Thursday, August 12, 2010

Imam Ghazali: Levels of The Secrets of Fasting Are Three

Ramzan Mubarak!
Al-Imam Al-Ghazali: On Fasting (Book of Forty Principles from the Foundations of Religion)

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

The levels of its secrets, they are three:
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”).
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.
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.

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