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18 I SPECIAL FEATURE Passion Islam I August 2009
Safeguarding the
Spirit of Fasting
Owing to the institutional nature of
fasting and its widespread popularity it
was quite possible that it degenerated
into a lifeless ritual with people taking
to fasting out of habit or for fear of social
censure. It was not inconceivable
that the Muslims lost sight of its
intrinsic significance and began to
fast only because of material benefits
or medical advantages. The holy
Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam)
had foreseen this possibility and to
safeguard against it he had made it
known, at the very first step, that only
that fast was acceptable to God which
was observed in the spirit of faith and
trust in Divine Recompense. Thus, a
Tradition of his says, ‘He who fasted
with Imaan (faith) and Ihtisaab (trust in
Divine Recompense) all his previous
sins will be forgiven.’ (Sheikhain)
For those who are not cognizant
of the weaknesses of the human
nature it may be hard to appreciate
the relevance of this stipulation. They
may argue that since it was only the
Muslims who observed fasting and they
did it wholly for propitiating God and
earning His reward the requirement of
faith and trust was unnecessary. But if
one cared to enquire into the peculiar
make-up of human personality and the
working of social and moral incentives
one was bound to submit to the
wisdom of the far-reaching provision
and to bow down before the dept and
profundity of knowledge which has
its roots not in human perception but
Divine revelation. ‘Nor doth he speak
of his own desire. It is naught save an
inspiration that is inspired.’ (liii:3-4)
In a Prophet’s tradition the state of
Imaan and Ihtisab has been defined
as one in which a person performs are forty deeds among which the best
content at prescribing the outward
good and virtuous deeds in the hope if the gift of a goat. If any of these
form and ceremony of fasting but
of Divine Recompense and with faith is performed in the hope of Divine
also lays stress on its inner content
in the promise of Divine good pleasure Recompense and with faith in the
and significance. It prohibits not only
and forgiveness. reward promised on it, God will allow
food and drink and sexual gratification
It is related by Abdullah ibn Amr ibn such a person to enter Paradise.’
during a fast but everything that is
al-Aas that the Prophet (Sallallaahu (Bukhari)
detrimental to its basic purpose and
Alayhi Wasallam) once said, ‘There The Islamic Shari’ah does not rest
objective. It has encompassed fasting,
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