How I Can Benefit from Fasting: Resist the Habitual, Practice the Extraordinary

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The Iceberg Metaphor

The Iceberg visual metaphor above nicely represents how most of us view fasting as an ordinary, ritualistic, and outward activity. From dawn to sunset, we stop eating, drinking, and having marital relations. But this is just an outward form of fasting that Muslims grow up with. It is just the bare minimum expected of us, and it is just the beginning.

The iceberg metaphor tells us that there is far more going on underneath. That is ‘Special’ fasting, it means keeping the ears, eyes, tongue, hands and feet free from sin. On the way to the extraordinary, we focus on the special. This includes refraining from seeing, saying, and hearing things that are against the Divine Will. That’s controlling the five senses; no gossiping and no backbiting. It means eating Halal wholesome food and avoiding overeating at Iftar. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said “Fasting is a shield; so, when you are fasting don’t use foul or foolish talk. If someone attacks or insults you, say: ‘I am Fasting, I am Fasting!” (Ibn Majah).

The Hidden Aspect of Fasting

According to tradition: “Two Fasting women were so fatigued towards the end of the day, from hunger and thirst, that they were about to collapse. They asked the Messenger (peace be upon him) for permission to break their fast. He (peace be upon him) said: ‘Tell them to vomit in this bowl’. One of them half-filled the bowl with blood and bits of meat, while the other brought up the same so that they filled it between them. The onlookers were astonished. Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: ‘These women have been fasting from what Allah made lawful to them, and have broken their fast on what Allah made unlawful to them. They sat together and indulged in backbiting, and here is the flesh of the people they slandered”. (Musnad of Imam Ahmad).

The idea of Ramadan is to see ourselves as worshippers and not consumers. We should not be eating and drinking the same amount (2100 calories a day) during a Ramadan night as in a normal 24-hour period. Instead, we should be turning away from the desires of the flesh and looking towards Allah – looking with fear and hope.

How to get an ‘Extraordinary’ experience of fasting

That’s the pity when the heart is fasting from unworthy concerns and worldly thoughts, in total disregard for everything but God. It is a spiritual state, that comes through the physical acts of keeping the stomach empty. The extraordinary kind of fast is broken by mere thinking of the worldly matter. It can’t be described in words it must be experienced through dedication to Allah. And by turning away from everything other than Him.

These are the realities of fasting. If we can make it extraordinary and resist the habitual, then we will have advanced this Ramadan in leaps and bounds. This is how a man of Allah described the experience of Ramadan. Hasan al-Basri once passed a group of people laughing. He said: “Allah made the month of Ramadan a racecourse, here His creatures compete in His worship. Some are first and win, and others lag behind and lose. It will be strange to find anybody laughing and playing on a day when success comes to the victor, and failure to the lazy. By Allah, if the veil were lifted, the mindful would be preoccupied with good works and the evildoer with evil deeds.” Fasting will sharpen your ability to distinguish between right and wrong, truth and falsehood.

Conclusion

Use The Majestic Quran translation to experience the beauty of Ramadan. Read by focusing and change from habitual fasting to extraordinary fasting. If you’re not able to do that then at least read the Summary of the Quran.