Maqasid asw-Swawm: Imam 'Izz ad-Din ibn 'Abd as-Salam (r.a.) on Fasting

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is extracted from Maqasid asw-Swawm by Imam ‘Izz ad-Din ibn ‘Abd as-Salam ash-Shafi’i (r.a.).

Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

O ye who believe!  Fasting is Prescribed to you as it was Prescribed to those before you that ye may (learn) self-restraint. ― (Surah al-Baqarah:183)

This meaning that, hopefully, we can safeguard ourselves from the Fire through fasting; fasting is a means to the Forgiveness of sins, and sins lead one to the Fire.

The Shaykhayn record the hadits in which the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Islam is built upon five: that you worship Allah and reject the worship of anything else, to establish the prayer, the giving of zakat, performing pilgrimage to the House and fasting the month of Ramadhan.”  This is a wording of Swahih Muslim; Swahih al-Bukhari has the first sentence as, ‘that you testify that none has the right to be worshipped save Allah’.

Fasting carries with it a number of benefits, amongst which are: the elevation of one’s rank, the expiation of sins, the breaking of one’s desires and lusts, the increase of charity, the multiplication of actions of obedience to Allah (s.w.t.), giving thanks to the One Who Knows the hidden matters, and preventing oneself from even contemplating the committing of sin.

With regards the elevation of rank, It is recorded in Swahih al-Bukhari that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “When Ramadhan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened, the gates of Hellfire are locked and the devils are chained.”

As recorded in ash-Shaykhayn, he also said, relating from His Lord, Mighty and Magnificent, “All of the actions of the son of Adam are for him except the fast for that is for Me and I will Reward it.  Fasting is protecting shield, so when it is the day when one of you are fasting, let him not behave or speak indecently; if someone tries to abuse or fight him, let him say, ‘I am fasting’.  By the One in Whose Hand is the soul of Muhammad, the smell emanating from the mouth of the one fasting is better with Allah then the smell of musk.  The one fasting has two time of joy, when he breaks his fast he is happy and when He meets his Lord he will rejoice at his fasting.”

He also said, as recorded in Swahih Muslim, “Every action that the son of Adam does, will be multiplied; a good deed will be increased tenfold up to seven-hundred fold.  Allah, Mighty and Magnificent, says, ‘Except for the fast, for that is for Me and I will Reward it for he left his desires and food for My Sake.’”

In the Shaykhayn, it is recorded that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “In Paradise, there is a gate which is called ar-Rayyan through which the people who fasted will enter on the Day of Judgement, and no one else shall enter alongside them.  It will be asked, ‘Where are those who fasted?’ and they will walk through it, and upon the entry of the last of them, it will be locked, and no one else will walk through it.”

In another version the wording is, “There is, in Paradise, a gate that is called ar-Rayyan.  Those who fasted will be Summoned to it and whoever fasted will enter through it, and whoever enters it will never again experience thirst.”  This version is recorded by Imam at-Tirmidzi (r.a.) and Imam an-Nasa’î.

Imam Ahmad (r.a.) and Imam at-Tirmidzi (r.a.) recorded that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “When people eat in the presence of a fasting person, the angels invoke blessings upon him, until they finish.”

With regards the ‘Opening of the gates of Paradise’, this is a phrase that points to the increase of actions of obedience that in turn lead to the opening of the gates of Paradise.  ‘Locking the gates of the Fire ’ is a phrase that points to the decrease, and lack of therewith, of sins which in turn leads to the locking of the gates of the Fire.  ‘The chaining of the devils’ is a phrase that points to the termination of their whisperings, and temptations, to those who are fasting because they give up hope of receiving a favourable response.

On His Saying, “All of the actions of the son of Adam are for him except the fast for that is for Me and I will Reward it,” fasting has been specifically Enjoined to Him in order to honour it because the hidden nature of fasting prevents ostentation entering it, and moreover, hunger and thirst are not used as means to draw closer to any king of this world nor any idol.  On His Saying, “And I will Reward it,” even though He Rewards all actions of obedience, this phrase points to the greatness of the Reward of fasting.

On His Saying, “Fasting is a protecting shield” means that fasting serves as barrier erected between the person and the Punishment of Allah (s.w.t.).  His Saying, “Let him say, ‘I am fasting,’” means let the faster remind himself that he is fasting so that this would serve to prevent him from repaying like with like.  His Saying, “The smell emanating from the mouth of the one fasting is better with Allah then the smell of musk,” means that the Reward for the smell emanating from the mouth of the fasting person is better with Allah than the smell of musk.  This explanation is a point of some difference and was the cause of a famous debate between Imam ibn asw-Swalah (r.a.) and Imam ‘Izz ad-Din (r.a.).

As for the two times of joy, the first is because the one fasting has been Granted the Divine Accord to complete this act of worship and the second is because of the Reward he will attain when Allah (s.w.t.) Rewards him.

On His Saying, “He left his desires and food for My Sake” means that the faster chose the obedience of his Lord over the obedience of the call of his soul.  Whoever chooses Allah (s.w.t.), Allah (s.w.t.) Chooses him.  This is why when someone desires to commit a sin, then leaves committing it for fear of Allah (s.w.t.), He Says to the recording Angels, “Record it as a good deed, for he only left giving in to his lusts for My Sake.”

With regards their being specified to enter Paradise through the gate of ar-Rayyan, this specification is because of the greatness of this act of fasting and its unique character.  With regards the angels invoking Blessings upon the one fasting, in whose presence food is eaten, this is because on such an occasion he has to exert himself more in fighting his desire to eat.  Their invoking Blessings upon him is a phrase denoting their asking for his Forgiveness and Mercy to be Bestowed upon him.

With regards the expiation of sins, it is recorded in Swahih Muslim that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “One Ramadhan to the next serves as an expiation for what is done between them, so long as the major sins are avoided.”

The Prophet (s.a.w.) also said, as recorded in the Shaykhayn, “Whoever fasts the month of Ramadhan, out of faith and expectant of Reward, his previous sins will be Forgiven him.”

Hunger and thirst break the desire to commit sin.  It is authentically reported from him, from the Shaykhayn, that he said, “O gathering of youth!  Whoever can afford it, let him marry for this is better in aiding one to lower his gaze and preserving the private parts.  Whoever is not able, let him fast for this will diminish his desire.”

It is mentioned in a hadits, “Satan flows through the son of Adam as does his blood.  So constrain the passages of Satan through hunger.”  This is found in the Shaykhayn.  The last sentence, “So constrain the passages of Satan through hunger,” is the statement of one of the narrators of the hadits mistakenly added into the main text.

When the one fasting feels the pangs of hunger, he takes this as a reminder to feed others who are hungry, ‘for the only one who feels compassion towards the lovers is one who has loved.’  It has reached us that Sulayman (a.s.), or Yusuf (a.s.) would not eat until all his dependants had first eaten and when asked why this was so, he said, “I fear that I would become full and so forget the hungry.”

The one fasting will be reminded of the hunger and thirst that the denizens of Hell will experience and this will encourage him to obey Allah (s.w.t.) so as to be Saved from that fate.  The one fasting comes to truly appreciate the Favours of Allah (s.w.t.); it is only through knowing hunger and thirst that one truly appreciates satiation and the quenching of that thirst; it is only when Blessings are absent that one appreciates them more.

When one is full, the soul craves sin and looks longingly at all sorts of transgression, but when one is hungry, the soul craves food and drink, and this is the better of the two without doubt.  If is for this reason that one of the Salaf thought fasting to be the best of all actions of worship and when asked why he replied, “That Allah Look to me in a state where my soul is fighting me for food and drink is more beloved to me than Allah Looking at me in a state where my soul is full and fighting me for sin.”

Fasting has many more benefits, such as refining the mind and strengthening the body.  It is mentioned in a hadîts, “Fast for you will become healthy.”  This is recorded by Imam at-Tabarani (r.a.) and its isnad is dha’îf.

From the greatness of fasting is that the whoever cause a fasting person to open fast, he has the same reward as the one who fasted.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Whoever provides food for a person to open the fast, he will have the likes of his reward, without the reward of the fasting person decreasing in the slightest.” This is recorded by both Imam Ahmad (r.a.) and Imam at-Tirmidzi (r.a.).  So whoever provides food for thirty six fasting people in one year, it will be as if he fasted for the whole year.  And whoever provides food for many fasting people with this intention, Allah (s.w.t.) will Record for him the fasting of many years, because a good deed is multiplied ten-fold.

One the mannerisms of fasting, they are six.  The first is restraining the tongue and limbs from all that opposes the shari’ah.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Whoever does not leave false speech and acting upon it, Allah has no need of his leaving food and drink.”  This is from Swahih al-Bukhari (r.a.).

He also said, “It is possible that one standing [in prayer] only attain weariness from his standing and the one fasting only attain hunger and thirst from his fasting.”  This is from Musnad Ahmad.  Imam al-‘Iraqi (r.a.) said the isnad was hasan.

The second is that if one is invited to eat while he is fasting, he should say, “I am fasting.”  The Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “If one of you is invited to eat while fasting, let him say, ‘I am fasting.’”  This is recorded in Swahih Muslim.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) used to say upon breaking fast, “The thirst has gone, the veins are moistened and the Reward is certain, insha’Allah.”  This was recorded by Imam Abu Dawud (r.a.).  Imam ad-Daruqutni (r.a.) said its isnad was hasan.

It is also reported that he said, “O Allah!  It is for You that I have fasted, and it is with Your Provision that I have broken fast.”  Imam Abu Dawud (r.a.) reported this with a weak isnad.  However Imam al-Arna’uth (r.a.), in his Jami’ al-Uswul, said that it has witnesses that strengthen it.

In another hadits, it is reported that he said, “All praise and thanks are due to Allah Who Gave me the strength to fast and Who Gave me the provisions with which to break fast.”  Imam al-Bayhaqi (r.a.) recorded this with a weak isnad but it has witnesses that strengthen it.

The fast should be broken with fresh dates, or slightly older, drier, dates, or water.  It is reported that the Prophet (s.a.w.) would break fast with, “fresh dates before praying; and if not then with older, drier, dates; and if not with dates then with some mouthfuls of water.”  This is from Imam Abu Dawud (a.s.) with a hasan isnad.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “If one of you is fasting, then let him break fast with dates, if he does not find any then with water for it is pure and purifying.”  This is recorded by Imam Abu Dawud (a.s.) with a swahih isnad.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Take the meal of sahur for indeed in the sahur lies Blessings.”  This is recorded in the Shaykhayn.

It is also recorded in the Shaykhayn, that Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “The people will not cease to be upon good so long as they hasten in breaking the fast.”

The Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Allah, Mighty and Magnificent, Says, ‘The Most Beloved of My servants are those who are quickest in breaking fast.’”  Imam Ahmad (r.a.) recorded this with a weak isnad but it has witnesses that strengthen it in Jami’ al-Uswul.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “This religion will remain good and pure so long as the people hasten in breaking the fast, for the Jews and Christians would delay it.”  Imam Abu Dawud (r.a.) reported it with a swahih isnad.

As recorded by Imam al-Bayhaqi (r.a.), ‘Amr ibn Maymun (r.a.) said, “The companions of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) would be the quickest of people in breaking the fast and the slowest of them in taking the pre-dawn meal.”

The sahur is delayed so as to strengthen one more while he is fasting so that he can perform more actions of obedience, the gap between the Prophet (s.a.w.) taking the sahur and his prayer would be an interval allowing fifty verses of the Qur’an to be recited.  This is recorded in the Shaykhayn.

The ifthar was hastened because it is possible that some physical harm arise from hunger and thirst, hence there is no need to put the soul through such difficulty in a time, after the time of breaking fast, in which hunger and thirst is no longer an action that would draw one closer to Allah (s.w.t.).  One of the wealthier people amongst the Salaf was seen eating in the market place and when asked why he replied by quoting the hadits, “The delay of the rich is oppression.”  This is also in the Shaykhayn.

On continuous fasting, it is recorded in the Shaykhayn that Abu Hurayrah (r.a.) said, “The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) prohibited continuous fasting whereupon one of the Muslims asked him, ‘But you do it, O Messenger of Allah!’

He replied, ‘Who amongst you is like me?  I spend the night with my Lord, He Gives me food and drink.’  But when the people persisted in fasting continuously, he fasted continuously with them for a day, followed by another until they saw the new moon upon which he said, ‘If the moon had delayed in appearing, I would have made you fast more.’  This was a punishment for them because they refused to stop continuously fasting.”

Continuous fasting was prohibited because it weakens the person and emaciates his body by reason of something other than worship.  As for the Prophet (s.a.w.), then if it is literally true that his food and drink was with his Lord, he cannot be said to have fasted continuously; but if ‘food and drink’ is a phrase used to denote the strength of his closeness and communion with his Lord and the joy he felt at this closeness, then this takes the place of food and drink in revitalising his strength, indeed this is better than food and drink in this respect:

“Indeed I fasted from worldly pleasures my entire life
And the Day that I meet you will be its breaking
For surely I find the delight of fasting for You within my soul
And not in the satisfaction of eating or drinking.”

It is recorded in the Shaykhayn that ‘Aishah (r.a.) said, “The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) would kiss and embrace while fasting but he was abler than you in restraining his desires.”  Therefore whoever is old, able to control his desires and hence not ruin his fast, there is no harm in his kissing.  If one is young and not sure that he can control his desires, it is disliked for him to kiss due to his subjecting his action of worship to the danger of something that could break it.

It is authentically reported by Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) that the Prophet (s.a.w.) was cupped while fasting.  Anas (r.a.) was asked, “Did you consider cupping to be disliked for the one fasting?”

He replied, “No, only if it caused weakness.”

Hence, whoever is physically weakened by cupping, it is disliked for him to do so, because in his weakened state he is more likely to break fast or find the action of fasting extremely difficult for him and hence become averse to it.

It is recorded by Imam Abu Dawud (r.a.) that Anas (r.a.) would apply kohl while fasting.  Imam ibn Hajr (r.a.) said the isnad had no fault.

Imam Abu Dawud (r.a.) further recorded that al-A’amash (r.a.) said, “I never saw any of our companions disliking the application of kohl for the one fasting.”  Imam Ibrahim an-Nakha’i (r.a.) would allow the one fasting to apply aloes to his eyes.  Having said this, it is safer not to apply it so as to steer clear of the difference that the scholars have concerning this issue.

Imam Abu Dawud (r.a.) reported that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said to Laqith ibn Swabrah (r.a.), “Perform the ablution well, wipe between the fingers and exert yourself in snuffing the nose, unless you are fasting.”  So the Prophet (s.a.w.) prohibited exertion when snuffing the nose while fasting, because this is puts his fast at risk since the water could reach the back of the throat.  Other actions which nullify the fast are eating and drinking deliberately; making oneself vomit; menstruation and post-natal bleeding and sexual intercourse.

Laylat al-Qadr is a Blessed night.  Allah (s.w.t.) Blessed it over one thousand months that do not contain it.  It is called Laylat al-Qadr, either because of its excellence and great status or because provisions and life-spans for the following year are Decreed therein.  The angels and the Spirit Descend in that night and greet those who pray by night with the salaam; the scholars differ as to whether they extend the salaam to them of their own accord or they convey the Salaam of their Lord.

A night in which the Lord of the Worlds Sends Salaam to His servants is a night that is indeed worthy of being better than a thousand months, it is a night worthy of being sought after and searched for.  This is why the Prophet (s.a.w.) would search for it along with his companions and the righteous who came after them.

This night occurs in the last ten days of Ramadhan, and is most likely to occur in the odd nights rather than the even nights.  It seems clear that it occurs on the twenty-first night; this is because the Prophet (s.a.w.) saw this night in a dream but was made to forget it, however he remembered that in the morning following it, he would prostrate in mud and water.  It is authentically reported that it rained on the night of the twenty-first and the masjid leaked water, when the Prophet (s.a.w.) prayed therein, traces of mud and water were seen on his forehead and nose.  The incident is recorded in Swahih al-Bukhari.

Moreover the Prophet (s.a.w.) informed us that on the night of Laylat al-Qadr, the moon would look like half a plate and the moon never looks like this unless it be in its seventh night or twenty-first night.  This is the opinion of the author, Imam ‘Izz ad-Din (r.a.).  Other opinions have been mentioned such as the opinion that Laylat al-Qadr falls on different nights every year, an opinion that was preferred by a group of scholars, amongst whom was Imam ibn Hajr (r.a.).

From the excellent qualities of this night is that whoever prays during it out of faith and seeking Reward, will have his previous sins Forgiven.  The evidence for what we have mentioned lies in the Prophet (s.a.w.) saying, “I was shown Laylat al-Qadr, then one of my wives awoke me and I was made to forget it, so search for it in the last ten nights.”  This is from Swahih Muslim.

Also recorded in the Shaykhayn, the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Seek Laylat al-Qadr in the odd nights of the last ten nights of Ramadhan.”

As recorded by Imam Muslim (r.a.), Abu Hurayrah (r.a.) said, “We were discussing Laylat al-Qadr in the presence of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) and he asked, ‘Which of you remembers the night when the moon arose and it was like half a plate?’”

Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) recorded that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Whoever prays the night of Laylat al-Qadr out of faith and seeking Reward will have his previous sins Forgiven.”

It is recommended for whoever finds it to increasing in praising Allah (s.w.t.) and invoking Him, and he should frequently supplicate with this supplication, “O Allah!  You are the One Who Pardons greatly. You Love to Pardon, so Pardon me.”  This is recorded by Imam at-Tirmidzi (r.a.).

If a person was to suffice with praising Allah (r.a.), this would be better due to the hadits in which it is reported that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Whoever is diverted by making dzikr of Me from asking of Me, I would Grant him the best of what I Grant those asking.”  This is also recorded by Imam at-Tirmidzi (r.a.) on the authority of Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (r.a.) with a dha’if isnad.  Ahadits with similar meanings have been reported on the authority of ‘Umar (r.a.) in Imam al-Bayhaqi’s (r.a.) Shu’ab al-Iman and Imam as-Suyuthi (r.a.).   However, Imam al-Lali’(r.a.) said that Imam ibn Hajr (r.a.) declared it hasan.

‘Umayyah (r.a.) said, “Should I mention my need or should your Gifts suffice me, for sure Giving Gifts is part of Your Disposition.  If a person was to praise You one day, the one who he is praising would suffice him.”  This is from Diwan ‘Umayyah in praise ibn Jud’an.

Imam Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah (r.a.) was asked about Prophet (s.a.w.) saying, “The most superior supplication on the Day of ‘Arafah is, ‘None has the right to be worshipped save Allah, the One Who has no partner, to Him Belongs the Dominion, to Him Belongs all praise and He is Omnipotent over all things,” and in explanation to the fact that a direct request is not mentioned therein, he mentioned the previous hadits and these verses and proceeded to say, “This is an object of Creation saying of another that it is sufficient to praise Him rather than directly ask Him, what then of the Creator, Blessed and Exalted is He?”  This was recorded by Imam ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (r.a.) in his at-Tamhid, and by Imam al-Bayhaqi (r.a.).

Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

Remember We Made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety; and take ye the station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We Covenanted with Abraham and Isma`il that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round or use it as a retreat or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer). (Surah al-Baqarah:125)

I’itikaf is to visit Allah (s.w.t.) in one of His houses and to seclude oneself with Him.  It is duty upon the host to honour his guest.  It is Mentioned in an authentic hadits recorded in the Shaykhayn, that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Each time someone goes to and comes from a mosque, Allah Prepares for him a feast in Paradise.”

It is recommended to perform i’itikaf in the last ten days of Ramadhan so that a person can seek after Laylat al-Qadr.  This was when the Prophet (s.a.w.) would perform i’itikaf towards the end of his life.  ‘Aishah (r.a.) said, “The Prophet (s.a.w.) would perform i’itikaf in the last ten days of Ramadhan until Allah Caused him to pass away, then his wives after him would similarly perform i’itikaf.”  This is also recorded in the Shaykhayn.

She also said, “When the last ten days came, he would spend the night in worship, awake his family, exert himself in worship and tighten his waist-wrapper.”

In another report from Swahih Muslim, she was reported to have said, “The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) would exert himself in worship in the last ten nights in a way that he never did in any other night.”

The meaning of ‘tighten his waist-wrapper’ is that he would not take pleasure with his wives or that he would exert and devote himself to worship.  In this month, it is recommended to increase in the recitation of the Qur’an and to be generous, for both the one performing i’itikaf and the one who is not.  ibn ‘Abbas (r.a.) said, “The Prophet (s.a.w.) was the most generous of people, and he was most generous in Ramadhan when Jibril met him.  Jibril would meet him in every night of Ramadhan until he passed away, and he would recite the Qur’an to him.  When Jibril met him, he would be more generous than the strong wind.”  This is also from the Shaykhayn.  The meaning of ‘strong wind’ here is a reference to its wide reach and its swiftness.

It is authentically reported that the Prophet (s.a.w.) would recite the Qur’an to Jibril (a.s.) every Ramadhan once, but in the year in which he passed away, he recited the Qur’an to him twice.  This is found in the Shaykhayn.

It is authentically reported that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Whoever fasts the month of Ramadhan and then follows this with six days of Shawwal, it will be as if he fasted the whole year.”  This is recorded in Swahih Muslim.  The reason for this is that a good deed is multiplied tenfold, hence every fast is like ten fasts.


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