The Inner Secrets of Fasting
Imām Ibn Qudāmah al-Maqdisī
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Know, that in the fast (Sawm) is a special quality that is
not found in
anything else. And that is its close connection to Allah, such that He
"The fast (Sawm)
is for Me and I will reward it." [Sahīh al-Bukhārī
This connection is enough to show the high
status of fasting.
Ka`bah is highly dignified due to its close connection to Him, as
"And sanctify My House." [Sūrah al-Hajj:26]
Indeed, the fast is only virtuous
due to two significant concepts:
The first: It is a secret and hidden action thus, no one from the
able to see it. Therefore riyā' (showing off) cannot enter into it.
The second: It is a means of subjugating the enemies
of Allah. This is
because the road that the enemies (of Allah) embark upon (in order to
misguide the Son of Ādam)
is that of desires. And eating and drinking
strengthens the desires.
There are many reports that indicate the merits
of fasting, and they
The recommended acts of fasting
The pre-dawn meal (suhūr) and delaying
in taking it are preferable, as
as hastening to break the fast and doing so with dates.
Generosity in giving
is also recommended during Ramadān, as well as
good deeds and increasing in charity. This is in accordance with
the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam).
It is also recommended to study the Qur'ān
and perform I`tikāf during
Ramadān, especially in the last ten days, as well as increasing upon
doing good deeds) in it.
In the two Sahīhs, `Ā'ishah said:
"When the (last) ten days (of Ramadān) would
come, the Prophet would
tighten his waist-wrapper (izār), spend the night in worship, and wake
family up (for
prayer)." [Sahīh al-Bukhārī and Muslim]
The scholars have mentioned two views concerning the meaning of
The first: It means the turning away from women.
The second: It is an expression
denoting his (sallallahu `alayhi wa
eagerness and diligence in doing good deeds.
They also say that
the reason for his (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam)
exertion in the last ten days of Ramadān was due to his (sallallahu
wa sallam) seeking of the Night of Al-Qadr (Lailatul-Qadr).
An explanation of the inner secrets of
fasting and its characteristics
There are three levels of fasting: The general fast, the specific fast,
more specific fast.
As for the general fast, then it is the refraining of the stomach and
private parts from
fulfilling their desires.
The specific fast is the refraining of ones gaze, tongue, hands, feet,
hearing and eyes,
as well as the rest of his body parts from committing
As for the more specific fast, then it is the
heart's abstention from
yearning after the worldly affairs and the thoughts which distance one
Allah, as well as its (the heart's) abstention from all the things
Allah has placed on the same level.
the characteristics of the specific fast is that one lowers his
and safeguards his tongue from the repulsive
speech that is forbidden,
disliked, or which has no benefit, as well as controlling the rest of
a hadīth reported by Al-Bukhārī:
"Whosoever does not abandon false speech and the acting upon it,
not in need of him leaving off his food and drink." [Sahīh al-Bukhārī,
Dawūd, at-Tirmidhī and Ibn Mājah]
characteristic of the specific fast is that one does not
himself with food during the night. Instead, he
eats in due measure,
indeed, the son of Ādam does not fill a vessel more evil than his
he were to eat his fill during the first part of the night, he would
make good use of himself for the remainder
of the night. In the same
he eats to his fill for suhūr, he does not make good use of himself
afternoon. This is because excessive eating breeds laziness and
lethargy. Therefore, the objective of fasting disappears
due to one's
excessiveness in eating, for what is intended by the fast, is that one
savors the taste of hunger and
becomes an abandoner of desires.
As for the recommended fasts, then know that preference for fasting
established in certain virtuous days. Some of these virtuous days occur
every year, such as fasting the first six
days of the month of Shawāl
Ramadān, fasting the day of `Arafah, the day of `Āshūrā, and the ten
Dhul-Hijjah and Muharram.
Some of them occur every month, such as the first part of the month,
of it, and the last part of it. So whoever fasts the first
of the month, the middle part of it, and the last
part of it, then he
Some fasts occur every week, and they are every Monday and Thursday.
most virtuous of the recommended fasts is the fast of Dawūd
salām). He would fast one day and break his
fast the next day. This
the following three objectives:
The soul is given its share on the day the
fast is broken. And on the
fasting, it completes its worship in full.
The day of eating is the day of
giving thanks and the day of fasting is
day of having patience. And Faith (īmān) is divided into two halves -
of thankfulness and that of patience. [Note: the hadīth with a similar
stament is unauthentic, see adh-Dha`īfah:
It is the most difficult struggle for the soul. This is because every
the soul gets accustomed to
a certain condition, it transfers itself to
As for fasting every day, then it has been reported by Muslim,
hadīth of Abu Qatādah, that `Umar (radhiallahu `anhu) asked the Prophet
(sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam):
'What is the case if one were to fast every day?' So he (sallallahu
`alayhi wa sallam) said: "He did not fast nor did
he break his fast -
he did not fast and he did not break his fast." [Sahīh Muslim]
This is concerning
the one who fasts continuously, even during the days
which fasting is forbidden.
Characteristics of the
most specific fast
Know that the one who has been given intellect, knows the objective
he burdens himself to the extent that he will not
unable to do that which is more beneficial than it.
would fast very little and it is reported that he used to
"When I fast, I grow weak in my prayer. And
I prefer the prayer over
Some of them (the Sahābah) would weaken in their recitation
while fasting. Thus, they would exceed in breaking their fast (i.e. by
observing less optional fasts),
until they were able to balance their
recitation. Every individual is knowledgeable of his condition and of
There were a slight modification to the article by the editor, such as
exclusion of the couple
Mukhtasar Minhāj ul-Qāsidīn (pp. 38-41) Hudā, Ramadhān 1419 Translated
Ismā`īl Ibn al-Arkān
and edited by Abu Khaliyl.