Fasting has immense spiritual value for it is basically a spiritual exercise and discipline. It brings man closer to Allah and removes all barriers between him and his Lord: “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you - so that you may fear Allah.” (Al-Baqarah: 183)

The very purpose of fasting, in this verse of the Qur’an, is described as the attainment of taqwa. Believers are commanded to observe fasting in the month of Ramadhan so that through it they may be able to attain nearness to Allah. As fasting is observed for Allah and only He knows whether a person is really fasting or not, it brings a man very close to his Creator.

Abu Hurairah reported Allah’s Messenger (saw) as saying: “All the deeds of Adam’s sons are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.

Fasting strengthens the spiritual powers of man and clarifies his mental and spiritual vision for seeing and experiencing the multifarious manifestations of his Lord. The fact that it is observed merely in obedience and for the pleasure of Allah makes it more significant. It lifts man very high in the spiritual world.

Fasting protects man from all kinds of temptations of body and mind and keeps him on the path towards his Lord. No evil desires or carnal pleasures of the self can mislead or misdirect him from his goal. Fasting is a protective shield against all kind of moral or spiritual dangers.

According to Abu Hurairah, Allah’s Messenger said: “Fasting is a shield or shelter from committing sin. If one of you is fasting, he should avoid obscenity and quarrelling, and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say ‘I am fasting’.

Fasting reminds one throughout the day that he is abstaining from food and drink and other pleasure of life in obedience to the Command of God. There is none to see and check whether he is eating or drinking or enjoying other pleasures of life. He abstains from all these things with the full knowledge that God is always with him and always sees and hears him doing everything and that nothing can be hidden from Him. Thus fasting develops a very strong sense of nearness and closeness to God and of His presence everywhere. The rigid discipline of fasting for one month makes Divine nearness and presence a reality for the believers. They develop a new awareness of a higher spiritual life, far above the life of desires and passions. Here they can meet their Lord, talk to Him and enjoy His companionship. Allah said: “When My servants ask you concerning Me, I am indeed close to them. I listen to the prayer of every crier who calls on Me. Let them also, with a will, listen to My call, and believe in Me, that they may walk in the right way.” (Al-Baqarah: 186)

This emphasises the spiritual significance of fasting and how it helps to bring man closer to his Lord and sovereign. This experience is further elaborated in a hadith:” There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he meets his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting.”

The hadith throws further light on the spiritual value of fasting. It also helps in strengthening one’s spiritual power in another way. Abstention from food and drink all day long for a complete month definitely weakens one’s physical strength and powers. In the past, people of all religions, Christians, Jews and Hindus, have tried to weaken their physical powers through starvation in order to strengthen their spiritual powers and to build up their relationship with their Lord. They tried to achieve nearness to Allah through complete annihilation and destruction of their physical powers by starvation.

Muslims have found a short and effective recipe in fasting, without starving themselves, to seek closeness to Allah. There is no doubt that when you leave nourishment of your body and your carnal desires for the sake of God, your soul and your spiritual powers begin to receive more and more nourishment from your Lord.

This process gradually develops and strengthens the spiritual powers of the person who is fasting and, by the end of the month of Ramadhan gives him sufficient spiritual strength to attain a very close relationship with his Creator.

(To be continued)

by Afzalur Rahman