Moral Values Attached to Fasting
A Qudsi Hadith states; “All actions a human being does are his, with the exception of fasting which belongs to Me. I reward it accordingly.” (Related by Al-Bukhari).
Commentary by Adil Salahi
Fasting earns great reward. We quote the Qudsi Hadith which states; “All actions a human being does are his with the exception of fasting which belongs to Me. I reward it accordingly.” (Related by Al-Bukhari). This is indeed a great promise. When Allah rewards an action as purely His, then the reward is limitless. It is given by the one whose generosity is not measured by percentage, multiplication or any other measure. It is commensurate only with His glory. It is sufficient to remember here that people normally weigh their actions according to their position. People always think ‘it is unbecoming of a person in my position to do this or to do that’. If the reward is given according to Allah’s position, then we do not have to think about its extent. We have only to remember that Allah’s generosity knows no boundaries. It is useful to mention here that another version of the same Qudsi Hadith may be translated as follows; “Fasting belongs to Me and it is Me who rewards it.”
Show-Off or Deception
One may ask here why fasting has been singled out as belonging to Allah when all acts of worship are dedicated to Him. Moreover, any good action a believer does is normally done for Allah’s sake. All scholars agree that this is because fasting cannot be done in order to gain favour with people, or for boastfulness, show-off or deception. This is due to the nature of fasting which is done by abstention rather than by any positive action. It is not possible for anyone to identify a fasting person by his or her appearance. All other acts of worship can be seen by people. Hence, they may be done for purposes other than to please Allah and gain His reward. Not so fasting which can be known only if the person who fasts tells other people of his fasting. If a person goes around and tells other people of his voluntary fasting, then he may be seeking to win favours from them. But this is achieved through the act of telling them, not through fasting itself. Hence, when a person fasts for the sake of Allah alone, and does not tell people of the fact, his action is said to be dedicated purely to Allah. It is this fact which earns the person concerned that limitless reward. The Prophet also teaches us that there is another side to the reward which fasting earns. He tells us that certain actions like prayers and charity (sadaqah) or Zakah ensure the forgiveness of past sins. Fasting is his on the list of these actions. There are numerous Hadiths which confirm this fact. We are told by the Prophet (Pbuh) that proper fasting, done with sincerity and dedication, ensures the forgiveness of all sins committed in the preceding year, with the exception of cardinal sins. Indeed, some Hadiths do not make that last exception. The Prophet says: “He who fasts in Ramadan motivated by his faith and with dedication will have all his past sins forgiven.” (Related by Al-Bukhari).
It is for this reason that Muslims prepare themselves for the advent of Ramadan with the resolve to make all their worship, fasting and prayers included, free of any trace of hypocrisy. They are keen to achieve the degree of dedication which ensures the maximum reward from Allah. After all, we always commit mistakes, and we always face the temptation to fall in sin. It is only natural that we should be keen to have our sins and mistakes forgiven. When we have such clear statements from the Prophet that fasting ensures such forgiveness, then we find the difficulty of fasting very easy indeed. Hunger and thirst are no longer hard to bear.
Reward is Secondary
All this stress on the idea of reward may suggest to some people, especially to non-Muslims, that Muslims fulfil their worship duties purely for the sake of the reward they have been promised. This is not so. The motive of faith is much stronger. The ultimate goal is to please Allah. The reward is secondary. Hence, the stress in the Prophet’s statements on the need for fasting and all acts of worship to be motivated by faith and offered with dedication. The reward is a mark of Allah’s generosity.
The Prophet (Pbuh) was keen to point out the moral value of fasting. He states, for example; “The smell of the mouth of a fasting person is preferable, in Allah’s measure, to the smell of musk.” People like good smell. The perfume trade is a highly lucrative one. No one likes to be known to have a bad smell. Roses and flowers which have good fragrance are the favourite with all people. In this statement, the Prophet (Pbuh) touches on a very important point. Normally, if one does not eat for several hours, his mouth smell changes. He tries to wash his mouth or to brush his teeth, in order not to have a bad mouth smell. When we consider such limitless reward and such moral values which are attached to fasting, who of us would want to fail to fast unless he lacks faith? The Prophet however, was keen to drive the point home to us. Consider the following Hadith; “There is a door to heaven called Al-Rayyan through which only fasting people are admitted. It will be asked; where are the fasting people? They stand up. No one is admitted through that door except them. When they have entered, the door will be closed and no one else can get through it.” (Related by Al-Bukhari) While this Hadith indicates that fasting people have a special status on the day of judgment which merits the provision of a special door for them to be admitted into heaven, the name of that door is very significant. “Al-Rayyan” is an adjective which describes in normal usage something which is ripe, full of juice. It is normally used to describe fruit and vegetables which have fully ripened. Needless to say that a person who fasts throughout the day, especially in the long days of summer, suffers from thirst. Nothing is dearer to him than a cool drink. When his gate to heaven is called Al-Rayyan, with all its associations and connotations of juice and ripened fruits, it is left for our imagination to have a picture of what awaits him inside heaven.