The acts of worship that the Muslims practice seek to achieve certain goals and benefits that Allah wants His slaves to acquire knowledge in them and to comprehend and achieve them. Among these acts of worship is fasting during the lunar month of Ramadhan, which has several goals that the Muslims must strive to achieve with his heart and by his actions. These goals are as follows:
- Achieving taqwa, that is, to become God-fearing. Allah said:
"O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those who came before you; that you will perhaps be God-fearing." [Al-Qur'an 2:183]
Hence, fasting is a means to achieve taqwa. In fact, all acts of worship and tawhid are methods and means to achieve taqwa, as Allah has said:
"O mankind, worship your Lord, Who created you and those before you, so that you may become God-fearing." [Al-Qur'an 2:21]
Acquiring the rewards of Allah. Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, "Allah the Exalted said, 'All the deeds of the son of Adam are his, except for fasting, for it is Mine and I will reward for it.' "
The Prophet also said, "The one fasting has two happy moments: when he breaks his fast, and when he meets his Lord he is happy because of his fast." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
About his saying, "When he breaks his fast he is happy," and Imam Muslim's addition, "Because of his breaking his fast," Imam al-Qurtubi commented, "It means he is happy because his hunger and thirst have ended, since he is allowed to break his fast. This happiness is natural and this is apparently the desired meaning. It was also said that his being happy is because of his breaking the fast, means that he has fulfilled his fast, and as a culmination for his practicing the acts of worship. His saying, 'And when he meets his Lord he is happy because of his fast,' means he is happy because of the rewards for fasting and its complete awards.' "
Fasting purifies the soul and helps it acquire the habit of obeying Allah and His Messenger by defeating the desires of the heart. Fasting teaches refraining from following the desires because the soul of the one fasting becomes obedient to Allah's commands. Also, Satan has a stronger hold over the souls that often obey their desires. When the soul abandons its desires, it will become more difficult for Satan to have a hold on the heart.
Being saved from the Fire for the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "And Allah has those whom he frees from the Fire, and this occurs every night (meaning in Ramadhan)." [At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah]
The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "Fasting and the Qur'an will intercede on behalf of the slave. Fasting will say, 'O Lord! I prevented him from food and obeying his desires in the morning. Therefore, accept my intercession on his behalf.' And the Qur'an will say, 'I prevented him from sleeping at night. Therefore, accept my intercession on his behalf,' and they will be accepted as intercessors.' " [Ahmad, al-Hakim and al-Bayhaqi]
There is no doubt that fasting directs to having one's sins forgiven and erased. The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, "The five prayers, and from Friday to the next Friday, and Ramadhan to the next Ramadhan, are erasers for what occurs between them, as long as major sins are avoided." [Muslim]
Also the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said, "Whoever fasts Ramadhan with iman and ih'tisab, will have his previous sins forgiven." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Imam Ahmad and an-Nasa'i added the following to the above narration, "And also what will occur later on (meaning future sins, as well)."
Fasting with iman entails fasting while believing with the heart in the obligation of fasting during Ramadhan. As for ih'tisab, it means that one anticipates the reward and his fasting is therefore only for the sake of Allah and not to imitate his people and community or for any other worldly gain.
From The Muslim Creed (vol. 9, issue 10), Sha'ban 1422H, published by the Society of Islamic Heritage