The month of Ramadan has its hukm (ruling) and ahkam (rulings); but it also has its hal (state), and ahwal (states). The ahkam are easy to learn and to practice – the ahwal are another thing entirely.
It is common during the month of Ramadan for mashaykh to remind us of Surah al-Baqara, where Allah says (2:183): “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting, as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous (tattaqun).”
One of our shaykhs, Shaykh Abdullah Nooruddeen, may Allah have mercy upon him, went further than this, and pointed out that the last word in this verse, and the three verses afterwards, all ended in words ending in ‘nun’.
Those four words were:
- Tattaqun (referring to the conscious awareness of God)
- Ta’amalun (referring to knowledge)
- Tashkrun (referring to thankfulness)
- Yarshudun (referring to rightful guidance)
Our shaykh saw in this a natural progression – that fasting would lead to taqwā; that taqwā would lead to acquiring true knowledge; that true knowledge would lead to gratitude (to God); and that true gratitude would lead us to be in a state of those who are rightfully guided. As Allah says in Surah al-Isra’: “Truth has come and falsehood has vanished. Surely falsehood is ever bound to vanish.”
When we consider the siyam (fast) in this way, we gain much more of an awareness of what this month is meant to be all about. It’s also a reminder of not being quite so ‘one-dimensional’ about the fast. Yes, the fast is the leaving of food, drink, sexual intercourse and so forth during the fasting hours. But that’s only one, though necessary, dimension of the fast. And moreover, people might fulfil that one dimension, and then proceed to utterly waste their valuable time in this most beautiful of months.
Simply when it comes to that basic dimension of the fast; see how so many of us end the fast at maghrib time. We simply break the fast, without preparing anything in advance of that special time, except to stuff our faces with foods that are neither sunna nor healthy for us. Our bodies have rights over us, and it behoves us to feed our bodies with a small amount of food that is healthy at that time. Instead, we tend to overpower ourselves with the most processed, sugar-heavy sweets that simply leave us desiring sleep, and make us tired until the next iftar.
Rather, as we approach the end of the fasting day, we ought to recite three times:
أشهدُ أن لا إله إلا الله، أستغفرُ الله، أسألك الجنة وأعوذُ بك من النار
And then one time:
اللهم إنك عفوٌّ كريمٌ تُحبُّ العفوَ فاعفُ عنّا
And then until the adhan of maghrib is given, we make du’a to our Lord that He might grant from His Bounty.
When the adhan is given, before we take that first morsel or drink (preferably a date), our shaykhs recommended we recite (after responding to the adhan):
يا عظيمُ يا عظيمُ أنت إلهي، لا إله غيرُك، اغفر الذّنب العظيم، فإنه لا يغفرُ الذنبَ العظيم إلا العظيمُ
اللهم لك صمتُ وعلى رزقِك أفطرتُ وبك آمنتُ وعليك توكّلتُ ورحمتَك رجوت وإليك أنبتُ. اللهم ذهب الظمأ وابتلت العُروقُ، وثبت الأجرُ إن شاء الله تعالى، يا واسعَ الفضل اغفر لي. الحمد لله الذي أعانني فصُمتُ، ورزقني فأفطرتُ. اللهم إني أسألك برحمتك التي وسعت كل شيء أن تغفر لي، سبحانك وبحمدك تقبل منا إنك أنت السميعُ العليمُ. اللهم إنك عفوٌّ كريمٌ تُحبّ العفوَ فاعفُ عنّا يا كريمُ
And then break your fast – and immediately intend to fast the following day of Ramadan as a Ramadan fast, and to fast the remainder of the month as such.
All of this is simply from the basics. The likes of Imam al-Ghazali, hujjat al-Islam (proof of Islam), and many of our other saints and sages, teach us that there are three ‘levels’ of fasting: the fasting of the ordinary people (al-‘awwam); of the elite (al-khawas); of the elite of the elite (khas al-khawas).
It is the last of these levels we ought to be striving for; the fast where the heart is fasting from the preoccupations and the musings of the world, as Imam Abu Talib al-Makki notes; where our entire day continues to be an exhibition of full remembrance of the Divine.
Shaykh Abdal Qadir al-Jilani, sultan al-awliya, says:
“Our Master the Prophetﷺ says, ‘There are many of those who fast who get only hunger and thirst for their efforts and no other benefit’. There are also those who break their fast when they eat, and those whose fast continues even after they have eaten. These are the ones who keep their senses and their thoughts free of evil and their hands and their tongues from hurting others. It is for these that Allah Most High promises, ‘Fasting is a deed done for My sake, and I am the one who gives its reward.’ About the two kinds of fasting our Master the Prophetﷺ says, ‘The one who fasts has two satisfactions. One is when he breaks his fast at the end of the day. The other is when he sees.’
Those who know the outer form of the religion say that the first satisfaction of the one who fasts is the pleasure of eating after a day of fasting, and the meaning of the satisfaction ‘when he sees’ is when someone who fasted the whole month of Ramadan sees the new moon marking the end of the fast and beginning the festivities of the holiday. The ones who know the inner meaning of fasting say that the joy of breaking the fast is the day when the believer will enter Paradise and partake of the delights therein, and the meaning of the greater joy of seeing is when the faithful sees the truth of Allah with the secret eye of his heart.
Worthier than these two kinds of fasting is the fast of truth, which is in preventing the heart from worshipping any other than the Essence of Allah. It is performed by rendering the eye of the heart blind to all that exists, even in the secret realms outside of this world, except the love of Allah.”
We ask Allah to make us of those who truly fast during this month; who might attain to the fast of the elite of the elite, by the mercy of Allah.
OTHER DEEN DISCOURSES