Imam Najm ud-Din Al-Maqdisi’s Advice on Fasting

Figure 1A: Muslims in Ramadan strive to strike the right balance between prayer and fasting on one hand and striving to be battle after the month on the other. (Photo courtesy of https://muhajabat.wordpress.com/)
Figure 1A: Muslims in Ramadan strive to strike the right balance between prayer and fasting on one hand and striving to be battle after the month on the other. (Photo courtesy of https://muhajabat.wordpress.com/)

Book of Fasting, its’ Secrets, Important Aspects and What is Related to That

You should know that the fasting has a special aspect to it that does not exist with other actions. The special aspect is that it has been attributed to Allah, Mighty and Majestic, when He, Glorified be He, said in a hadith, “Fasting is for Me and I shall reward him for it.”

This establishes that the virtue of fasting has two matters to it:

  1. Fasting is a secret, indeed an internal act. None of the creation can see and no showing off enters into it.
  2. This is a way to conquer over the Enemy of Allah as the means the enemy uses to access the slave is through passions. Passions are only strengthened by eating and drinking and the place of the passions is always watered in that regard.

So the demons move to that pasture in order to water it; but by leaving passions, this narrows the pathways that they might use to access the slave. There are many narations on fasting that are proof of its’ virtue and these narrations are well known.

Chapter on the Virtues of Fasting

To eat the suhur is praiseworthy and likewise delaying it until the end of its’ time. As for breaking the fast, it should be done immediately and it is best to do so with dates. It is praiseworthy in Ramadan to show magnanimity and do righteousness and give much charity. This is in following the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

It is also praiseworthy to study the Qur’an in Ramadan and to also spend time in the Masjid, especially during the last ten nights.

There is an authentic hadith in the two collections of Imams Al-Bukhari and Muslim where `A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, narrated, “The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, when the last ten nights of Ramadan would arrive would tighten his waist clothe, stay up in the night in prayer and also wake up his family.”

The scholars when commenting upon the expression, “tighten his waist clothe,” stated that this is referring to two things:

  1. That he stayed away from his wives during that time.
  2. This was a metaphor for effort and endeavour in righteous deeds.

They further state that the reason for this act was so that he could exert himself in worship during the nights when he was seeking out Lailat ul-Qadr.[1]

Exposition of the Secrets of Fasting and its’ Etiquettes

Fasting has three levels:

  1. The fasting of the common people
  2. The fasting of the elite
  3. The fasting of the elite of the elite

With regard to the fasting of the common people, this is by guarding the belly and the private parts from fulfilling their desires of food and sexual intercourse respectively. When discussing the fast of the elite, these people guard the eyes, tongue, hands, feet, hearing and the rest of the limbs from sins.

The elite of the elite fast and guard the heart from lowly thoughts, ideas far from Allah, the Exalted and the rest of whatever is besides Allah the Exalted. This level of fasting has forms and types that will not be immediately addressed in this place.

The etiquettes of the elite in fasting is that they lower their gaze, guard their tongues from any impermissible or disliked speech or what will not render benefit along with protecting the rest of the limbs.

There is a hadith that is narrated in the collection of Imam Al-Bukhari in which the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, stated, “Whoever did not leave bearing false witness and acting by it, then Allah has no need of him that he leave his food and drink.”

Other etiquettes include that he does not fill his belly in the night but he eats only what is necessary to quench the hunger. The reason for this is that hadith mentioning that the son of Adam does not fill up anything worse than his belly.

So when he fills his belly in the first of the night, then he does not benefit himself for the rest of the night and likewise is the case when he eats until full at the time of suhur. Due to eating to fullness at the time of suhur, he does not benefit for the rest of the day leading up until Zuhr.

The reason for this is that this action breeds laziness and sluggishness. The point of fasting is then negated by excessive eating as the intent of breaking the fast is just to stop hunger but eating to fullness leaves that intention.

You should know that option fasting is praiseworthy and is emphasised on certain days. There are noble and virtuous days throughout the year, such as the six days of Shawwal immediately following Ramadan, the day of `Arafah, the tenth day of Muharram that is called `Ashura,’ the tenth of Dhul Hijjah and also the same day in Muharram.

Some virtuous fasts are monthly, like in the beginning, the middle and the end. Whoever fasted in the beginning of the month, the middle of it or the end of it, then he has done well; but the most virtuous monthly fast is the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth. These are also called the “white moon days.”

Some virtuous fasts are weekly, such as every Monday and Thursday. Then there is the most virtuous fast overall and this is the fast of the Prophet Dawud, peace be upon him. In this fast, the worshipper has one day on, one day off. This accomplishes three goals that are united in one person:

  1. The soul on the off day is given its’ due and on the fast day carries out its’ worship and suffices. In that way, one joins between what the soul has written for it and against it.
  2. The rest day is a one of thanksgiving and the fast day is a time of patience. Indeed faith is two affairs: thanksgiving and patience.
  3. This is the strongest form of exertion that can be done on the soul. The reason for this is that whenever he forgets himself, he will be brought back to the fast the following day.

Fasting the whole year has been given discussed in a hadith in the collection of Imam Muslim in which Abu Qatadah stated that Ibn `Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, asked the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, how one should fast the whole year.

The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, replied, “He does not fast indefinitely nor break the fast indefinitely.” This hadith bears upon the fact that one abstains from fasting on certain days.

Thus leaving fasting on the two `Eids, the days of 11-13th of Dhul Hijjah is of no harm at all. It was also narrated from Hisham ibn `Urwah that his father used to abstain from fasting during certain times and likewise so did `A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her.

Anas ibn Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “Abu Talhah, after the death of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, left fasting for forty years.”

You should know that whoever was given intelligence knows the purpose for fasting. He then carries out his actions according to what he can do and what is best for him.

For example, Ibn Mas`ud used to fast very little and would say when asked about it, “When I fast, I am weakened in the optional prayers. I have chosen abundant prayer over abundant fasting.”

Some people when they fast become weakened so that they cannot recite much of the Qur’an so they leave abundant fasts in order to recite abundantly. Every human being knows best regarding his own state and what rectifies his affair.[2]

[1] Eng. The Night of Power

[2] Extract taken from Imam Najm ud-Din Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn `Abdur-Rahman ibn Qudamah’s (d. 689 AH) Mukhtasar Minhaj il-Qasidin, pp. 35-38.

27 RAMADAN 1440 AH MESSAGE: The Dawn of Islam was the Call to Knowledge

Figure 1A: Mount Faran (Heb. Paran), also referred to as Mount An-Nur, upon which is located the Cave of Hira.' This is the place where the first revelation of the Qur'an was given to the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.
Figure 1A: Mount Faran (Heb. Paran), also referred to as Mount An-Nur, upon which is located the Cave of Hira.’ This is the place where the first revelation of the Qur’an was given to the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

The following was stated by the Imam Muhammad `Abdul Latif As-Subki:

In one of the dark recesses of the nights of Ramadan, in the shadows at the top of the mountain, the dawn of revelation was brought to the illiterate prophet with a simple call: read.

This sudden call established and announced that reading is the means to obtaining knowledge and upon it rests the pillars upon which the culture of human civilisation is built. The highest direction that the new life could take was that which the Angel Jibril, peace be upon him, came down with and carried to Muhammad ibn `Abdullah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

His was the life of one that was guided with sound intellect, sound knowledge, seeking guidance by knowledge on the very farthest horizons of this earthly life.

Is it the case that the life of the human being in his degraded state is the most perfect and correct or is it the life of Islam that is sufficient?

This command to read is clear and it is neither in relation to anything nor any other matter than the one at that time. The question that might come to mind is: how is it that Muhammad ibn `Abdullah was illiterate so that he could not read and did not know the means to learning reading on that very night.

It was this very situation that Muhammad was thrown into and he sought excuse when saying, “I cannot read. I cannot read.” This was said three times on the same occasion and Allah took the responsibility of lifting this difficulty from His Most Chosen One. The Angel Jibril the Trustworthy, peace be upon him, entrusted and strengthened him with the remainder of the first revelation.

Read in the Name of Your Lord who created. He created the human being from a clot.[1]

It is due to this that He taught him that the beginning of reading is firstly by mentioning the Name of Allah, the Possessor of Power over the creation of the human being from the clot. Then he changed the point of discussion from this to the topic of knowledge.

Now knowledge and not doubt is the fruit of reading for the human being and this is realised with the pen as it is the instrument for the perfecting the knowledge, noting down and recording points of information into paragraphs and establishing for perpetual ages things that might normally be missed if not put to pen.

With regard to the Prophet that was sent with this message, the preamble about the pen does not apply as Allah honoured him so that he had no need to have recourse to the pen. He made Himself responsible for the Revelation and raised it high above the charge levelled by the liars and their mockery of him due to what Allah said of him:

And before this time, you did not narrate anything of any book nor did you write anything with your right hand.[2]

So illiteracy in the case of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, is actually a completion of his perfection in this regard and not a shortcoming. So you should consider the following after understanding that:

Is the knowledge sought all of one kind? Or is all of it built from a particular type? That which we are responsible for firstly is that knowledge is merely the acquisition of information by way of Allah and this is the Message of Allah to His Creation by way of revelation to His Messengers and that is the knowledge of the Religion.

Then there is acquired knowledge that Allah guides whoever He so wills towards obtaining. Those who obtain such knowledge have been endowed with abundant talent, superior intellect and minds of steely determination. They go on to make pathways that open the doors of knowledge into many different disciplines.

Possessors of acquired knowledge have based their findings on the five senses, the intellect, empirical testing by experimentation and their desiring to find outcomes by means of travelling to places that could be to the farthest horizons.

So upon attainment of this objective, leadership in these fields is then ceded to them. New findings always come to light in these areas and this is in the sciences around the earthly life and what is connected to it.[3]

There then grows up on the fringes of valid knowledge other details that are neither from knowledge of the Religion nor the earthly life and these things are in reality of a third category, which includes matters such as plant spiritism,[4] divination and sorcery with respect to water[5] or crop fields.[6]

Simpletons think such affairs as these to be subsections of the sciences of horticulture and plant growth when they bear no benefit at all to plants. Another example of such quackery is the divination used by astrologers and soothsayers. This is an ancient pseudoscience and fake inheritance bequeathed to the people and it always causes enmity among them.

If knowledge in its’ absolute sense dependant on the Revelation or it is acquired by sound intellects and reflection, then divination is altogether outside of both forms listed. That which we depend upon to say is that divination -whether ancient or modern – is prognostication of an event or the making manifest of some affair to occur that is in the realm of unseen of which the people are not aware.

In the full light of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, Allah, Glorified be He, is the only One who knows the unseen and He does not make it known to anyone except when He decides and to whom He so wills from His Angels and Messengers.

Thus whenever He reveals some affair of His Unseen matters to His Angels so that one or each one might carry it out in the realms of the earthly life with respect to something or the people, the angels discuss what has been revealed among themselves.

Allah has giving the ability to the demons among the jinn to attempt to listen out for such information – something that he has not granted to the human being – and when they do such they ascend to the heights of the sky and draw near to it in order to listen out for some news coming from the discussion among the angels.

After snatching what they may, these same demons descend down to the most vile of human beings who are decided by them and listen to their words. The demons then relate this to the people that follow them, mixing much falsehood with that which they speak.

These diviners then speak to the people according to what they come to know, either adding to or taking away from what they received or even replacing parts. When the diviners come to be proven right in some of the affairs that they spoke of then those listening to it are deceived into thinking that the people involved in this falsehood know the protected unseen affairs in the sight of Allah.

It is upon things such as this that divination places its hopes and is always accepted among the people but it is from the demonic tribulations that corrupt the creed and life of those who affirm the truthfulness of the diviners and it confirms the belief held by some simple people that the diviners do indeed have knowledge of the unseen.

Such things were widespread before Islam but Allah incapacitated the demons from much of this or actually most of it and the influence of this and other affairs like it has been greatly diminished since the revelation of the Qur’an and the sending of Muhammad ibn `Abdullah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

Even with the power remaining being a little bit, the people still follow diviners in their affairs and testify to their lies against their Lord.

Allah has declared,

Shall I not inform you of what was brought down by the demons? It was brought down by every lying, sinful one. They stand by what they heard and most of them are liars.[7]

It is also mentioned by Him that the demons remarked:

Indeed we went to the sky and found it full with stern guards and flaming meteors. We used to sit not far from it in groups to steal a listen. Whoever listened now will only find a flaming meteor.[8]

That ayah establishes that the angels are guarding the sky from the demons taking a listen and stealing information. When they do try, as is their habit, flaming meteors follow on and burn them or drive them away. They thus return dejected with nothing.

And it is due to this that we know that Allah has sufficed us and protected us from a great evil in the attempts of the demons. He also taught us that they have many astray methods which they attempt to use and so He preserves us from divination and we do not obey the false doctrines which are given service to by the use of cups, [9] shells,[10] geomancy[11] or even the presence of the demons[12]

[1] Surat ul-`Alaq (96), ayat 1-2

[2] Surat ul-`Ankabut (29), ayah 48

[3] Trans note: This is referring to all things outside of Revelation. This could include affairs such as geology, ethnology, archaeology and so forth.

[4] Trans note: This is the belief that plants bear spirits in them that must be placated.

[5] Trans note: This could be something such as dowsing, water witching or the use of divining rods to aid in locating ground water or the choicest water for irrigating one’s crops. This also includes water pyramiding, in which people may place containers of water under the image or shape of a pyramid in the hope that the water will be changed or made more palatable for priestly rites.

[6] Trans note: This refers to doing things such as crop circle divination, setting aside certain crops for idols or a temple.

[7] Surat ush-Shu`ara’ (26), ayat 221-223.

[8] Surat ul-Jinn (72), ayat 8-9.

[9] Trans note: This could be by reading coffee grounds, tea bags or similar matters.

[10] Trans note: This could be by listening to the roar inside of seashells, moving them around or reading the swirls and coming to conclusions.

[11] Trans note: This is divination by interpreting marks on the ground, soil or even building cities or towns based upon some divination theory. This is used heavily even today by Americans and English people in their building plans.

[12] Taken from `Ulama wa A`lam Katabu fi Majallat il-Wa`iil-Islam il-Kuwaitiyyah, issue no.3, Rabi` ul-Awwal 1385 AH (July AD 1965).