The following is a message by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti of the Jerrahi Khalwati Sufi Order.
My Dear Companions on the Path to Truth,
Allah (s.w.t.) Says:
O ye who believe! Fasting is Prescribed to you as it was Prescribed to those before you that ye may (learn) self-restraint.― (Qur’an, Surah al-Baqarah:183)
The last phrase of the Lord’s order to fast reveals the inner meaning of fasting. A hadith related by ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (r.a.) clearly illustrates this meaning: “Whoever can, should marry, because marriage prevents one from forbidden acts and protects ones honour. The one who cannot marry should learn to fast, for fasting is the best means to control ones lust and desires of the flesh, and the temptations of one’s evil commanding ego.”
Our Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) also says, “Every place has a door leading into it; the door into the true servanthood of Allah is fasting.”
Fasting opens the door which can enable us to: be real Muslims; to truly submit to our Lord, to obey, to praise, to worship Him; to be sincere and to abandon hypocrisy; to detest that which is forbidden, to love and desire to do that which is prescribed; to become the masters of our egos, instead of being their slaves. Indeed there are evil influences in the world around us. But the devil can only penetrate into our beings, attack us, with the cooperation of an ally already in place: the ego. Fasting will certainly weaken this inner accomplice and keep the gates of our being shut against the devil. That is why it is said that “fasting is a shield against the hellfire.” When the ego is made hungry, our eyes, our tongue, our hands and feet, all our other organs are satiated; their needs are satisfied. They will not therefore respond to the lust and evil desires generated by the ego. On the other hand, when the ego is satiated, all our being is hungry and will do anything under the command of the evil commanding ego. Fasting is not only protection against what is decreed harmful for us. While fasting, we decline even the things which are permitted and lawful for us. How then could we not abandon that which is unlawful? It also purges us of the physical and spiritual poison which has accumulated in our beings. Fasting ultimately cleanses the heart. It also makes us more vigilant in our obedience to the Lord in the future; it strengthens in us the fear of losing Allah’s (s.w.t.) Love. That is the manifestation of taqwa: fear of Allah (s.w.t.), piety. And that is the meaning of the last phrase of the verse: “so that you may guard against evil.”
In a hadits related by Imam an-Nasa’i (r.a.) and Imam ibn Khuzayma (r.a.), “Abu ‘Umama begged the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) ‘to give him a duty, doing which will benefit him in this world and the hereafter, and lead him to Paradise. The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) told him, ‘Fast! There is no deed which is like it. There is no deed equal to it.’ When Abu ‘Umama asked him what other deed he recommended, the Prophet (s.a.w.) repeated the same answer thrice.”
The Prophet (s.a.w.) himself fasted many days other than the obligatory fast during the month of Ramadhan, especially during the two prior months of Rajab and Sha’ban. As related in a hadits, he used to fast many days without breaking the fast, which is called ‘sawm mitsal’. Some of the blessed companions also began to attempt this kind of fast, but were unsuccessful. When the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) heard of this, he forbade them to do it. When they said “we wished to do as you did” he said, “I am not like you. I am offered food and drink in the Sight of my Lord without eating and drinking.”
Perhaps if we are able to become more conscious of and a bit more attentive to the ten following benefits of fasting, we might also be Fed by our Lord without actually eating.
- When our bellies are full we become dull, lazy, and careless. Our hearts are heavy, incapable of penetrating to the meaning of things, deciphering secrets, or conforming with things for our own benefit. When we are fasting, our hearts are light and at peace; we are anxious to obey the Ordinances of our Lord and we are better able to see and understand reality.
- When the body is hungry, the heart is soft and compassionate, and relates to Allah (s.w.t.) the Most Compassionate. This should make us relish the taste of our prayers, feel the effects of our remembrance of the Lord, and it should strengthen our faith.
- Through fasting, most of the feeling of being spoiled by the good life, and the conceit created by our illusions of ourselves, disappear. The proud and arrogant feel an overwhelming sadness, which is proof of the weakening of the ego. In a hadits al-qudsi, Allah (s.w.t.) says, “I am With those who are made to feel sad for My Sake.”
- When we are hungry we are reminded of the tribulations and sufferings in our lives; we remember other people who, not by choice, are hungry and homeless, and we wish to help them.
- Hunger weakens our egos and prevents us from revolting against Allah’s (s.w.t.) Orders, and from hurting ourselves and others.
- A full belly makes us sleepy. Even if our eyes are open we are dull and heedless. The one who is heedless is not aware of what he does or what is happening to him. He is defenseless and is apt to be hurt physically and spiritually. Hunger makes us agile, heedful, and aware of the world and our Lord.
- In hunger, we find comfort in prayer. Worship with a full stomach is at best a fulfillment of duty
- Most sicknesses are caused by or aggravated by being fat, by overeating. Fasting cleanses our bodies, cures many sicknesses, and brings health.
- The one who eats less and fasts leads a humble life by choice. He learns to be satisfied with less. The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) says: “Whoever lives humbly and economically will never suffer poverty.”
- When we diminish our own needs, we will be happy to share what is left of our possessions with others, and we will become generous. Generosity is a Divine Attribute which will lead us to Paradise in this world and in the Hereafter.
All praise and thankfulness to Allah (s.w.t.), and peace and blessings upon the soul of His Beloved, our Master and Guide, the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), his family, and his companions (r.a.), that we are able to once again celebrate the holy month of Ramadhan together. May They and the month of Ramadhan be pleased with our ikhwan and be our intercessors on the Day of Last Judgment. May our humble efforts in worship, obedience, and service for Allah’s (s.w.t.) Sake be Accepted. May we be Cleansed and Beautified with the adab, the good morals ordered by the Holy Qur’an, and the imitation of the character of our Master (s.a.w.), the Beloved of Allah (s.w.t.). May our love for our Lord and His Beloved, the ones whom they love, and the ones who love them, as well as our love for each other for Their sake, increase abundantly. May we be Given the strength and the means to serve in Their names for Their sakes, and be successful in our tasks. May we not be tested beyond our endurance. May our faith be Protected and Perfected. May our teachers be blessed and our shuyukh who have met their Lord enter His Paradise. And may our wrongs be righted in honour of the blessed month of Ramadhan.