True Consciousness, Changing Hearts, Precious
Issue 948 » May 26, 2017 - Shaban 30, 1438
Al Baqara (The Cow) Sura 2: Verse 188 (partial)
Fasting requires one to abstain from eating, which would necessarily be eating what is legal. Right after the passage on fasting and its purpose, we are told not to eat, in a general sense, that which is illegal, or acquired through corrupt means. The Quran repeatedly condemns corruption of all kinds. The fast is a physical and spiritual discipline to control one's desires. It is a device not just for coming closer to God but also for learning the importance and true meaning of God consciousness. When the fast is over, the spiritual renewal moves on to the next challenge: to control one's passion for vanities, for greed and illegal possession.
We are not to think of fasting in a narrow perspective. The task of following the right path is extensive and all inclusive: it touches all aspects of human life. As so often, the Quran indicates the integrative and inclusive aspect of its underlying principles by such switches of subject matter. The technique presents a challenge: to reason with the shifts of subject matter to find the connection of underlying and unifying principle. Balance and equity apply across the whole range of human life. The insight and lessons of spiritual discipline apply to and operate in all the mundane aspects of our human nature and daily life.
"Reading the Qur'an: The Contemporary Relevance of the Sacred Text of Islam" - Ziauddin Sardar, pp. 130-134
A person will be judged according to his belief and actions at the time of his death. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "A person does the deeds of the People of Hell while he is from the People of Paradise. And a person does the deeds of the People of Paradise and he is from the People of Hell. And verily the deeds are based on their final [deeds]." [Bukhari.] In reality, this is a very scary thought. It means that every Muslim must be on guard at all times to make sure that he does not stray from the straight path. He cannot look to his present deeds and feel assured because it could be that he changes his ways and starts performing the deeds of the people of the Hell-fire. Hence, he must always be on his toes. He must always pursue those avenues that strengthen his faith, revive it or keep it strong. And he must always stay away from those avenues that weaken and damage his faith, as he does not know what they may lead him to and he may end up dying in a wretched state.
It is a simple thing for a person's heart to change. The Arabic word for heart, qalb, comes from the fact that it can change completely from one direction to another. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, "It is only called the qalb (heart) because of how it can change. The similitude of the heart is like a leaf hanging by the trunk of a tree that is being blown upside down by the wind." [Ahmad]
Another hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him) states how the hearts can be turned easily. Hence, the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself used to pray to Allah to make his heart firm. Al-Tirmidhi recorded the following hadith: "The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to say often, "O changer of the hearts, make my heart firm upon Your religion." The Companion said, "O Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), we have believed in you and what you have brought. Do you fear for us?" He answered, "Yes. Verily, the hearts are between two of Allah's fingers and he turns them any way He wills."
"Commentary on the Forty Hadith of al-Nawawi" - Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo, pp. 351, 352
Fasting reinforces our belief that the realities about which we have been given information by Allah and His Prophet (peace be upon him) are not material and sensual but are far more precious, invaluable and satisfying than the material and sensual urges like hunger, thirst, and sex. We do not live on bread only, but high moral values are a must for life. This is how strength is produced inside us to forego and sacrifice pleasures of this world that can be enjoyed here and today for the sake of higher spiritual and moral objectives whose realisation takes time or even demands us to wait till the Hereafter.
Fasting also reinforces the fact that the real thing is obedience to Allah. It is Allah's Will alone that is the final authority to determine right and wrong. Virtue and reward lie neither in eating nor in abstaining from eating; it is neither in sleeping nor in keeping awake. Virtue and reward are contained in submission and obedience to Allah.
When these strengths and sensibilities are produced, we, both individually and collectively at the national level, become able to carry the trust of Quran. This is because only then the capability of giving priority to the accomplishment of Quranic mission over material and sensual urges can be produced. And this capability is piety (taqwa).
"Making Most of Ramadan" - Khurram Murad