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The Profound Contrast Between Fasting in Ramadan Driven by Faith and the Desire for Reward, Versus Merely Observing It as a Healthy Interlude

In The Name of Allah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.

Abu Huraira [may Allah be pleased with him] reported that Allah’s Messenger [peace and blessings of Allah be upon him], “Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan due to faith and seeking reward, his previous sins will be forgiven. Whoever stands in prayer during the Night of Decree due to faith and seeking reward, his previous sins will be forgiven”. [Al-Bukhaaree 1901 and Muslim 760]

Imam Abdul Azeez Bin Baaz [may Allah have mercy upon him] stated about this hadith: “The reason behind this is the belief that Allah has ordained it and the desire for reward, in contrast to those who fast based on blind following. [1] “This is because fasting is a means of drawing closer to Allah, and having the intention is a prerequisite for its validity.” [2]

The intention, or Niyyah, is what distinguishes between different acts of worship. It sets apart prayer from fasting, obligatory prayer from optional prayer, and so on. [3] Moreover, it is also what differentiates acts of worship from customary deeds. For instance, taking a bath can be done for hygiene or comfort purposes, unrelated to worship, or it can be performed as a ritual purification. [4] Hence, the journalist ought to have emphasized the disparity between fasting as a religious practice and fasting for health reasons.

“His previous sins will be forgiven”, Imam An-Nawawi [may Allah have mercy upon him] said, “It is well known – regarding what the jurists hold – that this specifically applies to the minor sins and not the major”. [5] Imaam Abdul Azeez Bin Baaz [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “This forgiveness is attained on condition that one abandons the major sins”. [6] Imam Abdul Azeez Bin Baaz also stated a principle related to the unrestricted narrations in which a mention is made regarding the expiation of sins that they are restricted by the texts regarding the abandonment of major sins – either restricted by the statement of Allah:

[إِنْ تَجْتَنِبُوا كَبَائِرَ مَا تُنْهَوْنَ عَنْهُ نُكَفِّرْ عَنْكُمْ سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ – If you avoid the great sins which you are forbidden to do, We shall remit from you your (small) sins. (Surah An-Nisaa. Ayah 31)]; or by the statement of the Messenger [peace and blessings of Allah be upon him], “The five prayers, Friday to Friday, and Ramadan to Ramadan will expiate the sins committed between them, as long as major sins are avoided”. [a]

Al-Allaamah Abdul Muhsin Al-Abbaad [may Allah preserve him] stated: The benefits of fasting are immense as it serves as a form of protection. According to the hadeeth reported by Imam Bukhaari and Imam Muslim, “Fasting is a shield.” [b] Fasting acts as a shield against the hellfire in the afterlife and guards against disobedience to Allah and His Messenger. By weakening a person’s desires, fasting helps to control their whims and prevents them from engaging in sinful acts that may result from excessive indulgence beyond the limits set by Allah and His Messenger. The Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] mentioned that “Paradise is surrounded by hardships and the hellfire is surrounded by all kinds of desires and passions.” [c]

The path to paradise necessitates the exercise of patience in refraining from disobedience, while the path to hellfire is encompassed by forbidden desires. By distancing oneself from these forbidden desires, one will find safety. However, engaging in such forbidden desires will lead to falling into what Allah has prohibited. Although this forbidden enjoyment may provide temporary pleasure, its consequences will bring sorrow, remorse, and humiliation in both this life and the hereafter. According to a hadith narrated by Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud [may Allah be pleased with him], the Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] advised the youth, saying, “O young people! Those among you who are capable of marriage should marry, and those who are unable to marry are encouraged to observe fasting as it will decrease their sexual desires.” [d]

Henceforth, the Prophet explicitly stated that if an individual is capable of entering into marriage, they should promptly pursue it to maintain their chastity and provide the opportunity for another individual (i.e. spouse) to also uphold their chastity. However, if one is unable to do so, they should dedicate themselves to the Prophetic solution that the Honorable Messenger advised, which is fasting. This practice serves as a safeguard and shield against succumbing to acts of disobedience. To summarize, this is a noble guidance bestowed by the Honorable Messenger to the younger generation, emphasising that they should marry if possible; but if not, they should exercise self-restraint through fasting.

The fasting of wealthy individuals serves as a reminder of hunger, prompting them to contemplate the blessings bestowed upon them by Allah. They are made aware of their Muslim brothers and sisters who experience hunger even without fasting. This awareness motivates them to show kindness to the less fortunate, providing for the destitute and needy. [7]

Hence, it is imperative for anyone discussing fasting in Islam to thoroughly elucidate its profound merits and differentiate it from other matters. Unfortunately, in today’s era, we are being tested by the words written by journalists using their pens and keyboards. Many of them delve into religious affairs without offering any evidence or insights from the esteemed scholars of the Muslim community – the scholars who adhere to the sound Prophetic methodology. It is of utmost importance that individuals either provide comprehensive explanations from these upright scholars or refrain from delving into the sacred aspects of our faith. Recently, a journalist from Turkey made a statement regarding fasting as follows “Its religious significance aside, fasting has become one of the most encouraged methods of replenishing health, with recent clinical studies citing countless physical and mental benefits, ranging from weight loss and mental clarity to reversing disease. While this historical month of fasting is certainly not new and in fact spans back thousands of years, there are many among us who have just recently boarded the fasting train and thus we may choose to embark on this annual tradition ourselves this year, whether it be as a spiritual practice or a healthy interlude”. [end of quote]

Certainly, it is crucial to provide further clarification regarding this statement to differentiate the great virtue of fasting as an act of worship from fasting as a method to enhance one’s health. This article has already presented authentic divine reports and statements from esteemed scholars of the Ummah, emphasising the importance of understanding this distinction. Shaikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah [may Allah have mercy upon him] said, “There is no good thing except that the Messenger [peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] has clarified it and urged a person to it, and there is no evil except that he has warned the Ummah against it”. Imam Muhammad Ibn Saalih Al-Uthaymeen said, “This is correct because good is something one seeks to do, so he clarified it specifically and urged a person to do it. Regarding evil, we say, “There is no evil except that he warned against it” because there are certain evils that have been explicitly clarified and warned against, while others have been addressed in a general manner. For instance, acts like fornication and murder, along with other similar deeds are manifest evils. Innovation in religious matters is a manifest evil, however, did he mention every bidah specifically by their descriptions in texts or mentioned in general? Instead, they are generally mentioned and warned against. The distinction between (evil) and good deeds is that good is something one seeks to do and, therefore, requires specific clarification. On the other hand, evil deeds are to be abandoned, and thus they may be mentioned in detail and sometimes in general”. [8]

And Allah knows best

[1] Al-Hulal Al-Ibreeziyah Min at-Ta’leeqaat al-Baaziyyah alaa Saheeh al-Bukhari. 2/130. Footnote 6

[2]Sharh Al-Arba’een by Shaikh Saaleh Aala Ash Shaikh. page 12. Publisher: Maktabah Al-Hadyi Al-Muhammadee. 1st Edition 1428AH (2007)]

[3] Bahjatul Quloob Al-Abraar. By Imaam As-Sadi. page 10. 1st Edition 1414AH (1994)]

[4] Sharh Saheeh Muslim Vol 6. Page 36. Publisher: Daarul Kutub Al-Ilmiyyah. 1421AH (2000)]

[5] Al-Hulalul Ibreeziyyah Min Ta’leeqaat Al-Baaziyyah Alaa Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree Vol 2. Page 120. Footnote 6. Slightly paraphrased]


ال النبيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم: «العمرةُ إلى العمرة كفَّارةٌ لما بينهما، والحجُّ المبرور ليس له جزاء إلا الجنة»، هذا يُبين فضل الحج والعمرة، وأن العمرة كفَّارة لما بينهما، يعني: عند اجتناب الكبائر.
قاعدة: الأحاديث المطلقة في تكفير الذنوب مُقيَّدة بترك الكبائر، إما بقوله سبحانه: {إِنْ تَجْتَنِبُوا كَبَائِرَ مَا تُنْهَوْنَ عَنْهُ نُكَفِّرْ عَنْكُمْ سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ} [النساء:31]، وفي قوله صلى الله عليه وسلم: «الصَّلوات الخمس، والجمعة إلى الجمعة، ورمضان إلى رمضان كفَّارات لما بينهنَّ إذا اجتنب الكبائر»، وفي اللفظ الآخر: «ما لم تُغْشَ الكبائر»، فالعمرة إلى العمرة كفَّارة لما بينهما عند اجتناب الكبائر.
«والحج المبرور ليس له جزاء إلا الجنة» يعني: عند اجتناب الكبائر، كما قال صلى الله عليه وسلم: «مَن حجَّ فلم يرفث ولم يفسق رجع كيوم ولدته أمه»، فالحج المبرور هو الذي ليس فيه رفثٌ ولا فسوقٌ، هذا الحج المبرور، ليس فيه ما يُبطله، وليس فيه ما ينقصه من المعاصي، هذا هو الحج المبرور الذي يُوجب الجنة

[7] An Excerpt from أثر العبادات في حياة المسلم pages: 4-20

[8] An Excerpt from ‘Ad-Duratu Al-Uthaymeeniyyah Bi-Sharhi Fat’hi Rabbil Bariyyati Bi-Talkhees Al-Hamawiyya. Page 34. Slightly paraphrased]

[a] Bukhaari No1894 and Muslim No: 1151]

[b] Sahih Al-Bukhari 1894

[c] Muslim No: 2822 and Bukhaari No: 6487]

[d] Bukhaari No: 5065]