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Achieving a virtuous Ramadan fast

Gradually and with gratitude to Allah (SWT), Muslims in Nigeria would, by the end of today, have observed one-third of this year’s Ramadan fast. Gratitude is due to Allah (SWT) for showering His mercy on us. If it is important for believers to be steadfast in their acts of worship because they, not Allah, are the beneficiaries; it is more desirous they remain more committed in an act of worship about which Allah (SWT) said “It is for me and I (alone) give the reward for it”. That singular act of ibadah is Ramadan fast. Allahu Akbar!

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In a hadith related by Ahmad, Muslim and An-Nasai on the authority of Abu Hurayarah (RA), the Prophet (SAW) said that Allah (SWT) has instructed believers to avoid vulgar speeches while fasting and that if anyone fights, provokes or vilifies them, they should say “I’m fasting” twice. Allah (SWT) also affirmed that the smell from the mouth of a fasting believer is better in the sight of Allah (SWT) on the Day of Judgment than the musk (perfume). Imam Muslim relate on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (RA) that the Prophet (SAW) said “Allah forgives the (the sins committed) between five daily obligatory prayers; between one Jumu’at congregational prayer and another; and between one Ramadan fast and another” if he avoids all forms of disobedience to Allah’s injunctions”.So, the forgiveness promised those who observed last year’s Ramadan are privileged to be observing the current Ramadan is on condition that they shun all sins, small and big.

Abu Daud, IbnMajah and at-Timidhr all relate on the authority of Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (SAW) said “Whoever breaks the Ramadan fast for a day without any compelling excuses upon which Allah grants concession, no restitution will be enough (to expiate for it) even if he were to observe fast for a whole lifetime”. This implies there must be a genuine and a very strong reason before a Muslim should decide to beak his Ramadan fast. In fact, some scholars describe a Muslim that beaks his Ramadan fast without being constrained by any of the justifications known to Shari’ah such as illness, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, old age or a long stressful journey, is worse than an adulterer or fornicator. It is important to state here that poverty or wretchedness, unemployment, detention, prison sentence and waiting period (iddah) observed by widows and divorcees do not make the list of lawful excuses for breaking the Ramadan fast.

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The modern lifestyle adopted by contemporary men and women especially in modern cities is gradually impacting on some aspects of fasting. For reasons I cannot fully explain, some Muslims deliberately skip the prophetic practice of Sahur which involves eating at dawn even though no sin is earned for ignoring thetradition. Imams Bukhari and Muslim both relate on the authority of Annas (AS) that the Prophet (SAW) “Eat (food) at Sahur time because there is blessing in Sahur meals”. Scholars explain the blessings to include adding strength to the body and easing the fast for those fasting. The amount of food taken at Sahur time is not what matters. The important thing is that something, even if it were the sipping of ordinary water, should be pushed down the throat. 

Imam Ahmad relates on the authority of Abu Saeed Al-Khudriy that the Prophet (SAW) Alah and His angels invoke blessings upon those who eat at Sahur time while fasting. Although the time for Sahur meal extends from midnight to the appearance of Fajr (dawn), is preferred that it is delayed until shortly before Fajrcomes out.  In a hadith related by Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of ZaydBnThabit (RA), the Prophet (SAW) said that there should be a period long enough to recite 50 verses of the holy Qu’an between the time when Sahurmeal is taken and the time for Subhi (morning) prayer. Allah (SWT) states in Qur’an 2:187 “…And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from it black thread”.

Breaking of fast on the other hand is encouraged to be hastened. Bukhari and Muslim both relate on the authority of SahlBnSaad (RA) that the Prophet (SAW) said “People will not ceasing from doing well as long as they hasten (always) to break their fast” the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW) recommends that Muslims should break their fast with dates or with ordinary water where the former is not available. It is also a prophetic practice to break the fast before observing Maghrib (dusk) prayer. The essence of hastening to break the fast would have been ruined if breaking of the fast is delayed until after Maghrib.

Among the supplications offered by the Prophet (SAW) when breaking his fast is “Allahumma Laka Sumtu Wa Alarizkika Aftartu” meaning “O Allah! I fasted for you and (it is) with your wealth, I’m breaking the fast”. The acceptance of supplications from the person fasting is guaranteed based on the hadith related by Tirmidhi which reports that the Prophet (SAW) said the supplications of three persons are (accepted and) never turned down. The three persons are: a man or woman fasting until he or she breaks the fast; a just leader; and a person who was unjustly wrongly.

In order to preserve the sanctity of our Ramadan fast, let us strive to shun everything that seeks to degrade it. Let us remember that fasting is not all about abstaining from eating, drinking and conjugal relationship during the day time. It extends to avoiding every act that constitutes a sin. We must remain righteous; preventing our senses and body from engaging in acts of disobedience. Our eyes, tongue, hands and legs must all be chained from treading the devil’s path. It is reported by all the authentic compilers of hadith except Imam Muslim on the authority of Abu Harayrah (RA that the Prophet (SAW) said “Allah has no need for a person’s abstinence from food and drink (i.e. fast) if he does not shun telling lies or working with it”. Such a person’s fast is null and would have succeeded in just starving himself or herself. May Allah (SWT) guide us towards a virtuous Ramadan fast, amin.

 

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