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The Inner Secrets of Fasting
Imām Ibn Qudāmah al-Maqdisī

This article was send in by Dina Sewar, jazak Allahu khayran.
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.
Similarly, the
Ka`bah is highly dignified due to its close connection to Him, as
occurs in
His statement:

  "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
is 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
are all
well known.

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
way of
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
exertion (towards 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
"tighten his
waist-wrapper (izār)":

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,
the 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
sinful acts.

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
from Allah, as well as its (the heart's) abstention from all the things
Allah has placed on the same level.

From 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
body parts.

In a hadīth reported by Al-Bukhārī:

  "Whosoever does not abandon false speech and the acting upon it,
Allah is
not in need of him leaving off his food and drink." [Sahīh al-Bukhārī,
Dawūd, at-Tirmidhī and Ibn Mājah]

Another 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

If 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
way, if
he eats to his fill for suhūr, he does not make good use of himself
the 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.

Recommended Fasts
As for the recommended fasts, then know that preference for fasting is
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
days of
Dhul-Hijjah and Muharram.
Some of them occur every month, such as the first part of the month,
middle part 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
done well.

Some fasts occur every week, and they are every Monday and Thursday.

The 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
day of
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: 625]

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, from the
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 -
or -
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
fasting. Therefore, he burdens himself to the extent that he will not
unable to do that which is more beneficial than it.
Ibn Mas`ūd 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
(optional) fast.

Some of them (the Sahābah) would weaken in their recitation of the
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
will rectify it.

There were a slight modification to the article by the editor, such as
exclusion of the couple of statements.

Mukhtasar Minhāj ul-Qāsidīn (pp. 38-41) Hudā, Ramadhān 1419 Translated
Ismā`īl Ibn al-Arkān and edited by Abu Khaliyl.