Objectives of Fasting

All perfect praise be to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) his family, his Companions, and those who follow his guidance.

Allah, the Almighty, enjoined fasting on His servants not to make them suffer, nor that He, the Almighty benefits from their fasting, as He is not in need of His servants and the acts of worship they offer. Rather, Allah enjoined fasting in order to benefit His servants in the worldly life and in the Hereafter, physically and spiritually, and in relation to their morals and religion. Allah, the Almighty evidently mentioned in the Quran the intention of fasting is to become rightious. Moreover, the one who reflects on the objectives of fasting will find that these benefits are limitless and beyond description.

According to Ibn Al-Qayyim, fasting acts like a rein for pious people, protection for fighters, and a sport for righteous people and those drawing closer to Allah. It is also offered for the sake of Allah more than any other act of worship and is considered a secret between Allah and His servant as no one else sees it. Fasting has an amazing impact on guarding the outward limbs and inward powers and protecting them from anything that may spoil them or make them unsound. Fasting protects the heart and the organs and restores to them that which illegal desires have stolen from them, as fasting is the greatest helper with piety.

We can gather the benefits of fasting in five main categories that include more than what the titles indicate. These benefits include the following:

First: protecting from diseases

Fasting maintains the power of Allah’s servant and protects him from the diseases which are caused by repletion and satiety, as the stomach is the home of disease and diet is the basis of remedy. Imam Ahmad, Imam At-Tirmithi, and Imam Ibn Majah reported from Al-Miqdam Ibn Ma`d Yakrib  may  Allah  be  pleased  with  him that he heard the Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) saying: "No man fills a utensil worse than his stomach. A few morsels that keep his back upright are sufficient for a man. If eating is necessary, he should fill one-third with food, one-third with drink, and leave one-third for easy breathing." (Saheeh Al-Jami`a, 5674)

Second: fasting protects morals from vice

The fullness of one’s stomach leads to the arousal of desires and enables Satan to control the person and lead him to sins, evils, and abominable acts, as satiety and gluttony lead to all evils. We should learn a lesson from Prophet Adam  may  Allah  exalt  his  mention. Al-Qurtubi said: “Whenever a person decreases the amount of food he eats, his desire will be weak; whenever the desire becomes weak, acts of disobedience will decrease.”

When the stomach becomes full, the person becomes inclined to acts of disobedience and oppression, but when a person fasts, he becomes calm, tender-hearted, and tranquil. Therefore, the person who fasts is protected from all evils, preserved from all abominable acts, and guarded against all pitfalls. The two Saheeh (authentic) Books of Hadeeth (Saheeh Al-Bukhari and Saheeh Al-Muslim) stated the following Hadeeth: Fasting is a protection against sins.” Ibn Mas'ooud  may  Allah  be  pleased  with  him reported that the Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said: "He who can afford to marry should marry because it will help him refrain from looking at other women, and save his private parts from committing illegal sexual relation; and he who cannot afford to marry is advised to fast, as fasting will diminish his sexual power." (Imam Al-Bukhari and Imam Muslim)

Fasting guards the servant’s organs, as Jabir Ibn Abdullah said: “If you fast, then let your hearing, sight, and tongue refrain from lying and forbidden deeds; do not annoy your servant, and be dignified and tranquil on the day of your fast; do not let the day when you fast and the day when you do not fast be the same.”

A poet said:

If I do not protect my hearing from evil,

Lower my gaze and stop speaking ill of people,

I will not gain from my fasting except hunger and thirst,

Even if I say that I am fasting, actually I am not.

Al-Musnad and Saheeh Al-Bukhari stated that Abu Hurairah  may  Allah  be  pleased  with  him reported that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said: "Unless one abandons falsehood and indecent deeds, Allah will have no need in his abstaining from food and drink."

Third: willpower and self-control

The fasting person should not be controlled by greed, should not be stirred by anger, should not be deluded by a doubtful matter, and should not submit to his desires. The one who does these acts is a strong person. The two Saheeh Books of Hadeeth stated the Prophet’s saying: The strong man is not one who is good at wrestling, but the strong man is one who controls himself in a fit of rage."

It was reported in Saheeh Muslim that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said: "When any one of you gets up in the morning in the state of fasting, he should avoid sexual relation with his wife and should not behave foolishly and impudently, and if somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should tell him twice, 'I am fasting.'"

When the fasting person’s desire is aroused, he should constrain it; if he has an inclination towards something evil, he should stop and control it with piety and religiousness. However, the person who does not fast may be controlled by his desire and evil inclinations.

A poet said:

When a person gets seduced and follows his desires,

He loses his protection and shield,

The person who follows his desires is like a slave,

While the one who controls them is like a king.

Fourth: gaining piety

The intention for the acts of worship and the result of the acts of obedience is piety, as Allah, the Almighty Says in the Quran (what means): {O mankind, worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, that you may become righteous} [Quran 2: 21]

Piety is also one of the greatest objectives of fasting, as fasting is the main act that leads to piety. Moreover, the person who fasts in the manner prescribed by the Messenger of Allah should attain piety, as Allah, the Almighty, Says (what means): {O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous} [Quran 2: 183]

Fifth: attaining the status of perfection

This is the highest status in religion, according to Jibreel’s (Gabriel)  may  Allah  exalt  his  mention famous Hadeeth. He said: "What is Ihsan (perfection)?" Allah's Messenger  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) replied: "It is to worship Allah as if you were seeing Him, and even if you do not see Him, He certainly sees you."

Fasting involves watching over oneself; the fasting person does not eat or drink during fasting although he sees food while being very hungry and sees water while being very thirsty, and no one sees him. This is because he knows that Allah sees him, and he deals with Allah from this perspective. Is there any Muraqabah (awareness that Allah is watching) or perfection better than this?

Sincere fasting: ‘fasting is for Me and I shall reward for it...’

Due to the above-mentioned reasons, fasting is an act of worship offered sincerely to Allah Alone, as Allah singles it out for Himself. Although all the other acts of worship are for the sake of Allah, fasting has some specialty with regard to sincerity, rather than any other act of worship. This is in accordance with the Sacred Hadeeth: "All the deeds of Adam's sons (people) are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it." (Imam Al-Bukhari and Imam Muslim)

Imam Ibn Hajar stated in “Al-Fat’h” and Imam An-Nawawi stated in “Sharh Saheeh Muslim" that fasting is far from hypocrisy and is like a secret between a person and his Lord, which no one can see but Allah.

These are some of the objectives and benefits of fasting, which include many other points that I have not mentioned, as the benefits of fasting are limitless and too many to be mentioned. O Allah, make us benefit from fasting and praying, cause us to fulfil its objectives and gain its benefits, accept our good deeds, forgive our sins, and save us from Hellfire. Ameen.

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