And this also culminates in the gratitude that we display for E’id. Some have even gone on to say that this is a glimpse of jannah as it is E’id in Jannah every day.

Imam Haddad states that if one has observed not oversleeping/eating and fasting regularly, this is the most powerful aid in affecting and illuminating the heart.

Sunnah of Fasting

The blessed Prophet saw said; my ummah remains in a good state, provided it hastens to open its fast and delay its closing. This should be viewed from the sense of patience and gratitude at the time of closing and opening the fast.

It is from the Sunnah to open other peoples fast. The blessed Prophet saw said; the one who opens the fast of another gets the reward of the one fasting without it diminishing his reward.

One should try to spend time making du’a prior to the opening of the fast. A way of engaging your family’s attention from the television is to ask each family member to make a du’a each just before iftar.

One should never complain about food served to them, and one should realise that he is not always going to receive a seven course meal. The blessed Prophet saw once accepted an invitation to hooves of a goat.

Last 10 Days

The blessed Prophet saw used to wake up his saw whole family to pray at night in the last ten days of Ramadan.

Seek out Laytul Qadr in the odd nights of the last ten days.

Pace yourself so that you have enough energy to increase in the last ten in your ibaadah, be like the marathon runner, not the hundred metre sprinter!

Women can observe i’tikaaf in their private ibaadah areas in their homes. One does not have to observe all ten days, i’tikaaf can even be half an hour long if one wishes, it just requires the correct intention, and there is no need to specify the amount of time that she will be in i’tikaaf. It is better that the private ibaadah area is close to the wall so that way she is less likely to be distracted by that which is occurring around her.

Have a serious programme of what you want to do! And try to give charity, if possible, give the E’id- al-Fitr as early as possible once in Ramadan, this is so that those who receive it may prepare for E’id!

Ibn Abbas says that the blessed Prophet saw was like effortless breeze when it came to giving away. The breeze does not discriminate where it lands! An example of this is when a young girl came in the presence of the blessed Prophet saw with a gift of cucumbers and dates; this was at the time of the Prophet saw having just received war booty from one of the campaigns. The Prophet saw reached in and took a handful of jewels and gave them to the girl.

By Ridhwan Iqbal

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