The benefits of fasting in Ramadan

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.

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