Archive for the ‘Fasting’ Category

Dispropotionate expiation?

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

I have a question regarding fasting. I heard that if one were to intentionally break 1 day of their fast without any good reason then they would have to fast 60 consecutive days. Now when I heard this I was a little surprised as I never heard of such a thing. But when I looked it up on the internet I found out that it is a real thing.

Now I read it was from a hadith but a lot of hadiths out there aren’t authentic and have a lot of problems. This particular hadith in my initial opinion contradicts the Quran where Allah says that he doesn’t want to ‘burden us more than we can bear,’. And where the prophet says in a hadith that ‘this religion is easy and to not make it hard on yourself’. With that said, 60 days of fasting for only missing one fast is a little excessive for me and doesn’t seem like a fair thing. And I don’t think that that is something Allah wants for us.

So can you please clear up this issue for me and explain this hadith and this whole “60 day fast for only missing 1 fast type thing”?

Both Adam and Satan disobeyed a direct order from God. Yet, God forgave Adam and gave him a second chance, while He cursed Satan till the Day of Judgment. Why?

The difference between the two is that Adam recognized his error, regretted it and begged God to forgive him. Satan, on the other hand, refused to acknowledge that he did anything wrong and did not even attempt an apology to God. Adam knew his place; Satan deemed himself too big. Adam admitted his mistake; Satan argued with God. Adam bowed his head; Satan thumbed his nose. Adam submitted; Satan arrogated.

When you say “missed one day of fasting”, you’re not being accurate. Missing implies inability or forgetfulness. When one can fast but won’t, it’s not called missing, it’s called defiance. Missing is excusable; defiance is not.

That is why the expiation (“Kaffaara”) is different for each. The expiation for excusable breaking of the fast is one day of fasting later, or feeding a poor person a day’s worth of meals. The expiation of inexcusable breaking of the fast is to fast two consecutive months or feed sixty poor people. It is to teach the sinner humility before God. God does not benefit an iota from our worship. We do. It is in the best interest of the servant of God to be reminded of his place whenever he transgresses. If God leaves a sinner to himself, then know that the sinner is a lost cause, a hopeless case.

That is why the expiation, as harsh as it looks, is not disproportionate at all, nor unfair, nor contrasting God’s grace. Rather, it is tough love. A needed training of the believer who was headed the wrong way.

As for the hadeeth that tells us what the expiation is for inexcusable breaking of the fast, it was narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Al-Bukhaari, Muslim, Abu-Daawood and Ibn Hibbaan. It is authentic. However, it is specific about mating during the fasting day. Scholars have concluded, however, that other inexcusable acts may be expiated the same way by analogy (Qiyaas). In other words, mating is just one example.

The expiation, according to this hadeeth is (a) freeing a slave, or, if not possible, (b) fasting two consecutive months, or, if not possible, (c) feeding of sixty poor persons.

Wasting opportunities

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Today’s Khutba (sermon) was about opportunities that God periodically gives us to get abundant blessings, forgiveness and balance-tipping actions, but alas many of us miss them and some may not even be aware of them.

The Khateeb (preacher) mentioned a hadeeth of the Prophet (PBUH), narrated by Abu-Hurayra and rated between Hasan (sound) and Saheeh (authentic) by various scholars. The hadeeth tells of one time the Prophet (PBUH) was stepping up the three steps that led to his pulpit. As he made each step, he said aloud “Amen!” When he finished the sermon, a man asked him about that. He replied, “Jibreel (Archangel Gabriel) came to me and said, ‘Cast away is he who reached his parents and they did not cause him to go to heaven’. I said amen. Then he said to me, ‘Cast away is he in whose presence your name is mentioned and he did not pray for you!’. I said amen. Then he said to me, ‘Cast away is he who reaches Ramadhaan and is not forgiven’. I said amen.”

Happy, blessed and spiritually fulfilling Ramadhaan to all fellow Muslims. May you and I be able to fast its days, stand up in prayers its nights, be generous with our charities, good deeds and kind talk, be patient, enduring and forgiving, read the Quran a lot and understand what it says, and remember God often and remember His countless blessings and the many opportunities He keeps giving us to be better human beings worthy of His eternal abode of bliss, Janna.

This is a once-a-year opportunity. Let us not waste it on trivia.

The need for moon sighting

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

As you know, there used to be quite a debate every year on how to determine the start of a new lunar month, especially Ramadan. Most scholars did not favor astronomical computations and insisted on manual sighting of the new moon. Phone calls were all over the globe to get the word out that the new moon was sighted or could not be sighted.

About a decade ago, the conviction changed. Most scholars are now comfortable with astronomical computations. No more debates!

However, I’d like to know what you think of the hadeeth, where the Prophet (PBUH) says, “Fast when you see it (the new moon of Ramadan) and break the fast when you see it (the new moon of Shawwal (the month after Ramadan). If it is obscured from you, then complete the count of Shaaban (the month before Ramadan) thirty days.”

That hadeeth was narrated by Abu-Hurayra and Ibn Abbaas, and reported by Al-Bukhaari and Al-Albaani and others. It is authentic.

Let’s follow the proper deduction method, shall we? God orders us to fast Ramadan (2:185), but He does not specifically tell us how to tell that it started. He tells us that crescents are time keepers for us (2:189). The conclusion is that we learn from the new moon whether a lunar month has started.

Now, how do we know a new moon is born? Astronomical computations are very accurate in this. Thus, following these computations enables us to be certain of when a lunar month has started.

But these advanced computations were not available to folks in the Seventh Century. So, how do they know that a new moon is there? That is where the hadeeth comes in. It’s what the Prophet (PBUH) advised for that situation. It is not the only method for us, but it was for them.

Now, what about the new moon being obscured? That can never happen with astronomic computations, but it can and did with naked-eye sighting. Again, the Prophet’s advise, peace be upon him, was to assume it wasn’t born. Without a stronger evidence that it was born, that was a valid, practical advice.

By the same token is the determination of when to start the fast everyday. God tells us to start the fast “when the white thread is distinguished from the black thread” (2:187) Most exegetes regard that criterion as a metaphor for dawn. A fellow of the Prophet (PBUH), named `Udayy ibn Haatim At-Taa’i, took it literally. He told the Prophet (PBUH) that he kept two headbands under his pillow, one white and one black. Then whenever he woke up during the night, he’d look at the two bands and if he couldn’t tell them apart, he went ahead and ate something! The Prophet (PBUH) jokingly replied, “You have a wide neck! It’s the darkness of the night and the brightness of the day.” Narrated by `Udayy and reported by Al-Bukhaari.

So, what is important is to tell that dawn started. All scholars have no problem following computations to make that determination, so why would sighting the moon, to determine when Ramadhaan starts, be any different?

Ensuring a sincere fast

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Ramadan starts on Monday. Ramadan Mubarak. How do we see to it that our fasting is sincere?

Ramadhaan Mubaarak (Blessed Ramadhaan) to you and your loved ones. May God enable us to fast, pray, give charity and recite the Quran in a way that pleases Him.

This is a particularly interesting question, because fasting is a private matter between man and God. You can claim to fast, while sneaking out at times to eat the wash your mouth and come back and no one would be the wiser! You can’t fake fasting.

So, asking about sincerity of fasting is a very valid and relevant question. Indeed, the Prophet (PBUH) said, “There may be a fasting person who gets nothing out of his fast but hunger and thirst!” (Narrated by Abu-Hurayra, Ibn Umar and many other and reported by Al-Munzhiri, Ibn `Asaakir and others and rated between sound and authentic)

That’s a person who did not get the purpose of fasting. The Prophet (PBUH) tells us how to make our fasting sincere. He said,

“Whoever does not leave the utterance and acting of falsehood, then God has no need of him leaving his food and drink!” (Narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Al-Bukhaari)

Our fast is insincere if we say or do falsehood.

The Prophet (PBUH) also said,

“If one of you is fasting, let him not do profane or offensive things. And if someone offends him, let him say, “I’m fasting. I’m fasting” (Narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Muslim).

Our fast is insincere if we succumb to our natural instincts, such as to defend ourselves against insults.

The effect of a sincere fast is immeasurable. Your spirit feels it. Your soul is fed while your body is deprived of food! When Ramadhaan ends, not only do you lose weight, regulate your digestive system and feel clean, but you also feel lighter, happier and closer to God. Such are the ones who got the wisdom and benefit of fasting, may God make us among them. And if that’s not your goal from fasting, this may be: The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Whoever fasts Ramadhaan out of faith and expectation of reward, his past sins are forgiven!” (Narrated by Abu-Hurayra and Ibn Abbaas and reported by Al-Bukhaari, Muslim and Al-Albaani).

I came across this blog post that itemizes things one can do to ensure a sincere fast. Each one of them helps.

Are we supposed to fast in mid-Shaaban?

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

What is the correct ruling on fasting in the middle of the month of Sha`baan (the 8th month of the lunar calendar)?

There is no authentic Sunna about it, so if you fast, it will be a voluntary fast with no special importance attached to it. The Prophet (PBUH) often fasted much of Sha`baan, but never all of it. He must have, by chance, have fasted the middle day, but it wasn’t for any particular significance of the day. In fact, a hadeeth, narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Ibn Hanbal and others says that the Prophet (PBUH) forbade fasting the second half of Sha`baan.

There are opinions in the literature that the Quran was sent down from the Preserved Tablet and given to angel Gabriel on the 15th of Sha`baan. But none of those narrations is attributed to the Prophet (PBUH) nor authentic, therefore should not be believed.

How do we raise our thoughts above desire?

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Our eyes behold an object and we become attached to the object. Thus we are told to lower our gaze. Like a child in a candy store when I see it..I want it. I want to consume it. Often in our lives we see beauty and we become consumed by desiring the object. We can get no rest until it becomes ours.
The question becomes how do we Islamically discipline ourselves to detach from the beholding and gain an understanding that we can love the object but not desire it.
What ayats and hadeedths would help us to refrain from acting on our desires.

Faith in God means trusting His judgment. When He says, “Do this,” believers do it, even if they don’t really want to, because they trust that God would not have ordered them to do if it weren’t beneficial to them. Likewise when God says, “Don’t do that.” Believers refrain from it for the harm they know must be in it.

Thus, it is faith, first and foremost, that leads a person to overcome his or her desire for or against something. People even do that out of perception, so doing it out of faith is all the more reason.

The mechanism that hones self-discipline is commitment to, and steady practice of, religious teachings. Taqwa is its name. The word means keeping a shield between you and God’s displeasure. Sort of like when you say, “Don’t let your guard down!”

Ali ibn Abi-Taalib, may God have been pleased with him, defined and summarized Taqwa succinctly and eloquently in this poem,

الخوف من الجليل
والعمل بالتنزيل
والرضا بالقليل
والاستعداد ليوم الرحيل

Fear of the Majestic One,
Commitment to the Revelation,
Contentment with little,
And preparation for the day of departure!

Knowing that, one can train himself or herself with recitation of the Quran, prayer, fasting, charity, good deeds, supplication, being mindful of God, being on alert from Satan, being conscious of, and in control of, one’s negative emotions, contentment with what life throws one’s way, all the while being mindful of where we are going and how to get the best life in the Hereafter.

There are many verses in the Quran that teach us self-discipline. For instance,
“And do not wish for what God has favored some over others…” (4:32)
“God extends provision for whom He wills and measures [it]. And they rejoiced in [this] the nearest life, while the nearest life is not, compared to the Hereafter, but [brief] enjoyment.” (13:26)
“But as for him who feared the stature of his Lord, and prohibited [his] soul from desire, then the Garden is the abode [for him].” (79:40-41)

The Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have said, “Be content with what God has allotted to you and you will be the richest of people!” Narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Al-Albaani who rated it Hasan (sound).

How do we struggle “in God”?

Friday, April 15th, 2011

I enjoyed reading your posts about Sufism. I’m not Sufi, but I’m curious: You quoted 29:69, which says, “And those who struggle in Us…”. How does one struggle in God?

Thanks. Interestingly, God answers that question immediately after the phrase you quoted! He says, “and God surely is with benefactors.” (29:69)

Benefaction (Ihsaan) is to do beautiful things. The Arabic word has the noun root Husn which means beauty. So, benefaction is more than doing good, it is doing good in a beautiful manner. God calls every good deed Hasana (a beautiful thing).

The Prophet (PBUH) defined the difference between Islam (submission), Eemaan (faith) and Ihsaan (benefaction). He said that Islam is to do the five pillars of it: Shahaada (testimony of faith), prayer, fasting, Zakah (alms giving) and pilgrimage to Mecca if you can. He defined Eeman as belief in the six pillars of it: Belief in God, His angels, His scriptures, His Messengers, the Final Day (the Hereafter), and the Qadar (precision and wisdom of God’s timing and provision). Finally, he defined Ihsaan as follows, “That you worship God as if you see Him! While you do not see Him, He sees you!” That is the realization that causes a Muslim to be a benefactor: God is watching and appraising what we do and the angels are writing down in our eternal record of deeds.

Should I have fasted today?

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Today is the 9th of Muharram (the first month of the Islamic calendar). I understand that the Prophet (PBUH) either fasted on it, or intended to fast on it, in addition to fasting on the tenth, known as the day of `Aashooraa’. Can you settle that question?

Also, a friend told me that instead of the 9th, I should fast on the 11th. Is this true? She could not provide me with evidence.

What I know is that the Prophet (PBUH) fasted only on the 10th. On the last year of his life, he said, “If I live another year, I’ll fast on the 9th.”

In Abu-Daawood’s version of the hadeeth, the Prophet added, “lest I miss the day of `Aashooraa'”, implying, I suppose, that a mistake in citing the crescent (and thus determining when the month begins) should not cause him to miss fasting that great day.

But he did not live another year, so we have no way of knowing if fasting on the 9th is a good idea, because God may have discouraged the Prophet from doing it. Some scholars say that his intention is sufficient to make it a Sunna. You may agree or disagree. I respectfully disagree. Sunna is established by deeds of the Prophet (PBUH), not intentions.

It was Ibn Abbaas (may God have been pleased with him) who suggested fasting the 9th and the 10th. There is a narration, by Hunayda ibn Khaalid, rated authentic by Al-Albaani only, that the Prophet (PBUH) fasted on the 9th and the tenth.

The scholars have actually disagreed on which day is `Aashooraa’: some thought it was the tenth (which is what the Arabic word means), and others thought it was the ninth (presumably because of the hadeeths that say that).

I heard about fasting on the 11th, but I’m yet to find evidence to support it.

Thanks for the information. I plan to fast tomorrow. Even though I know it is now optional, it was at one point mandatory, right?

Fasting in `Aashuraa’ was never a mandate, because there is no evidence anywhere that those who did not fast it were punished. That is how you can tell a mandate from a recommendation. Commands and orders are either a mandate or a recommendation. The consequences of not following them is how you differentiate between the two. If failure to follow a command is punished, it was a mandate. If it isn’t, it’s a recommendation. Fasting in `Aashuraa’ was a recommendation. It remained so ever since.

The benefits of fasting in Ramadan

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

I know, and have experienced the physical benefits of fasting in Ramadan. Talk to me about the non-physical benefits.

When God told us we have to fast, He did not mention any physical benefit, though there are many. Check out Dr. Ahmad Sakr’s books on fasting for much of that.

God, however, gave us the purpose of fasting: Taqwa (piety). That is the inevitable result of a thoughtful fasting. A non-thoughtful fasting is the kind the Prophet, peace be upon him, referred to when he said, “There may be one who fasts but does not get out of his fasting except hunger and thirst!” Reported by Ibn Hanbal. A thoughtful fasting, on the other hand, is abstaining from sin, big and small, in addition to abstaining from food and water. That discipline is what fasting is all about and it is what leads to piety.

A thoughtful fasting is one where the person does it out of faith, not custom, and then counts it with God (Ihtisaab). That means you leave the reward to God. Indeed, He said in a Qudsi hadeeth, “All of man’s work is for himself except fasting; it’s for Me and I reward it.” Reported by Muslim, An-Nasaa’i, Ibn Hanbal and Ad-Daarimi.

The hadeeth continues, “For the fasting person are two joys: one when he breaks the fast and the other is when he meets his Lord!” May we all be among those fortunate ones.

Piety is a moral value, but it leads to the spiritual benefit of fasting: closeness to God. This is revealed in 2:186. In a recent Friday prayer sermon, the Imam (preacher)  drew our attention to the fact that in 2:186, God did not say: when My servants ask you about Me, tell them I’m near, He said instead, “When My servants ask you about Me, I am near.” God is so near and we have direct access to Him that there is no need for any one to intercede with Him.

In his book Kitabul-Ilm, the late Sheikh Ibn Uthaymeen, may God bless his soul, wrote, “Piety is a means for strengthening understanding, and strong understanding assists in increasing knowledge.” Another non-physical benefit of fasting! If we do reach the plateau of Taqwa as Ramadhaan promises, we stand a good chance of acquiring knowledge as a bonus. Two for the price of one.

I know the look of piety. It is a look of beauty. What are the degrees of piety?

I don’t know if there are degrees of piety, but I particularly like one definition of it, by Ali ibn Abi-Taalib, may God have been pleased with him,

التقوى هي الخوف من الجليل والعمل بالتنزيل والرضا بالقليل والاستعداد ليوم الرحيل

Translation: Piety is fear of the Majestic One, complying with the Revelation, contentment with little, and preparing for the day of departure.