IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, THE BENEFICENT, THE MERCVIFUL
AL- SAWM [FASTING] AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE
[Shamim A Siddiqi,
The month of Ramadan is observed by Muslims throughout the world with all sanctity and reverence that it demands. It is a universal training program prescribed by Allah (SWT) to keep the Muslim intact with their Deen and akin to their Creator and Sustainer on person to person basis. It is a refreshing training course of a month [about 720 hours] that comes every year recurringly, reminding the Muslim men and women that they are the slaves to their Lord everywhere and under all the circumstances in which they live. The Omnipotence of Allah and His watchful Omnipresence with every moment of life is constant and all surmounting. If a Muslim and Muslimah fast with the potent consciousness that He is watching them profoundly, irrespective of the fact wherever he is and whatever he is doing, he/she will experience the taste of a perfect fasting. He/she is destined to get the maximum reward from Allah. The under-noted Hadith of Bukhari tells us what He has declared in this respect:
“Al-Sawmu li wa Ana ajzi behi” [The fasting is for Me and it is I who will give reward of it]
“Al-Sawm” [fasting] literary meanings of “Sawm” are “to restrain from something and give it up” e.g. “Sa’ma al-farasu sawmun” horse haven’t taken the fodder.
The Arabs used to train their horses and camels for sustaining thirst and hunger, enabling them to bear the hardship of difficult time and situation. They used to train their horses against the gusty chilly winds of winter and the scorching heat of the summer making them quite useful both for the hardship of battlefield and traveling to far off lands. This state was known as “Sawm of horses.” [Fast of the horses] “Sa’em” thus stands for the person who restrains himself or herself from food, water and sex”
[Ref: Tadabbur Qur’an – Vol. I. Page 401 Amin Ahsan Islahi]
Allah (SWT) has endowed humans with three strong urges - rest, hunger/thirst and sex and one free will. The urges are human instincts. They need fulfillment and the freewill works at their dictum. When humans follow their urges blindly, they become his or her master. They carry him or her in the fulfillment of the urges to every “do’s” and “don’ts” and thus become his or her master. He/she becomes the slave to his/her urges. As a result, he/she behaves like a reckless person and fills the earth with chaos, exploitation, bloodshed, disbalances and oppression throughout the human society as we see around us today and through ages. But if the same urges are brought under human control, man becomes responsible and behaves nicely in every field of life, filling the earth with honesty, peace and justice all around.
Fasting is a big and far reaching exercise in the domain of human nature, prescribed by Allah (SWT), to help the individual men and women in bringing these animal instincts/urges under control. That is why fasting was prescribed in every religion to that effect to attain its ultimate end i.e. inculcating Al-Taqwah – Allah consciousness. One who is fasting with a clear vision that Allah is watching him/her wherever he/she is and follows the restrictions on food, water and sex throughout the month, His prescribed “do’s and don’ts”, he/she becomes Allah conscious. By exercising this habit of restrain day in and day out for the entire month of Ramadan, he/she brings his/her urges under their direct control, leading towards inculcating Taqwah as the guiding spirit of his/her life.
It confirms the genesis of the above quoted Hadith that he/she fasts for Allah alone [Al-Sawmu li]. The Sa’em [one who is fasting] feels Allah’s presence and gives up every thing that was otherwise permissible for the sake of His Creator and Sustainer. In perfect sequence of fasting for Allah alone, Allah (SWT) declares that He will compensate him or her. But to what extent He will reward, it is another aspect of Sawm that needs a careful examination.
The quantum of reward for Sawm from Allah (SWT) depends on the quality of Sawm and the effort a person makes in inculcating Taqwah. The second part of the Hadith tells: “wa Ana Ajzi behi” [I will give its compensation]. It means He will give the Ajar [reward] in terms of the quality of efforts that a person makes in improving the perfection of his/her Sawm. The more the Sawm is nearer to perfection, the greater will be the reward from Allah. That is why Allah has qualified His commitment towards rewards for Sawn with “Laallakum Tattaqun” - perhaps you may get Taqwah. (Ref Verse 183 of Al-Baqarah).
The end result of fasting is to get Taqwah but that depends on the quality of Sawm. If every moment of these 720 hours are not passed through Allah consciousness ever present in thoughts, actions, dealings, Ebadah, personal behavior, give and take, earnings and expending, and struggling for His Deen, seeking His pleasure round the clock, the return for reward will not be as immense as one could expect from the unlimited bounties of Allah. That is the reason: people are fasting in multitude but they remain the same in terms of character, piety and Taqwah as they were before the start of the month of Ramadan. Another Hadith of Rasulullah (S) confirms it that there are people who fast but get nothing except “the toil of hunger and thirst” for the day.
May Allah give us Tawfeeq to fast with complete sense of Allah consciousness during the entire month of Ramadan and help each of us in reaping the harvest of Ramadan in abundance! Amen
Shamim A Siddiqi