By Jamaal Diwan
Discussing the objectives of our actions is an important thing because to do so is to discuss the actions in a true and deep way. It is possible that if we do not know why we are doing certain things, we could miss the entire point behind the action itself. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said about this concept, “Maybe a fasting person gains nothing from his fast except hunger and thirst. And maybe a person who prays in the night gains nothing from their Prayer except staying up late.” (At-Tabarani) So this is a person who does an action but gets no result from it.
This is because if someone does an action without knowing why they are doing it or what the objective behind it is, then it is possible that the action will be useless. This is because, as Imam al-Shatibi said, “Actions without objectives are like bodies without souls.” So in this article we will discuss some of the general objectives of fasting and Ramadan.
1. Attaining Taqwa
This is the major objective of fasting in Ramadan as clarified by the Qur’an. God said,
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous [muttaqun].(Al-Baqarah 2:183)
Fasting also teaches a person how to have taqwa because while one is fasting they are careful about all kinds of things. They watch what comes out of their mouth, what they look at, and all that they do. As a result, the person learns how to have a certain level of restraint regarding their actions. This helps them build their taqwa by making them watchful over everything that they do.
As to the definition of taqwa, the clearest way to understand it is through the definition that was provided by Abu Hurayra (may Allah be pleased with him).
Someone came to him and asked, “What is taqwa?” He responded by asking the man if he has ever walked through a thorny road. He said, “Yes.” He asked, “What did you do?” He replied, “Whenever I saw thorns I would avoid them or adjust my clothes to keep them safe.” Abu Hurayrah told him, “That’s taqwa.”
2. Fasting is a Shield
The Prophet said in an authentic hadith (narration) that “fasting is a shield.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) Even the word shield in Arabic has the connotation of protection and this is one of the meanings of the word taqwa. The Prophet also said, “O youth! Whosoever amongst you can afford to get married, let them get married. And whoever cannot afford to do so then they should fast because it will help him control his desires.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
This protection that fasting gives cannot be accomplished by just reducing one’s food intake because it is the material and immaterial elements of fasting that aide one in controlling themselves. For this reason Imam al-San`ani said about this, “It is for a secret that God put in fasting, so just reducing how much food you eat will not be enough.”
3. Fasting and Patience
Another thing that we should learn in Ramadan is to be patient with what we face in our daily lives. The Prophet said in a hadith, “Fasting the month of patience, and three days of every month is equivalent to fasting the entire year.” (Al-Nasaʾi and Ahmad) In this hadith, the Prophet refers to the month of Ramadan as the month of patience, emphasizing the importance of patience in this month.
It is also said that fasting is half of patience. This is because patience basically consists of staying away from bad deeds and persisting in good deeds. In the month of Ramadan, one of the major things that we seek to do is stay away from as many bad deeds as possible so that our fasting is half of patience.
4. Ramadan is the Month of the Qur’an
In the month of Ramadan, we spend more time with the Qur’an than in any other part of the year. We spend time reading it by ourselves, we spend time studying it, we spend time listening to it during Tarawih Prayers, and so on. In this month, the revelation of the Qur’an began and a civilization of learning and knowledge was born.
5. A Month of Generosity
It is narrated that the Prophet was the most generous of people and his most generous time was Ramadan. In doing this, the Prophet was combining between a personal act of worship, like reading the Qur’an, and a social act of worship, charity. Thereby, he showed what it means to live a comprehensive existence as someone who worships God. In doing so, he shows that our responsibilities are not only limited to ourselves but also include those around us.
6. The Importance of Time
We also learn in Ramadan that time is one of the most important blessings that we have in our lives. The Prophet said, “Two blessings, many people are at a loss regarding them: health and free time.” (Al-Bukhari) The major acts of worship in Islam are all related to specific times. We pay our zakah at a particular time. We pray at specific times. We start fasting at a particular time, in a particular month, and we break our fast at a particular time. We go on hajj at a particular time. All of these specifications are meant to teach us, among other things, the importance of time.
For this reason al-Hasan al-Basri said, “O son of Adam! You are nothing but a compilation of breaths, so every time you inhale and exhale, a piece of you is lost.” The believer is strict with their time and the more a person’s faith increases, the more their observance of their time increases. The responsibilities we have are more than the time we have to carry them out, so we should try to be as strict with our time as possible.
These are just some of the objectives of fasting and Ramadan that we should seek to actualize. We can use these as a measuring stick for our month and see how we add up. If we look throughout and see that we are improving in these aspects then we should thank God for His bounties upon us, and if we find that we are not, then we should seek His forgiveness and grace and work harder.
May Allah accept from us all our good deeds in this month and forgive us for our shortcomings. Ameen.
Note: Most of the this article is taken from an article on the topic that was written by Shaykh al-Raysuni.