Conduct of the Fasting Person

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As the month of Ramadan approaches, people await the moon sighting with great anticipation, looking forward to hear the glad tidings of the end of Sha‘ban and the start of Ramadan. People welcome the month of Ramadan like no other month of the entire year. Many Muslims may be ignorant of the beginnings and ends of other lunar months but when it comes to Ramadan, things are totally different. Allah, the Exalted, says (what means): {Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them.} [Quran 9:36]

The month of Ramadan is a great opportunity for Muslims to rejoice and breathe a sigh of relief as they recite the supplication when sighting the moon of Ramadan, "Rabbi wa Rabuka Allah, Hilalu Khayrin wa Barakah (i.e. (O moon,) My Lord and Your Lord is Allah. O Allah, let this moon (i.e. month) pass over us with goodness and blessings."

Muslims are not only emotionally attached to the beginning and end of Ramadan, but they also anxiously await the dawn of each day to abstain from food, drink, and all fast-invalidating matters, and they look forward to sunset to break their fast. They count its days and nights with great anticipation and joy. Thus, Muslims are in harmony with the movements of the relative universe with its components towards the worship of Allah, the Exalted. Allah, the Exalted, says (what means):

{The seven heavens and the earth and whatever is in them exalt Him. And there is not a thing except that it exalts [Allah] by His praise, but you do not understand their [way of] exalting.} [Quran 17:44]

{Do you not see that to Allah prostrates whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth and the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, the moving creatures and many of the people? But upon many the punishment has been justified.} [Quran 22:18]

Such anticipation and eagerness are displayed by all Muslims, Arabs and non-Arabs, rich and poor, and rulers and the ruled alike. There is no room for privilege in Ramadan. If a fasting person deliberately eats or drinks after the azan (i.e. prayer call) of the Fajr prayer or before the azan of the Maghrib prayer during a day of fast, then his fast is null and void. In Islam, there is no special fast for masters and another for slaves nor a fast for the elite and another for the masses; all Muslims are equal in this regard.

The commendable conduct of fasting people in Ramadan is reflected in the optimal utilization of this blessed month, which is distinguished by Allah, the Exalted, with the obligation of fasting. Fasting is a shield and protection. All the deeds of the children of Adam, may Allah exalt his mention, are for them, except for fasting because it is for Allah, the Exalted, and He rewards them for it. What a great and generous reward is that of Allah, the Exalted! What great blessings, grace and rewards are those of Allah Almighty! Fasting is a spiritual school for soul-taming and self-restraint. It is an institution for the improvement of the moral and spiritual character of a human being. It elevates the human soul (to unprecedented heights). Thus, a Muslim learns to control the instinctive urges and animal impulses of eating, drinking and sexual intercourse. Human beings share many common characteristics with the animal world.

However, man was created for a more refined purpose and higher objective, and that is to worship Allah, the Exalted, and fear Him as due by carrying out His commands and evading His prohibitions. Therefore, Ramadan can be seen as a spiritual revolution against one's own soul, worldly desires and instinctive urges. It is a month of internal battles against the desires of the flesh. Fasting teaches man self-control and habit modulation in resisting our desires or habits instead of becoming slaves to them. Thus, we declare our utter servitude to Allah, the Exalted, which implies the rejection of slavery to anyone and anything other than Him.

In the month of Ramadan, the devils are chained up, leaving Muslims to be more free and submissive to their Lord. Allah, the Exalted, says (what means): {And I do not acquit myself. Indeed, the soul is a persistent enjoiner of evil, except those upon which my Lord has mercy. Indeed, my Lord Is Forgiving and Merciful."} [Quran 12:53] Thus, Muslims learn to differentiate between the whispers of Satan and their sinful desires. They are offered the chance to identify the disease in order to find the optimal remedy and set the due precautions and the means to elevate, refine and discipline the human soul. Allah, the Exalted, says (what means): {And [by] the soul and He Who proportioned it and inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness, he has succeeded who purifies it, and he has failed who instills it [with corruption].} [Quran 91:7-10] In Muslims, this cultivates the spirit of self-reproach that urges them to reckon, rectify and discipline themselves. Thus, the human soul may be disciplined, rectified and elevated to become an assured soul. Allah, the Exalted, says (what means): {[To the righteous it will be said], "O reassured soul, return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing [to Him], and enter among My [righteous] servants, and enter My Paradise."} [Quran 89:27-30]

In the month of Ramadan, the fasting person is rather heedful of abstinence from eating and drinking except in case of forgetfulness or a mistake. The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said: "Whoever forgetfully eats or drinks, let him complete his fasting for Allah has provided him with food and drink." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] Satan does not whisper to the fasting person, inducing him to break his fast by eating or drinking, knowing his keenness and attentiveness in this regard. However, Satan whispers to the fasting person, tempting him to engage in backbiting; tale-bearing; gossip; and offending, cursing, and defaming others without the slightest embarrassment while he does not know that the gravity of forgetfully or mistakenly eating or drinking cannot be compared to that of what he committed of major sins that undermine his fasting (and render his rewards worthless).

In the blessed month of Ramadan, it is an act of the Sunnah for the fasting person to observe i‘tikaaf (i.e. seclusion in the mosque for the purpose of worship) in order for one to get away from people, all worldly adornments, noise and temptations. He devotes himself entirely for worship; remembrance of Allah, the Exalted; recitation of the Quran; and performance of the night prayer. Such a spiritual retreat (i.e. for spiritual rejuvenation) offers one a chance to spiritually elevate himself and completely seclude himself from the life of this world. Thus, one gets to relish the spiritual experiences of soul purification and spiritual elevation.
In i‘tikaaf, one spiritually elevates himself, revives his ambitions, and derives spiritual energy and power from Allah, the Exalted, for an amount that will suffice him throughout the year.

Thus, one attains taqwa (i.e. piety and righteousness) in its perfect form as Allah, the Exalted, commanded. Allah, the Exalted, says (what means): {O you who have believed, fear Allah as He should be feared and do not die except as Muslims [in submission to Him].} [Quran 3:102]

Zakah Al-Fitr is a form of purification of the fasting person and a means to please the poor. It is purification for the fasting person from idle and obscene speech, a means to please the poor, and a tool to revive the spirit of cooperation, solidarity and compassion within the Muslim community. The giver savors the feelings of poverty towards Allah, the Exalted, Who bestowed the blessing of this opportunity to redress the imbalance and the deficiency (in his fasting) upon him. This teaches fasting people to give in charity and help those who are less fortunate even if they are in strained financial circumstances. Allah, the Exalted, says (what means): {Who spend [in the cause of Allah] during ease and hardship…} [Quran 3:134]

This organized and comprehensive system of Islamic charitable giving has its positive impact on the rich and poor alike. It cleanses the heart of the rich person from any traces of greed and avarice so that he would realize that his wealth is the wealth of Allah, the Exalted, and that he is merely entrusted with it in the life of this world. Hence, he would spend and withhold from it according to the commands of his Lord. As for the poor person, zakah Al-Fitr purifies his heart from any traces of hatred and envy so that he would know that Allah, the Exalted, did not neglect him and that he will never be lost in a Muslim community that recognizes the right of Allah in its members' wealth.

Thus, fasting disciplines the fasting person's conduct, ushering him to his Lord with strength and activity.

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