Important Tips for Fasting in the Month of Ramadan (Part III) Shaykh Abdullah Ali
We highly recommend Shaykh Abdullah bin Hamid Ali’s ‘Fiqh of Fasting which provides a excellent discourse on fasting according to the school of Imam Malik (ra)
When exactly when do we start fasting? Can we eat our ‘suhur’ after fajr if it is still dark outside? Shaykh Abdullah answers this question in this MP3 clip taken from his ‘Fiqh of Fasting’ session.
Shaykh Abdullah bin Hamid Ali
Ramadan is not merely to ensure that a Muslim is fulfilling one’s fundamental obligations. It serves primarily as a means to sever the attachment to the things that distract us from living out the purpose for which we were created: the worship and service of God. Ramadan is a virtual madrasa (school) for the soul meant not only to help us overcome sin and perform good works. It is primarily meant to help us acquire the necessary virtues by which people of goodness and goodwill are characterized. Those virtues include descriptions like patience, endurance, self-restraint, forbearance, gratitude, charity, sincerity, and honesty.
Doing a good act is one thing. But to be disposed to do good at all times even when one is without the means to do so is what truly makes one a person of God-consciousness. To avoid sin is one thing. But the constant impulse to commit sin even when the means are unavailable is even worse. That is to say that Ramadan is a time to adorn one’s self with virtue [i.e. the disposition toward goodwill] and vacating the heart from vice [i.e. the disposition toward mischief]. In light of this, I offer the following 5 very important suggestions in preparation for the holy month. Good habits make for good people. Bad habits make for bad people.
1. Rectify your intention. The view of our righteous forbears was that one’s intention is better than one’s deeds in light of the fact that once a deed is carried out, it risks being corrupted by the vice of ostentation. Contrariwise, a person is rewarded for a good intention even if he/she lacks the capacity to carry it out. For Ramadan, this requires for one to make his/her intention to fast for the expressed reason for which fasting was prescribed by the Creator i.e. “to achieve God-consciousness/virtue” (la’allakum tattaqun). It demands that one avoid the urge to fast intending merely to fulfill an obligation, or to prove how durable one is, or as a form of special diet designed for weight loss or improved physical hygiene. Undoubtedly, the fast can achieve these aims, but its true goal is to achieve deeper consciousness of God.
2. Befriend your Qur’an. Ramadan commemorates the revelation of the Qur’an and celebrates divine guidance to humanity. So it only makes sense for Muslims to begin a daily reading of the Qur’an. While it is desirable to complete the reading of the entire Qur’an once during the month of Ramadan, a deliberate reading whose goal is to comprehend the holy book is far better than reading nothing at all or reading hastily without grasping any of its teachings. One should not let a day go by without reading atleast 10 verses of the Qur’an. If it is possible for one to memorize and learn the proper way to recite those verses with a qualified teacher, that would also be of enormous worth. One’s intention should be, as in all other things done during this month, to develop good habits (virtues) that extend and last beyond the conclusion of the holy month.
3. Restrain your tongue. The Prophet―God’s mercy and peace on him―said in a sound tradition, “Whoever does not leave off speaking falsehood and acting indecently then God has no need in him leaving off his food and drink.” Each prescribed religious act has a greater spiritual aim than the mere fulfillment of one’s obligation. Fasting (sawm) is linguistically synonymous with self-restraint (imsak). And the Prophet Muhammad―God’s mercy and peace on him―made it clear that the “harvests of peoples’ tongues” do more to “throw people prostrate on their faces into Hell.” During this month, one should be vigilant in avoiding backbiting, slander, tale carrying, lying, argumentation, and other vices of the tongue. One should remember in one’s dealings with others that even though it is gratifying to gather and speak negatively of others, the one who carries the tale to you or backbites would easily do the same to you. If you do not desire others to speak ill of you or to disseminate rumors about you, you should be the first to avoid such things. Preserve your own honor and reputation with people by seeking to become known as one who speaks only good of others.
4. Avoid excess and extravagance. The urge to compensate for what one did not eat during the daytime hours when the night comes is very normal. But it is something that goes against the spirit promoted by the teacher who taught us not to over indulge in anything that does not bring well-being to our worldly and spiritual lives. Balance in our lives requires food for both the body and soul. Too much of one can negatively influence the other. One should spend one’s Ramadan by ensuring that the superogatory acts are performed. These are things such as prayer and all acts of charity which includes kindness to one’s fellow person in word and deed. Overindulgence in the carnal pleasures weakens the spirit. When the stomach is full, the body is heavy. When the body is heavy, the spirit is less inclined to do good works. Balance one’s diet with an equal amount of food and water: lessening one’s caloric and meat intake and increasing one’s portion of fruits and vegetables. Conserve energy and water. Lessen the time one spends watching television, movies, and music. Plan to shorten your normal sleep schedule by a couple of hours per night. Eat only your fill without fearing that if you don’t eat what you missed during the daylight hours you will not have strength to take on the next day of fasting.
5. Give regularly. One does not deserve to be called ‘generous’ by merely giving charity once a year or once in a lifetime. Rather, the virtue of generosity is acquired and earned through the adoption of a discipline or “ethic of giving” which leads to a disposition of openhandedness. In preparation for this blessed month, one could start by committing one’s self to giving $5/day or its equivalent in other currencies. Preferably, this money should be given to indigent people. But if it is difficult to always locate a poor person, one should give it to one’s family member (e.g. child, spouse, brother, niece). What is important about this exercise is that it removes the usual uneasiness about giving: helping to remove our attachment to wealth. If $5/day is too much, one should try to give at least $15 or $20 every Friday.
Click HERE for Part 1 of Important Tips for Fasting in the Month of Ramadan
Click HERE for Part 2 of Important Tips for Fasting in the Month of Ramadan
Click HERE for Part 4 of Important Tips for Fasting in the Month of Ramadan
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