Why do we fast?

13 09 2007

Ramadan is continuously the subject of much writing and discussion. There are many lessons and angles elucidated for us through the writings and words of those who wish to share their opinions and insights. These perspectives, when coming from accomplished Savants of Islam are invaluable to seekers looking to deepen their understanding of religion. Before we proceed, it is always important to bear a couple of crucial items in mind.

First, when it comes to the fast of Ramadan, there are a myriad of analyses, observations, and teaching points that give us perspective regarding the experience of Ramadan. Therefore, one must always realise that no one particular perspective neither is an ‘only perspective,’ nor is any one or few described experiences the only experience/s. Secondly, while highlighting various efficacies, fruits, consequences, and utilities of ritual practice (i.e. fasting), no one should ever limit the reason for the existence of ritual, or limit the reason for practicing ritual, or limit the reason for the prescription of ritual, to the production of those various fruits, efficacies, consequences or utilities the said ritual may yield for a given level of human experience.

In other words, one may often come across statements in the literature or made by well meaning folks to the effect that …”we fast because X, Y, Z”, or ”we pray 5 times a day because X, Y, Z ”.

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29 responses

14 09 2007
confusedaboutlife

asalam alaykum !! tia didnt get a chance to fnish reaidng that I have a splitting headache because I never got round to drinking tea , so now im suffering withdrawll sympstoms ! lol ramathan mubarak dear sister !:)

14 09 2007
Sumera

(I had just typed a comment and my laptop froze! Arghhhhhh! I’ll try again :D)

People attribute the reasons for performing and purpose of salat, keeping fasts, giving zakat etc in the method they utilise is because its the easiest way to explain it – its so much easier explaining it in X, Y, Z :p

However I do admit that the explanations given are borne out of what they may have experienced personally from performing these rituals and/or what they have been told by others (rightly or wrongly). But I also think its a given and almost unstated that the purpose of performing these rituals is first and foremostly due to them being prescribed upon us through Quran and passed on via Sunnah and therefore the psychological benefits, the spiritual rejuvenation, the empathy towards the poor and hungry from fasting etc are secondary and may very well vary from person to person. So no two persons experiences, understanding and effect of even the same ritual is the same, so therefore perhaps the listener should bear that in mind – and the speaker should also emphasise the individual differences towards the experience of these rituals. And what necessarily is experienced isn’t necessarily the “purpose” behind it.

I swear Tia, this article could’ve been two separate posts! πŸ˜€ JazakAllahu Khayrn for it nonetheless!

14 09 2007
Hasmita

Mashallah very good article Tia, it was long had to read some bits a few times but I must say I really enjoyed reading it and the concept is very clear.

I went to pray Jummah today, and there was someone handing out pamphlets about medical benifets of Ramadhan. you’d love it :p

I was thinking today that how do you explain Ramadhan to non-Muslims? I ll be back to work on monday and its the same story every year. Why do you fast? can you drink water? why starve yourself? etc. usually I just say its good for body, but that is a lie since I stuff myself at iftar. or we learn to sacrifice and self-control which goes well with purpose of ramadhan anyway. So I was just wondering if there is any one particualr line anyone here uses to explain ramadhan, which wouldn’t leave the person thinking ‘you religious nut’ 😦

15 09 2007
Tia

wa alaikumasalaam confusedaboutlife, hope you are feeling better now. God forbid if i ever miss my morning tea I get a blinding headache too 😦

Sumera, lol i was suppose to truncate this since it was written last ramadhan but never did get the chance. Though, I may edit/re-post it soon as it is a bit lengthy and the latter bit seems disconnect.
Anywho, I had an unrelated question for you: how do you quote/italic/bold stuff in a comment? I’ve been trying to work this one out for a while :p

15 09 2007
Sumera

Ah the italics,bold stuff? You use the same html code thats available when composing a post.

So to italicise something its INSERT WORD HERE and for quote its

INSERT QUIRKY COMMENT HERE πŸ˜›

(without the gaps) etc etc

πŸ˜€

15 09 2007
Sumera

ok..my instructions didnt come out well! oh dear πŸ˜›

Italicise: the html code is em in brackets (you’ll find the brackets at the , (comma) and . (fullstop) keys, hold down shift to access!). To end the italics, you insert the forward slash, / , before the em

To bold: Its “strong” in the brackets

and to quote its ” blockquote “

15 09 2007
confusedaboutlife

asalam alaykum tia ! finaly read the whole post ( I woke up for suhur and hade tea :P) , so rich mashallah in knowledge , as I am reading I am like that is so true , their comes a point in your life when you realize their is so much more then just the outer shell .
are you trying to say that fasting their is not one straight answer for it ? that is what I got from the whole article , because only Allah knows . I have always felt islam is not about proving everything in it , YOU need to have faith.
Another point about the father and son conversaition , subanallah it really made me realize how you can use logic for everything . i mean why pray ? when I can meditate ? by the way , I meditate when I am getting really anxious ,I go into switch off mode , but it never once did I feel the need to stop praying , when I have meditation …..cant we just accept that allah has ordained this for us , and that why should we ask why ?

15 09 2007
confusedaboutlife

But then doesn’t one need to go into technicalitys to strengthen ones faith ?

15 09 2007
Hasmita

I think sometimes we can’t comprehend that we should just do something because Allah says so. Its probably to do with how we are brought up. I wasnt born Muslim so I rem always asking my parents why this, why that! None of what they did ever made sense to me and rituals were just meaningless pile of superstition which I never took seriously. Even now I need xyz because i don’t think I am on the level to have strong iman and inshalah its something I need to constantly work on.Also I think the more you understand, the more knowledge you get your iman strengthens. Reading Tia’s article made me think about so much stuff, especially the last bit about the nafs and moulding it, usually thats where I get stuck as i realise how much i need to work on myself.

But do i have to suppress asking why? is what I find confusing cos some people are always telling me to ask questions and some people discourage it and say I should just accept something becasue it is command of Allah (swt). As the article highlights the why we fast doesnt have one conclusive view, there may be lots of views bu the purpose is only one. ~confused.

16 09 2007
Sumera

The issue of asking questions is a tricky one. For one we are told to seek knowledge and not be shy when asking of matters, but on the other hand asking too many questions or even seeking the wrong “kind” of knowledge could potentially be detrimental.

Its a a fine tightrope.

16 09 2007
Tia

Thanks Sumera for your kind explanation, I am now able to quote stuff properly πŸ˜€

16 09 2007
Tia

Wa alaikum assalam Confusedaboutlife.
Shukran for reading the article. Fasting has an apparent conclusive reasoning which is contained in the same text which obliges it in Surah al-Baqarah, ‘Fasting has been prescribed for you.. so you may gain Taqwah’. The details of gaining Taqwah is where there may exsit more than one view, I have explained my view towards the end of the article on what gaining taqwah means. However, as you understood correctly, the problem les with people adding on explanations based on their own experiences of rituals or rules, such as ‘we fast/pray because of xyz’. For example, in a discussion at Sumera’s blog regarding permissibility of a woman traveling without Mehram, the xyz has erroneously become the center of discussion, xyz being her safety etc., which is not actually part of the command. The added xyz has fundamental flaws since it is only one view based on experience of not following this rule, ie a woman may have been raped traveling on her own, but this could also very well occur whilst she is within the permissable time limit. Therefore, the xyz pose a certain danger to understanding of rules, particularly rituals, when these xyz become the value one is trying to achieve. A good example of this I heard a few days ago on a BBC documentary about some Muslim women, where one claimed, fasting is to understand the pain of poor and starved, but she does not feel necessary to starve herself to feel this pain she can do so in contemplation.

Hasmita, you can keep asking why, there is no danger attached to it, so long as the premise of asking why is not to rationalise something which is beyond rationalisation. This means, we must question in order to satisfy our nafs, for the purpose of moulding it accordingly and not keep asking why until the rule is twisted to a degree where it begins to conform with the humanly state rather than to change it. The above example of Muslim women who doesn’t fast because she can contemplate is the kind of detrimental reasoning or level of questioning we need to avoid.

17 09 2007
confusedaboutlife

hasmita – I used to be like that when I was a kid i used to ask about everything why this? and why that ?
but now when I ask why, because people now come up with fatwas that really do not make sense and if you do not follow it then your condemned …..their is so many things that ullama say now and your like but huh ?
tia-what you said about rationalizing something and xyz, that is actauly how muslims have become ..so black and white life does not run on fine lines , of this is haram and this is halal it really isnt that simple and their is no straight answer for anything.I feel we have ;lost the wisdom , in terms of muslim people , and the ullama they are just not wise like before ..what do you think ?

17 09 2007
Tia

Confusedaboutlife sis, absolutely, the lack of serious scholarship coupled with pragmatist movement arising within Islam has cripled most.. esp when facing the current modernity discource 😦

18 09 2007
amal

so tia what I am seeing is true , nowadays people get ijazas to teach and they talk so much nonsense forget that , they dont have adab , I am really shocked on one hand I want to respect them because they have more knowledge then me , on the other I am like but what ?? that has really adid to my confusion …so are you saying anyone can become a scholar these days , not like in the past classicala scholars ..

18 09 2007
Observor

AoA, I have a question been thinking about. The prupose of fasting is to feel hunger, which means we have to starve ourselves. This is all good exept last few days, I have been eating enough in the morning during sehri to keep me going for the rest of the day. I don’t feel hungry at all, a little thirsty and crave for smoke, i dont’ find myself struggling 😦 does that mean I am wasting my fasts? or should i eat less at sehri to actually feel hungry during the day? is there any blessings in not eating at sehri or eating less? Also if i dont eat sehri to starve myself i will be distracted at work and feel lazy. is that the test?

18 09 2007
Tia

Amal, the problem is as I mentioned in my other post ‘end of Ulema’.. that there is too much copy/paste of classical scholars going on. Anyone can learn some Arabic, read a few classical books, attend some fiqh classes in ARabia and next thing you know, they are Shaykh abu X bin Y, when there real name is Javed or Tittu Miah :p
btw I like the new look over at your blog, thumbs up.

Observer, try not to eat too much at Suhr, eat what is necessary. Generally Islam teaches us not to over eat, even outside Ramadhan we should only eat what is necessary and not eat in excess. Likewise, for Ramadhan we should eat moderately at both Suhr and Iftaar. Suhur is sunnah. The Messenger (saw) said, ” have Suhur, for in suhur there is blessing. ” (Muslim)

It is also preferred to delay Suhur for the saying of the Messenger (saw), “my Ummah will be in good condition as long as they delay Suhur and rush in breaking fast” (Ahmed). In addition, Suhur is what differentiates our fast from that of the people of the book. The Prophet (saw) said, ” the difference between our fast and that of the people of the book is the meal of Suhur.” (Muslim). So, Suhr should not be missed intentionaly as it carries reward.

19 09 2007
amal

please give a example πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ of a copy and paste situation ..

19 09 2007
Observor

thanks!

20 09 2007
Tia

Copy and paste is basically most Fatwas we see on Islam Q&A sites, they lack evidences directly from Quran and Sunnah containing opinions of classical scholars which sometime do not remotely relate to our changing situation.

20 09 2007
Sumera

Copy/Paste syndrome. Its not only happening with scholars, but amongst the youth! Do they actually even READ anything they copy/paste? Argh, annoys me like mad.

21 09 2007
amal

oh my god , islam q and a do my head in ! ..some of the stuff they come out with I am like how on earth is that going to work ? they make islam so suffocating , they also use rationality which you are not allowed to do !

21 09 2007
amal

sumaera hahahah , you get these 17 year olds , they go on islam q and a and think VOILA ! found the answer , back in the time of the classical scholars era , when a question arised it took a good while before the scholar answered, now it is a click of a mouse , it is sooooo absured , and they make islam very suffocating like islam q and a .

25 09 2007
Observor

I sometimes read some of an article, if I think its good I send to others hoping someone might just read it all and find it useful. is that so wrong?

25 09 2007
Tia

Sumera you should visit these Musilm discussion forums, its copy paste galore, the only time there is an actual discussion taking place, its nothing short of argumentation. Very annoying.

Amal I think the problem nowdays is that Muslims have stopped investigating issues to actually implement in thier lives, instead indulge in discussion in an academic way.

25 09 2007
Sumera

Yeah, I used to be a user at one – havent been back to it in a while. It really peeved me off – the content and the users! Any decent discussion results in name-calling or insults.

25 09 2007
Tia

lol, sad thing is though, those who do have something to contribute become like the rest. The random threads are good you can just talk to yoruself :p

25 09 2007
Sumera

I think if you don’t leave or stop posting, you begin to adopt a “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” attitude. Such is the case with discussion forums 😦

25 09 2007
Tia

they can be addictive, i think thats what is making them unproductive imo.

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