Praise be to Allaah.
You have done very well to
ask this question; it indicates that you are keen to make sure that your
acts of worship do not go to waste or be reduced because of these widespread
We should all remember that
the real meaning of fasting is not only giving up food and drink, rather
Allaah, may He be exalted, has enjoined fasting in order that we may attain
piety (taqwa). Hence real fasting means refraining from sin by refraining
from it and giving it up; this is the fasting of the heart, not just the
fasting of the body. The Sunnah points to what we have said, and it has been
discussed and explained by the scholars.
It was narrated that Abu
Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allaah
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever does not give up
false speech and acting upon it, Allaah has no need of his giving up his
food and drink.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (1804). And it was narrated that
Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allaah
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “It may be that all a
fasting person gets from his fast is hunger and thirst, and it may be that
all a person who prays at night gets from his prayer is sleeplessness.”
Narrated by Ahmad (8693); classed as saheeh by Ibn Hibbaan (8/257) and by
al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Targheeb (1/262).
The Sahaabah and the early
generations of this ummah were keen for their fasting to be a purification
for their souls as well as their bodies, free from disobedience and sin.
‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may
Allaah be pleased with him) said: Fasting does not mean abstaining from food
and drink only, rather it is also abstaining from lying, falsehood and idle
Jaabir ibn ‘Abd-Allaah
al-Ansaari said: When you fast, then let your hearing, sight and tongue fast
from lying and sin and stop abusing servants. Be tranquil and dignified on
the day of your fast, and do not let the day you do not fast and the day you
fast be the same.
It was narrated that Hafsah
bint al-Sireen – who was a scholar of the Taabi’een – said: Fasting is a
shield, so long as one does not make holes in it it, and making holes in it
means gheebah (backbiting).
It was narrated from
Maymoon ibn Mahraam that the least of fasting is giving up food and drink.
These reports were quoted
by Ibn Hazm in al-Muhalla (4/308).
So it is no wonder if we
learn that some scholars regarded the fast as invalid if a person falls into
sin during his fast, even though the correct view is that this does not
invalidate the fast, but undoubtedly it detracts from it and goes against
the real meaning of fasting.
Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar (may
Allaah have mercy on him) said:
Backbiting damages the
fast. It was narrated from ‘Aa’ishah, and al-Awzaa’i also said this, that
backbiting breaks the fast of the fasting person and he has to make up that
day. Ibn Hazm went further and said: It is invalidated by every sin that a
person commits deliberately, when he is aware that he is fasting, whether it
is an action or a word, because of the general meaning of the words “he
should not utter obscene speech or behave in an ignorant manner” and because
the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever
does not give up false speech and acting upon it, Allaah has no need of his
giving up his food and drink.” End quote.
Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih
al-‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
As for the thing from one
which must abstain when fasting, perhaps you will be surprised if I tell you
that the thing from one which must abstain when fasting is sin. A person
must abstain from sin when fasting because this is the primary aim of
fasting, because Allaah, may He be blessed and exalted, says (interpretation
of the meaning):
“O you who believe!
Observing As-Sawm (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed
for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious)”
It is not so that you may
become hungry, or so that you may become thirsty, or so that you may refrain
from relations with your wife! No; He says “that you may become
Al-Muttaqoon (the pious).” This is the primary aim of fasting. The
Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) affirmed that when
he said: “Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it and
ignorant behaviour, Allaah has no need of his giving up his food and drink.”
So if a person refrains from disobeying Allaah, this is true fasting. As for
outward fasting, this is abstaining from things that invalidate the fast and
refraining from things that break the fast from dawn until sunset as an act
of worship towards Allaah, because of the verse in which Allaah says
(interpretation of the meaning):
“So now have sexual
relations with them and seek that which Allaah has ordained for you
(offspring), and eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn
appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night), then
complete your Sawm (fast) till the nightfall”
We call this kind of
fasting outward fasting, which is the fasting of the body only. As for the
fasting of the heart, which is the primary aim of fasting, this means
refraining from disobedience towards Allaah, may He be glorified and
Based on this, if a person
observes the fast outwardly, in the physical sense, but he does not fast in
his heart, then his fast is severely deficient, but we do not say that it is
invalid, rather we say that it is lacking. Similarly, we say concerning
prayer that the aim of prayer is humility before Allaah, may He be glorified
and exalted, and prayer of the heart comes before prayer of the limbs, but
if a person prays physically but not with his heart, not focusing at all,
then his prayer is very deficient, but it is still valid as it appears to
be, but is very deficient. Similarly the fast is very deficient if a person
does not refrain from disobeying Allaah, but it is valid, because acts of
worship in this world are to be judged as they appear to be. End quote.
il-Maftoohah (116, p. 1).
The scholars divided
patience into three categories: patience in obeying Allaah, patience in
refraining from disobeying Him, and patience in accepting the Divine decree.
Fasting combines all these kinds of patience.
Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (may
Allaah have mercy on him) said:
The best kind of patience
is fasting, for it combines all three types of patience. It is patience in
obeying Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted, and it is patience in
refraining from disobeying Him, because a person gives up his desires for
the sake of Allaah even though his self may be longing for them. Hence it
says in the saheeh hadeeth that Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted,
says: “All the deeds of the son of Adam are for him, except fasting. It is
for Me and I shall reward for it, because he gives up his desire and his
food and drink for My sake.” Fasting also involves patience in accepting the
consequences which may result in hunger and thirst for the fasting person.
wa’l-Hikam (p. 219).
Whoever manages to fast as
Allaah has prescribed will attain a great reward from his Lord, may He be
blessed and exalted. It is sufficient for him to know that Allaah says
(interpretation of the meaning):
“Only those who are
patient shall receive their reward in full, without reckoning”
In order for the Muslim to
protect his fasting from being deficient due to committing sins, he must
achieve patience in refraining from sin. One of the scholars said that
patience in refraining from sin is greater than the other two types of
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah
have mercy on him) said:
Here there is an issue
which people debated about: which type of patience is better – patience in
refraining from sin or patience in obeying Allaah? One group of people
suggested that the former is better, and they said that patience in
refraining from sin is the attitude of the siddeeqeen, as some of the salaf
said: Good deeds are done by righteous and immoral alike, but no one has the
power to refrain from sin except a Siddeeq, and because the motive to commit
sin is greater than the motive to stop being obedient, because the motive to
commit sin is pleasure, but the motive to stop being obedient is laziness
and sloth, and undoubtedly the motive to commit sin is stronger. They said:
Sin may be promoted by one's own self, whims and desires, the shaytaan,
worldly reasons, a man’s companions, a desire to imitate, and natural
inclinations. Any one of these factors may cause a person to commit sin, so
how about if they are combined and prevail over the heart? What patience can
be stronger than patience in refusing to respond to them? If Allaah did not
give him patience, he would not be patient by himself.
This argument, as you can
see, is very strong and very clear. End quote.
Patience in refraining from
sin stems from a number of things which we hope you will ponder, for that
contains a description of the disease and a prescription of the remedy.
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah
have mercy on him) said:
The principle of patience
in refraining from sin is based on a number of things:
1 – Knowledge of how
reprehensible and vile it is, and that Allaah has only forbidden it as a
protection against its evil, just as a caring father will protect his child
from things that will harm him. This reason will make the wise person
refrain from it, even if he does not pay attention to the warning of
2 – Feeling shy before
Allaah, may He be glorified. If a person realizes that Allaah is watching
him and can see him and hear him, he will feel too shy before his Lord to
expose himself to His wrath.
3 – Remembering the
blessings He has given you and His kindness towards you. Sins inevitably
take away blessings. No person commits a sin but one of the blessings of
Allaah is taken away because of that sin. If he repents, then it is
restored, but if he persists in it, it is not given back to him, and the
sins continue to take away blessings until the blessings disappear
altogether. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Verily, Allaah will not
change the (good) condition of a people as long as they do not change their
state (of goodness) themselves (by committing sins and by being ungrateful
and disobedient to Allaah)” [???]
The greatest of blessings
is faith, but the sins of zina, stealing, drinking alcohol and robbery take
them away and cause them to disappear. One of the salaf said: I committed a
sin and I was deprived of praying qiyaam for a year. Another said: I
committed a sin and I was deprived of understanding of the Qur’aan.
Concerning such things it was said:
If you have been blessed
then take care of it, for sin takes away blessings.
To sum up: Sin is a fire
that consumes blessings, just as fire consumes wood, Allaah forbid that His
blessings be lost.
4 – Fear of Allaah and of
His punishment. This may be established by believing in His promises and
warnings, and by believing in Him, His Books and His Messengers. This is
strengthened by means of knowledge and certain faith, and it is weakened if
those two things are weakened, Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“It is only those who
have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allaah”
One of the salaf said: Fear
of Allaah is a sign of knowledge and taking Allaah’s forgiveness for granted
is a sign of ignorance.
5 – Love of Allaah. This is
the strongest factor in being patient in refraining from disobeying Him. The
one who loves will be obedient to the one whom he loves. The stronger that
love grows in his heart, the more his willingness to obey Him and his
unwillingness to disobey Him will grow. Sin and disobedience stem from
weakness of love. There is a difference between one who is motivated to
avoid disobeying his master because of his fear of his whip and punishment,
and one who is motivated to avoid that because of his love for his master.
6 – Nobility and purity of
heart. If a person has self-respect and is keen to attain virtue, he will
refrain from anything that may lead to doom and dishonour.
7 – Certain knowledge of
the consequences of disobedience and the harm that may result from it, such
as blackening of the face, darkness in the heart, distress, grief, pain,
depression, anxiety, lack of focus, weakness in the face of one’s enemy,
confusion, sense of abandonment, being overpowered by one’s enemy, failing
to benefit from knowledge, forgetting what one has already learned, and
sickness that will surely lead to death if it takes hold, because sins
deaden the heart.
To sum up: the awful
effects of sin are too many for a person to grasp, and the good effects of
obedience are too many for a person to grasp. The best of this world and the
Hereafter may be attained by obeying Allaah, and the worst of this world and
the Hereafter comes from disobeying Him. Concerning some of these effects
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “Who could ever obey Me and be
doomed because of it and who could ever disobey Me and attain blessings
because of it?”
8 – Lack of worldly hope
and certainty that he will soon depart this world, and the realization that
he is like a traveller who enters a town determined to leave it, or like a
rider who rests in the shade of a tree then moves on and leaves it. Because
he knows how short his stay will be and how quickly he will move on, he is
keen to leave behind anything that may weigh him down or cause him harm and
bring no benefit. He is keen to move on with the best that he has. A person
has nothing better than a lack of worldly ambition and nothing more harmful
than procrastinating and focusing on worldly ambitions.
9 – Avoiding excess in his
food, drink, clothing, sleeping, and meeting people, because the temptation
to commit sin grows stronger if there is any excess in these areas, because
that requires an outlet and what is permissible becomes no longer enough and
one begins to transgress into haraam areas. One of the most harmful things
for a person is idleness and free time, because the soul is never idle; if
it is not kept busy with beneficial things it will inevitably occupy itself
with harmful things.
10 – This sums up all the
previous things: it is faith that is firmly-rooted in the heart. Patience in
refraining from sin depends on strength of faith. The stronger a person’s
faith is, the more patient he will be, but if his faith is weak his patience
will be weak too. If a person’s heart is filled with the belief that Allaah
is watching him and can see him, and has forbidden what He has forbidden to
him and will be angry with the one who does it and punish him, and if his
heart is filled with the belief in the reward and punishment, Paradise and
Hell, then he will not fail to act upon this knowledge. Whoever thinks that
he can give up sin without firm and deeply-rooted faith is mistaken. If the
lamp of faith is strong in the heart it will illuminate all of its corners
and shine its light into its depths; that light will then spread throughout
his body and he will respond quickly to the promptings of faith, and will
obey humbly and willingly, with no resentment. Rather he will rejoice in
this call when it comes, just as a man rejoices in the call of his beloved
who calls him to show him kindness and honour him, so he is waiting for his
call all the time. Allaah bestows His mercy upon whomsoever He will ... End
What is required of the
Muslim is to understand what Allaah really wants from his fasting, and to
understand what pushes him to commit sin, so that he may keep away from it
and shun it and hate it. What we have quoted from Ibn al-Qayyim explains
this in the best way.
See also the answer to
question no. 12468.
And Allaah knows best.