Aug 18, 2010

Secrets of Fasting by Imam al-Ghazali

Secrets of Fasting

It should be known that there are three grades of Fasting: ordinary, special and extra-special.

Ordinary Fasting means abstaining from food, drink and sexual satisfaction. Special Fasting means keeping one's ears, eyes, tongue, hands and feet - and all other organs - free from sin.

Extra-special Fasting means fasting of the heart from unworthy concerns and worldly thoughts, in total disregard of everything but Allah, Great and Glorious is He. This kind of Fast is broken by thinking of worldly matters, except for those conducive to religious ends, since these constitute provision for the Hereafter and are not of this lower world.

Those versed in the spiritual life of the heart have even said that a sin is recorded against one who concerns himself all day with arrangements for breaking his Fast. Such anxiety stems from lack of trust in the bounty of Allah, Great and Glorious is He, and from lack of certain faith in His promised sustenance.

To this third degree belong the Prophets, the true companions and the intimates of Allah. It does not lend itself to detailed examination in words, as its true nature is better revealed in action. It consists in utmost dedication to Allah, Great and Glorious is He, to the neglect of everything other than Allah, Exalted is He.

It is bound up with the significance of His words: 'Say: "Allah (sent it down)": then leave them to play in their vain discussions.' [al-An'am,6:91]

As for Special Fasting, this is the kind practised by the righteous. It means keeping all one's organs free from sin and six things are required for its accomplishment:

See not what displeases Allah

A chaste regard, restrained from viewing anything that is blameworthy or reprehensible, or that distracts the heart and diverts it from the remembrance of Allah, Great and Glorious is He. Said the Prophet, on him be peace:

"The furtive glance is one of the poisoned arrows of Satan, on him be Allah's curse. Whoever forsakes it for fear of Allah will receive from Him, Great and Glorious is He, a faith the sweetness of which he will find within his heart."

Jabir relates from Anas that Allah's Messenger, on him be peace, said:

"Five things break a man's Fast: lying, backbiting, gossiping, perjury and a lustful gaze."

Speak not what displeases Allah

Guarding one's tongue from idle chatter, lying, gossiping, obscenity, rudeness, arguing and controversy; making (the tongue) observe silence and occupying it with remembrance of Allah, Great and Glorious is He, and with recitation of Quran. This is the fasting of the tongue. Said Sufyan: 'Backbiting annuls the Fast.' Layth quotes Mujahid as saying: 'Two habits annul Fasting: backbiting and telling lies.' The Prophet, on him be peace, said:

"Fasting is a shield; so when one of you is Fasting he should not use foul or foolish talk. If someone attacks him or insults him, let him say: "I am Fasting, I am Fasting!"'

According to Tradition: Two women were Fasting during the time of Allah's Messenger, on him be peace. They were so fatigued towards the end of the day, from hunger and thirst that they were on the verge of collapsing. They therefore sent a message to Allah's Messenger, on him be peace, requesting permission to break their Fast. In response, the Prophet, on him be peace, sent them a bowl and said: "Tell them to vomit into it what they have eaten." One of them vomited and half filled the bowl with fresh blood and tender meat, while the other brought up the same so that they filled it between them. The onlookers were astonished. Then the Prophet, on him be peace, said: "These two women have been Fasting from what Allah made lawful to them, and have broken their Fast on what Allah, Exalted is He, made unlawful to them. They sat together and indulged in backbiting, and here is the flesh of the people they maligned!"'

Hear not what displeases Allah

Closing one's ears to everything reprehensible; for everything unlawful to utter is likewise unlawful to listen to. That is why Allah, Great and Glorious is He, equated the eavesdropper with the profiteer, in His words, Exalted is He: "Listeners to falsehood, consumers of illicit gain." [al-Ma'idah, 5:42]

Allah, Great and Glorious is He, also said: "Why do their rabbis and priests not forbid them to utter sin and consume unlawful profit?" [al-Ma'idah, 5:63]

Silence in the face of backbiting is therefore unlawful. Allah, Exalted is He, said: "You are then just like them." [al-Nisa, 4:140]

That is why the Prophet, on him be peace, said: "The backbiter and his listener are copartners in sin."

Do not what displeases Allah

Keeping all other limbs and organs away from sin: the hands and feet from reprehensible deeds, and the stomach from questionable food at the time for breaking Fast.

It is meaningless to Fast -- to abstain from lawful food - only to break one's Fast on what is unlawful. A man who Fasts like this may be compared to one who builds a castle but demolishes a city.

Lawful food is injurious in quantity not in quality, so Fasting is to reduce the former. A person might well give up excessive use of medicine, from fear of ill effects, but he would be a fool to switch to taking poison.

The unlawful is a poison deadly to religion, while the lawful is a medicine, beneficial in small doses but harmful in excess. The object of Fasting is to induce moderation.

Said the Prophet, on him be peace: "How many of those who Fast get nothing from it but hunger and thirst!"

This has been taken to mean those who break their Fast on unlawful food. Some say it refers to those who abstain from lawful food, but break their Fast on human flesh through backbiting, which is unlawful. Others consider it an allusion to those who do not guard their organs from sin.

Avoid overeating

Not to over-indulge in lawful food at the time of breaking Fast, to the point of stuffing one's belly. There is no receptacle more odious to Allah, Great and Glorious is He, than a belly stuffed full with lawful food.

Of what use is the Fast as a means of conquering Allah's enemy and abating appetite, if at the time of breaking it one not only makes up for all one has missed during the daytime, but perhaps also indulges in a variety of extra foods?

It has even become the custom to stock up for Ramadan with all kinds of foodstuffs, so that more is consumed during that time than in the course of several other months put together.

It is well known that the object of Fasting is to experience hunger and to check desire, in order to reinforce the soul in piety. If the stomach is starved from early morning till evening, so that its appetite is aroused and its craving intensified, and it is then offered delicacies and allowed to eat its fill, its taste for pleasure is increased and its force exaggerated; passions are activated which would have lain dormant under normal conditions.

The spirit and secret nature of Fasting is to weaken the forces that are Satan's means of leading us back to evil. It is therefore essential to cut down one's intake to what one would consume on a normal night, when not Fasting.

No benefit is derived from the Fast if one consumes as much as one would usually take during the day and night combined. Moreover, one of the properties consists in taking little sleep during the daytime, so that one feels the hunger and thirst and becomes conscious of the weakening of one's powers, with the consequent purification of the heart.

One should let a certain degree of weakness carry over into the night, making it easier to perform the night Prayers (tahajjud) and to recite the praises (wirid). It may then be that Satan will not hover around one's heart, and that one will behold the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Night of Destiny (Laylat al-Qadr) represents the night on which something of this Kingdom is revealed. This is what is meant by the words of Allah, Exalted is He: "We surely revealed it on the Night of Power." [al-Qadr, 97:1]

Anyone who puts a bag of food between his heart and his breast becomes blind to this revelation. Nor is keeping the stomach empty sufficient to remove the veil, unless one also empties the mind of everything but Allah, Great and Glorious is He. That is the entire matter, and the starting point of it all is cutting down on food.

Look to Allah with fear and hope

After the Fast has been broken, the heart should swing like a pendulum between fear and hope. For one does not know if one's Fast will be accepted, so that one will find favor with Allah, or whether it will be rejected, leaving one among those He abhors.

This is how one should be at the end of any act of worship one performs.

It is related of al-Hasan ibn Abil Hasan al-Basri that he once passed by a group of people who were laughing merrily. He said: "Allah, Great and Glorious is He, has made the month of Ramadan a racecourse, on which His creatures compete in His worship. Some have come in first and won, while others have lagged behind and lost. It is absolutely amazing to find anybody laughing and playing about on the day when success attends the victors, and failure the wasters. By Allah, if the veil were lifted off, the doer of good would surely be preoccupied with his good works and the evildoer with his evil deeds. I am too full of joy to indulge in idle sport, while for one who has suffered rejection laughter will be precluded by remorse."

Of al-Ahnaf ibn Qays it is reported that he was once told:
"You are an aged elder; Fasting would enfeeble you." But he replied: "By this I am making ready for a long journey: Obedience to Allah, Glorified is He, is easier to endure than His punishment."

Such are the inwardly significant meanings of Fasting.

harakahdaily.net

Al-Imam Al-Ghazali (R.A.) : On Fasting (from Book of Forty Principles from the Foundations of Religion)

Title : Fasting
Author : Al-Imam Al-Ghazali

Contributed by : Sulaiman Bobat

Translated by : Khalil Abu Asmaa (Christopher Moore)

Excerpt from : Imam al-Ghazali’s (d. 1111 CE / 505 AH) Book of Forty Principles from the Foundations of Religion.

[ After discussing the Prayer and Zakah, Imam al-Ghazali goes on to say: ]

The Third Principle: Fasting

The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) said that God said:

Every good deed is ten times its likeness, up to seven hundred times, except for fasting, for verily it is for Me, and I will reward it. [al-Bukhari and Muslim]

He (peace and blessings be upon him) also said:

For everything there is a door, and the door of worship is fasting. [Ibn al-Mubarak]

Fasting has been singled out with these amazing qualities for two main reasons:

1. Its essence is that it is a personal abstinence, and such is a hidden action that no one but God can see, unlike the prayer, the zakah, or other (acts of worship).

2. It is a grief for, and subdual of, the enemy of God. Shaytan is the enemy, and the enemy cannot gain strength except through the medium of the passions. Hunger breaks all the passions that are the tool of Shaytan. For this reason, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

Verily Shaytan runs in the Son of Adam like blood. Therefore, constrain the passageways of Shaytan with hunger. [al-Bukhari and Muslim, except after “Therefore”]

Such is the secret of his statement (peace be upon him):

When Ramadan comes the doors of Paradise are opened, the doors of the Fire are shut, the shaytans are restrained, and a caller calls: ‘Oh seeker of good, come forward! Oh seeker of evil, back off!’ [al-Tirmidhi, and al-Hakim said it was sound]

Know that fasting, in addition to its rank, has three levels, and in addition to its secrets, has three levels as well.

As for the levels of its rank:

The least of them is to only fast the month of Ramadan. The highest of them is the fast of David (peace be upon him), which entails fasting every other day. It is mentioned in an authentic narration (in both al-Bukhari and Muslim) that such is “the fast of all time” and that it is the best of all fasts. The wisdom behind this type of fast lies in the fact that whoever fasts daily, fasting will become completely habitual and he will not feel brokenness in his soul, purity in his heart, or weakness in his desires. For indeed, the soul is only impacted by what comes to it (occasionally), not by what it has become used to. This shouldn’t be hard to imagine, for medical doctors also discourage their patients from developing a dependence for medicine, and they say, “Whoever becomes accustomed to that he will not benefit from it when he is sick, for his temperament will becomes used to it and it will henceforth not affect him.”

Know that the doctoring of the hearts is akin to that of the doctoring of the bodies. This is the wisdom of the statement of the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) to ‘Abdullah b. ‘Amr b. al-‘Aas (may be pleased with them both) when he asked him about fasting: “Fast one day, break your fast the next.” He replied, “I want something better than that.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) responded, “There is nothing better than that.”

It is for this reason that when it was said to the Messenger of God (peace be upon him), “So-and-so fasts all the time,” he said, “He neither fasted, nor broke his fast.” This is just like when Aisha (may God be pleased with her) said to a man that was reciting the Quran in a rapid fashion: “This one here has neither recited the Quran nor kept silent.”

As for the middle level, it is to fast one third of the time. Whenever you fast every Monday and Thursday, adding to it Ramadan, then you have fasted four months and four days out of the year, which is slightly over a third. With that said, it is necessary that one day will be broken during the days of tashriq (during Hajj), so the total left is now three days. It is also imagined that the days of Eid will be lost as well, so this makes three days missed altogether, leaving us with one day. So think about the arithmetic and you will figure it out.

Therefore, it is inappropriate for your fast to be less than this, for it is light on the nafs (self) and its reward is immense.

As for the levels of its secrets, they are three:

1. The least of them is that one abstains from those things that break the fast, all the while not preventing his limbs from that which is disliked. This is the fast of the masses and it is indicative of their being pleased with the name (of “fasting”).

2. The second level is when you add to it prevention of the limbs. Hence, you guard the tongue from backbiting and the eye from looking at doubtful things, as well as guarding the rest of the body parts.

3. The third level is when you add to it the maintenance of the heart from (bad) thoughts and whisperings, and when you restrict it to the remembrance of God (Mighty and Majestic). This is the fast of the elect of the elite and it is the perfection of the fast.

Finally, fasting has a last matter by which it is completed: to break the fast with that which is permissible, not that which is doubtful. In addition, not to be excessive in the eating of the permissible, in an attempt to make up for what was lost in the morning. In this case one would be merging two meals into one thereby weighing down the stomach and increasing the desires. This will invalidate the wisdom of the fast and its benefit, and will lead one to be too lazy to get up for tahajjud (night vigil prayer) and possibly cause one to not even get up before Fajr (to have suhur and prepare for prayer). All of this is a complete loss and it may be that such a one will not even benefit from the fast at all.

baalawi.com


About Imam al-Ghazzali

Dr. G.F. Haddad

Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad, Abu Hamid al-Tusi al-Ghazzali [or al-Ghazali] al-Shafi‘i (450-505), "the Proof of Islam" (Hujjat al-Islam), "Ornament of the Faith," "Gatherer of the Multifarious Sciences," "Great Siddîq," absolute mujtahid, a major Shafi‘i jurist, heresiographer and debater, expert in the principles of doctrine and those of jurisprudence. Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi stated that, like ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz and al-Shafi‘i for their respective times, al-Ghazzali is unanimously considered the Renewer of the Fifth Islamic Century. Ibn al-Subki writes: "He came at a time when people stood in direr need of replies against the philosophers than the darkest night stands in need of the light of the moon and stars." Among his teachers in law, debate, and principles: Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Râdhakâni in Tus, Abu Nasr al-Isma‘ili in Jurjan, and Imam al-Haramayn Abu al-Ma‘ali al-Juwayni in Naysabur, from where he departed to Baghdad after the latter’s death. Ibn ‘Asakir also mentions that al-Ghazzali took al-Bukhari’s Sahih from Abu Sahl Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Hafsi. Among his other shaykhs in hadith were Nasr ibn ‘Ali ibn Ahmad al-Hakimi al-Tusi, ‘Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Khawari, Muhammad ibn Yahya ibn Muhammad al-Suja`i al-Zawzani, the hadith master Abu al-Fityan ‘Umar ibn Abi al-Hasan al-Ru’asi al-Dahistani, and Nasr ibn Ibrahim al-Maqdisi. Among his shaykhs in tasawwuf were al-Fadl ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al-Farmadi al-Tusi – one of Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri’s students – and Yusuf al-Sajjaj.

Continue from sunnah.org

Sejarah Hidup Imam Al Ghazali (1)

Imam Al Ghazali, sebuah nama yang tidak asing di telinga kaum muslimin. Tokoh terkemuka dalam kancah filsafat dan tasawuf. Memiliki pengaruh dan pemikiran yang telah menyebar ke seantero dunia Islam. Ironisnya sejarah dan perjalanan hidupnya masih terasa asing. Kebanyakan kaum muslimin belum mengerti. Berikut adalah sebagian sisi kehidupannya. Sehingga setiap kaum muslimin yang mengikutinya, hendaknya mengambil hikmah dari sejarah hidup beliau.

Nama, Nasab dan Kelahiran Beliau

Beliau bernama Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Ahmad Ath Thusi, Abu Hamid Al Ghazali (Lihat Adz Dzahabi, Siyar A’lam Nubala’ 19/323 dan As Subki, Thabaqat Asy Syafi’iyah 6/191). Para ulama nasab berselisih dalam penyandaran nama Imam Al Ghazali. Sebagian mengatakan, bahwa penyandaran nama beliau kepada daerah Ghazalah di Thusi, tempat kelahiran beliau. Ini dikuatkan oleh Al Fayumi dalam Al Mishbah Al Munir. Penisbatan pendapat ini kepada salah seorang keturunan Al Ghazali. Yaitu Majdudin Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Muhyiddin Muhamad bin Abi Thahir Syarwan Syah bin Abul Fadhl bin Ubaidillah anaknya Situ Al Mana bintu Abu Hamid Al Ghazali yang mengatakan, bahwa telah salah orang yang menyandarkan nama kakek kami tersebut dengan ditasydid (Al Ghazzali).

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