Fasting and Forbearance: Self-Discipline not Self-Denial
25 September 2014
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ ۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُوَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ ۗ يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ وَلِتُكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَاكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
'Ramadaan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful.'
(Surat al-Baqara: 185)
This article was written by Ra'sul Hududil Mayameen Janab Syedi Aziz Bhaisaheb Qutbuddin in 2014.
The month of Ramadaan is recognized predominantly through the act of fasting from dawn till dusk for 30 days. The 5th Pillar of Islam (di’aamat) is fasting (sawm – roza). It is incumbent upon us as per our pledge in the Misaaq to do roza for the full 30 days of Ramadaan, completing the count of days according to the hidayat of our Mawali Tahereen, following the path they have shown us. Imam Ja’far us Sadiq SA asserted that “fasting is compulsory (farizat) in the month of Ramadan.” He added that “The obligation of fasting is minimally fulfilled by a Mumin doing so with conviction in his heart and pure intent, forsaking food, drink and sex in the day time for the duration of month, and making all senses and faculties abstain from the things Allah Ta’ala has made haraam.” Maulatuna Fatema AS emphasized the importance of fasting with all our senses and faculties, declaring, “What good is fasting if you do not safeguard your tongue, ears, eyes and limbs.”
In a newspaper article some years ago, a journalist prefaced his article on Ramadaan by stating that it is a month of self-denial. Mazoon-ud-Da'wat Syedi Dr. Abdeali Bhaisaheb, Syedna Qutbuddin’s son, was a student of journalism at that time in the American University in Cairo and he wrote a letter to the editor of the paper saying that, "Ramadaan is not a month of self-denial but rather a month of self-discipline." Indeed, we discipline ourselves in small ways and large. Our daily schedule is organized in respect to the times of namaaz and particularly in relation to the time of sihori and iftaar. In the larger context, our focus is shifted through the process of abstaining from food and drink, from fulfilling our bodily needs to the soul’s purification, to preparation for the Hereafter.
Perhaps the most important requisite for fasting, as well as the virtue that it inculcates, is forbearance – sabr. Maulana Ali SA has stated that there are two kinds of sabr – sabr in suffering (sabrun ‘ala ma takrah) and sabr in the face of our desires (sabrun ‘ala ma tuhibb). Rozas inculcate both aspects of sabr; sabr in hunger and sabr in abstaining from food and drink.
Especially in these difficult times in Dawat, the virtue of sabr cannot be understated. But it is in times of difficulty and pain that sabr is most important. As we await the time of iftaar eagerly every day in Ramadan, we not only look forward to the joy of doing iftaar but also the joy of the anticipated reward the Almighty has reserved for us. Similarly, in these difficult times, we must look forward to both, the joy at the end of the days of hardship, and the immeasurable reward reserved for those with forbearance at the end of their life. The Qur’an states that “those who patiently persevere, with sabr, will truly receive a reward without measure” (innama yuwaffas-sabiruna ajrahum bi-ghayri hisaab).
May Allah Ta’ala grant us the strength to do rozas in this Holy Month and may He grant us the perseverance to stand fast for His Da’wat and Dai.