I think every Muslim knows Islam is built on five pillars. And that each one of them represents a unique institution, through which the believer builds his relationship with Allah. You also need to know that of all the pillars of Islam, none is more special than Siyam (fasting).
While there may be an appearance of Riya (show-off) in all other pillars (like Salaat, Zakat, Hajj and even Shahadah), there is no such possibility in fasting. The only one who knows that you are really abstaining is Allah the Exalted.
Fasting has many benefits to the believers. Like all the religious practices in Islam, fasting will make the believer stronger as a believer, closer to the Creator (Allah), more blessed and happier to be with Him. We have been informed of the benefits and virtues of fasting expressed in the Qur’an and in the Sunnah of the Prophet (ﷺ).
These benefits and virtues should motivate everyone to perfect his/her fasting. The Prophet (ﷺ) has pointed out the real spirit of fasting and has explained that to go hungry and thirsty while ignoring the spirit of fasting carries no value to Allah. The Prophet (ﷺ) said:
If one does not give up speaking falsehood and acting by it, Allah does not require him to give up eating and drinking (Al-Bukhari).
Fasting comes with lots of virtues. Not just fasting, but one that is done with sincerity, seeking the pleasure of Allah, and performed in accordance with the way explained by Allah’s Messenger.
Don’t stop reading because you’ll not want to miss what Ramadan has in store for you. Below are the virtues that come with fasting.
- Fasting is a means to develop Taqwa
Fasting is a spiritual worship that teaches good morals like honesty, faithfulness, and loyalty and induces piety and fear of Allah. This is indicated in the Quran where Allah said:
O you who believe! Observing As-Sawm (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun’. (Quran: Al-Baqarah, Verse: 183)
The ultimate virtue of fasting is to develop in the heart of a person the Taqwa of Allah i.e. fear of Allah and keeping all duties to Him. This could be done by performing good deeds that Allah has ordained and abstaining from all sorts of evil that He has forbidden.
Indeed the person who has attained Taqwa has attained excellence in the worship of Allah. In many verses of the Qur’an Allah says that the reward of the people of Taqwa is Paradise (Quran – 2:1-5 & 3:133).
The people of Taqwa are the successful people in this life and in the hereafter where they will be the dwellers of Paradise.
- Fasting brings you closer to Allah
Belief in Allah, in His Lordship and His Worship, will instill in the individual Allah’s love. Performing Allah’s instructions and avoiding His proscriptions are the means of achieving ultimate happiness in this life and the Hereafter. Allah the Highest said:
‘Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while he /she is a true believer (of Islam), verily to him We will give a good life (in this world with respect, contentment and lawful provision), and We shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do (i.e. Paradise)’. (Quran: An-Nahl, Verse 96)
So, Allah has ordered us to fast and He Alone knows what is better for us. Therefore we should strive to perfect it and obey the commands of our Lord, thereby to be closer to and attain His Pleasure.
- Fasting is a means of attaining Allah’s forgiveness
Actuality none of us is perfect. We all have some weaknesses and shortcomings. We find ourselves committing sins out of ignorance, forgetfulness or submission to our desires and thus driving ourselves away from the straight path.
Committing sins regularly will darken and harden the heart. It may even lead a person to reject Allah completely (may Allah forbid) or lead to bigger sins. In Islam, there is no recourse for a sinner except to Ask Allah for forgiveness. In fact, seeking forgiveness of Allah and turning to Him in Repentance is a part of Faith. This is indicated in the words of Allah:
“And turn in repentance and in obedience with true Faith to your Lord and submit to Him before the torment comes upon you, then you will not be helped’. (Quran Az-Zumar, Verse 54)
We should never despair from Allah’s mercy since He said of Himself that He is the Most Merciful the oft-Forgiving. As part of this infinite Mercy, He made accessible for us various ways of achieving forgiveness. Among the most significant and useful of these ways of forgiveness is fasting in general and Ramadan in particular. This is clearly indicated in the following verse where Allah the Highest said:
‘Verily; the Muslim men and women, the believing men and women, the men and women who are obedient (to Allah), the men and women who are truthful (in their speech and deeds), the men and the women who are patient, the men and the women who are humble (before their Lord), the men and the women who give charity, the men and the women who fast, the men and the women who guard their chastity from illegal sexual acts) and the men and the women who remember Allah much. Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward. (Quran: Al-Ahzaab, Verses 33-35)
Let us discover this glad tiding from the sweet words of Allah s Messenger (ﷺ). Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that, Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) Said:
“He who fasts Ramadan with faith and seeking its reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven”. (Bukhari and Muslim)
Allah loves those people who, after committing a sin, immediately give up and seek forgiveness for their sins from Allah. By seeking forgiveness, a relationship with Allah is constructed between man and His Creator. So we should take fasting as a chance to constancy seek forgiveness from Allah and never feel the despair of His Mercy.
- Following the practice of the Prophets
We believe that the Shariah of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) is the religion of Islam which Allah the Highest has chosen for His slaves and does not accept from anyone any other religion because He said:
‘This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion (Quran: Surah Al-Ma’idah, Verse 3)
The message it contains basically directs all mankind not only to believe in God (Allah) Alone but also it teaches them how to behave. Love of the Prophet (ﷺ) means that every Muslim should accept his Sunnah and act upon it.
Therefore, when fasting, we have to strive hard to follow the way, which Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) proposed and practiced. Our beloved Prophet (ﷺ) said in a hadith and said:
The fast most loved by Allah is the fast of Dawood and the most loved prayer is the prayer of Dawood. He used to sleep half the night, pray for a third of the night, and then sleep during the last sixth of the night. He would also fast one day and then eat on the next. (Ahmad).
Similarly, Aisha reported that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) use to fast till one would say that he would never stop fasting, and he would abandon fasting till one would say that he would never fast. I never saw Allah s Messenger fast for a whole month except the month of Ramadan and did not see him fast in any month more than in the month of Sha’ban. (Bukhari).
Following the practice of the Prophets is a great virtue which can be added to the virtues of fasting.
- Fasting brings in a unique reward from Allah
Fasting is the most central duty to test the believer s faith and the depth of his/her sincerity and commitment to the concept of Tawheed (i.e. the Oneness of Allah). Of all the pillars of Islam, none is more unique than fasting.
While there may be an appearance of Riya (showing off) in Salaat, Zakat and Hajj, there is no such possibility in fasting. The only One who knows that you are really fasting is Allah. It is easy to pretend to be fasting; while in hiding, you may eat or drink.
Thus, fasting is considered a unique worship and Allah the Most High will give a special reward for it.
- Fasting is a protection against sexual desires
Fasting teaches the believer self-control because the individual controls his/her desire or need to drink or eat during the fasting period. People who learn self-control can resist wrongdoing or temptation to follow their friends or peers just to avoid embarrassment or to be like everyone else.
Fasting is, therefore, a shield, protecting the believer from sinful acts. For when you eat, the blood flow increases considerably, and the energy level increases, making it easier for Satan to use your own energy level to tempt you to commit sins. This is indicated in the Saying of the Prophet (ﷺ) that:
“Satan runs in the circulatory system of the son of Adam in the same way blood circulates in our system; so tighten his passages with hunger.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
We have been informed that fasting is a preventive practice against sexual desires. The Prophet (ﷺ) advised the youth who normally have strong desire of marriage, but cannot afford to marry, to fast, as fasting diminishes sexual desires.
- Fasting distances a person from the fire
Hell-Fire is the abode for penalty or torment, which Allah the Most High set up for the disbelievers, in which they will neither die nor live. Allah the Most High said:
‘And fear the Fire, which is prepared for the disbelievers’. (Quran: Al-Imran, Verse 131)
The torture and horror in it cannot be imagined. They will eat bitter plants and the secretion of wounds, and drink boiling water.
Fasting for the sake of Allah is a means, which can save a Muslim from this torment. This is indicated in the Hadith narrated by Abu Saeed where our beloved Prophet (ﷺ) said:
“Every servant of Allah who observes fast for a day for the sake of Allah, will find his face further from the fire to the extent of a distance covered in seventy years.”
- Fasting causes a person to enter Paradise
Paradise is the abode of enjoyment, which Allah the Most High prepared for the believers (i.e. the righteous). Allah the Most High said:
‘Race one with another in hastening towards Forgiveness from your Lord (Allah), and towards Paradise, the width whereof is as the width of heaven and earth, prepared for those who believe in Allah and His Messengers…} (Al-Hadid, Verse: 21)
It has been mentioned that the righteous will acquire great dignity and honor in the Hereafter. They will be in eternal peace, happiness and in a state of complete satisfaction because of their sincere Faith.
If you really want to be among the dwellers of paradise, fasting can help you out. It has been confirmed by the Prophet (ﷺ) that fasting is a way to Paradise. Abu Ummah (may Allah be pleased with him) Said:
“O! Messenger of Allah tell me of an action by which I may enter Paradise. ” He said: “Take to Fasting, there is nothing like it”. (Nasaaee, Ibn Hibbaan)
- Fasting causes a person to enter Ar-Rayyan
We have been informed that there is a special distinction for those who observe fasting. In paradise, there is a gate, which is called Ar-Rayyan through which only those who are faithful and observe fasting for the sake of Allah will enter on the Day of Judgment. This is indicated in the Hadith narrated by Sahl Ibn Sa’d (may Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet (ﷺ) said:
“Indeed there is a gate of Paradise called ar-Rayyaan. On the day of Resurrection, those who fast will enter through it; no one enters it except for them, and when they have entered, it is closed”. (Muslim)
This is what the pleasure of Allah is all about. The one who observes fasting becomes the selected person in the hour that every other person is busy reading the records of deeds. This is the time when fasting to seek Allah’s pleasure will distance the believer’s face from the hellfire and causes him/her to enter Ar-Rayyaan Gate to Paradise. May Allah grant us this blessing!
- The acceptance of Dua
Turning in supplication to Allah and asking Him Alone in all matters is the key to salvation and the brainpower of Faith. We must have Faith in our Lord and believe that only Allah can respond to our Du’a.
Allah the Highest listens to the distressed person when he calls upon Him and relieves him of his suffering. He has commanded us to call upon Him humbly and sincerely, promising us He will respond to our supplication and fulfill our needs.
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) has highlighted desirable specific times and places for supplication. It has been mentioned that there is a Dua for a person who observes fasting which will never be rejected. This is indicated in the Hadith of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) that:
“For the one fasting when he breaks his fast is a supplication which will be answered”. (Ibn Majah)
May Allah accept our Ibadah!