Edited version of Shaikh Muhammad bin Salih Al-Uthaymeen’s abridged work Majaalis Shahr Ramadan [pp. 41-43] that was translated by Isma’eel Alarcon. (al-manhaj.com)
FASTING—from dawn to dusk—is an act of worship done for Allah. The ‘Abd draws closer to His Lord by staying away from things he loves and desires like food, drink and sex. As a result, he achieves a sense of truthfulness in faith and completeness in his servitude to Allah, thereby increasing his love for Allah and longing for the reward Allah has prepared for His true slaves.
This is because the person who fasts gives up what he likes and desires only for the sake of something that is more beloved to him. When a Muslim knows that Allah’s contentment and pleasure lies in fasting—which includes giving up the desires he naturally loves—, he will give preference to his Lord’s pleasure over his desires. So the Muslim refrains from his desires no matter how much he wants to fulfill them because his soul’s tranquility and delight lies in leaving them for the sake of Allah.
Wisdom of fasting
1. Means of attaining Taqwa
“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, in order that you gain Taqwaa.”
Taqwa is attained because a fasting person has been commanded to do what is obligatory and avoid what is sinful. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever does not abandon false speech, acting upon that (false speech) and (acts of) ignorance (i.e. sins), then Allah has no need of him abandoning his food and drink.” [Al-Bukhari]
So when one desires to commit a sin, he will withhold himself by remembering that he is fasting. This is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered the fasting person, when he is cursed at or abused, to say, “I am fasting.” It is a word of caution for the reviler that a fasting person is commanded to refrain from cursing and reviling and also a self-reminder that a fasting person cannot react in a similar fashion.
2. Contemplation and Dhikr
Fasting opens the heart to contemplation and remembrance of Allah. Fulfilling desires leads to heedlessness and the heart becoming perhaps hardened and blind to the truth. The Prophet (peace be upon him) therefore advised us to eat less. “The Son of Aadam does not fill a vessel worse than his stomach.” [Musnad Ahmad, An-Nasaa’i and Ibn Majah]
In another narration in Sahih Muslim, Handhala Al-Usaidee (r), who was one of the scribes of Allah’s Messenger, said: “Handhala has become a hypocrite.” So the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Why is that?” He said: “O Messenger of Allah, when we are with you, you remind us of the Hellfire and Paradise, as if we see them with our own eyes. But when we depart from you, we meet our wives and our children and our homes and we forget much (of what we heard from you).” In the last part of the Hadeeth, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said and repeated to him three times: “But O Handhala, there is a time for this and a time for that.” Abu Sulaymaan Ad-Daraanee said: “Indeed, when the soul is hungry and thirsty, the heart becomes soft and pure. And when it is fed, the heart becomes blind.”
3. Realizing the blessing of wealth
Fasting makes a wealthy person realize the blessing Allah has bestowed on him. Allah gave him the blessing of food, drink and sex. Many people are deprived of these benefits. So fasting should make the person praise and thank Allah for the blessings; remember his poor and starving brothers; and lead him to be generous and charitable to end their hunger and help them meet their basic needs.
4. Training for the soul
Fasting trains the person to curb the self. It gives us strength to hold the soul by its bridle and lead it to what is good and what will make it prosper. The inner self tempts and commands one to do evil. So when a person let’s go of the bridle, his inner self will land him into trouble and danger. But when he controls it, he is able to reach the highest of levels and achieve the greatest of goals.
Fasting subdues the soul and restricts it from having pride to the point that the soul humbles itself to the truth and becomes soft before the creation.
Eating, drinking and sex foster insolence, arrogance and vanity over the truth and over other people. The inner self is constantly busy pursuing these things because of its need for them. When it achieves them, the soul feels as if it has conquered what it desired and hence falls into a state of pride that is condemned. This is the cause of the soul’s destruction. Only those whom Allah protects are saved from this.
5. Curbing devil’s influence
Fasting narrows down the passageways of blood in the body, which in turn adversely affects the passageways of the devil in the human body. The devil flows through the son of Adam (human being) like the flowing of blood, as authentically reported in the two Saheehs (Al-Bukhari and Muslim). So by fasting, the whispering of the devil is subdued and the strength of one’s desires and anger is subjugated. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “O young men! Whoever amongst you can afford it, should get married, for it is the best means for lowering one’s gaze and the best way of keeping (one’s) private parts chaste. But whoever is not able to marry, then let him fast, for it has protection.”
6. Health benefits
By eating less food, fasting gives the digestive system some respite. Excess waste and excrements that are harmful to the body are discharged during this period.
So how great and profound is the wisdom of Allah, and how beneficial are His commandments to His creatures!
O Allah, give us comprehension of Your Religion and allow us to understand the inner secrets of Your commandments. Rectify for us the affairs of our Religion and our worldly life. And forgive us and our parents and all the Muslims, by Your mercy, O Most Merciful. And may the peace and blessings of Allah be on Muhammad (saws) and on his family and all his Companions.