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Islamic topics- Miscellaeous topics- Lesson (076): Fasting and piety
In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, Most Merciful  

The ayah of saum (fast):

 Dear brother, this is a new lesson on Ramadan; it deals with the ayah of saum in which Allah the Almighty says:

"O you who believe! Observing as-saum (fast) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become al-muttaqun."

(Al-Baqarah, 183)

1 - Islam addresses people in general referring to its basics:

 First of all, when Allah the Almighty addresses people in general (in the Noble Qur'an), He addresses them by references to the foundations of Islam. Allah the Almighty says:

"O mankind! Worship your Lord (Allah),"

(Al-Baqarah, 21)

2 –Islam addresses the believers referring to its branches:

 On the other hand, when Allah the Almighty addresses the believers, He addresses them by means of the branches of the shari'ah (Islamic Law) because the believer believes that Allah the Almighty is the Creator of the heavens and the earth and the Lord of the Worlds; he believes that none else has the right to be worshipped but He, and he believes that Allah is the One Free of Need, the Strong, the All-Knowing, the Determiner of Everything, the Wise, the Utterly Just, the Giver, and the Withholder. So, given the fact that he believes in Allah as the Lord, the Creator and the Compeller and given that he believes in His Beautiful Names and Attributes of Excellence, he turns to Allah and worships Him. Allah the Almighty says:

"O you who believe!"

3 –Putting Allah's Saying "O you who believe!" into effect:

 Let it be said by way of practical instruction that whenever you reauthor a noble ayah which starts with Allah's Saying "O you who believe!" you should be aware of the fact that this ayah addresses you explicitly.
 For example, if a father calls a son of his, who is standing in front of him, shouldn't the son respond to his father? Can he pretend not to know that he is addressed by this call?
 So, when you reauthor the Noble Qur'an and come across an ayah which starts with "O you who believe!" and do not feel that you are addressed by it –this is an indication of a serious flaw in your faith because it is you who is addressed by this ayah since you believe in Allah. Of course, it would be nonsensical to urge the students of a given university to enroll at this university, but it can be done with respect to the young people in general who have not registered at this university yet. Also, I may advise university students to attend lectures, to manage their time properly, to make use of the library, to work regularly on their assignments, to ask their teachers for advice, and so on. Thus, I address university students by giving detailed instruction as regards rules of university life, study techniques, reading, scientific research, and so forth; while I shall encourage the students who have not registered yet to do so.

4 - Responding to Allah's Call for fast:

 When Allah the Almighty addresses people in general, He addresses them by means of the foundations of the Deen of Islam. He says "O mankind! Worship your Lord (Allah)";
while when He addresses those who believe in Him, He says "O you who believe! Observing as-saum is prescribed for you". It is as if He were saying to the believer: You should fast since you have believed in Me, in My Knowledge, in My Wisdom, in My Might, in My Mercy, and in My Justice; and you have believed in Me as your Lord, your God and your Creator. So Allah the Almighty says: "O you who believe! Observing as-saum is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become al-muttaqun ". Now let's make a pause and ponder His Saying "that you may become al-muttaqun " (the pious and the righteous who fear Allah much).

Pondering "you may become al-muttaqun"

1 –The acts of worship are meant for people's benefit:

 We have already mentioned the fact that the acts of worship are meant for people's benefit although Allah the Almighty has the right to order without giving any justification, as is the case of a military order, which does not require justification because those in power are not expected to do that. However, Allah the Almighty does give you the wisdom behind fasting out of His Mercy. He says:

"O you who believe! Observing as-saum is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become al-muttaqun. "

2 - What should we fear?

 Let us think deeply about the idea expressed as "that you may become al-muttaqun". The question to be asked here is: What should we fear? What should we avoid? Can it be that we should avoid good food, a nice and comfortable house or a faithful wife? Indeed not; rather, one would be expected to fear a monster, bankruptcy or imprisonment. So the word "fear" implies that there exists danger which is to be avoided. What kind of danger threatens us so that fast is ordained in order to avoid it?

3 –Man's fate is the grave so do not be deceived:

 In fact, man is a mobile creature. Each of us will live to a definite age; each of us was born to certain parents, then grew up, entered the infant school, then elementary, preparatory and the secondary school; got the secondary school certificate; then some entered university, sh3er looked for a job. One is now, say, 40 years old; will live to a definite age and at that age will die. Where will one go after death? One was living in one's house, with one's wife and children; owned a vehicle, a shop, or an engineering agency; or else was a doctor, a university professor, a merchant, a manufacturer, an employee, a farmer… Suddenly, though, one is a corpse wrapped up in a shroud. He may have lived in a splendid house, have owned many offices, companies and company branches; he may have possessed enormous wealth. Then, the same person is buried in a hole which is no more than 60 cm by 1.90 m, wrapped in a cheap white calico shroud, a stone placed over him. He was a human being, then he became a death notice; people say that so-and-so has died, may Allah have mercy on him. So, after he has enjoyed high status, after he has had obedient children, after he has been a director, a minister, a factory or a shop owner, after he has been a sheik with a large following, he suddenly becomes a note on the walls –the late, the ex-head of the family, the ex-doctor, the ex-lawyer, the ex-minister… all has come to an end. What happens after death? Allah the Almighty says:

"O you who believe! Observing as-saum is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become al-muttaqun. "

4 –Death is a sudden change from everything to nothing:

 "That you may become al-muttaqun" means that you may avoid such fate because death is described in one noble ayah as a calamity, or rather it is the greatest calamity because the moment you die you lose everything. For example, those who are fabulously wealthy lose all their money the moment their hearts stop beating and their wealth becomes property of their inheritors. Thus, your authority, your wealth, your power, your social status and your job are wholly dependent on your pulse. When one suffers cardiac arrest, the doctor takes a mirror and puts it near one's nose (to ascertain that death has occurred) and finds no signs of respiration. Then he opens one of his eyes, directs a torch-light at the pupil and finds that there is no iris contraction; he, then, picks up a hand of the patient to test his pulse and finds no pulse. Finally, he announces death and everything has come to an end. Allah the Almighty says:

"O you who believe! Observing as-saum is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become al-muttaqun. "

 So death is a sudden change from life to grave, and on the first night after having been placed in his grave man will be told: "O My servant! The people who buried you returned to their houses and left you here alone; they buried you in the soil, and even if they had stayed with you, they could not benefit you; and no one is left to you except Me. I am the Ever Living Who never dies."

 Actually, when the king of the biggest oil-exporting country died, he was buried and a stone was put above his grave; everything, thus, came to an end. Where were his palaces, his vehicles, his private jets; his mansions under the sea, over the sea, on the coast, or in Spain? Where was his fabulous wealth?

"O you who believe! Observing as-saum is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become al-muttaqun."

 Verily, death is a sudden change from owning everything to owning nothing at all. 
 Dear brother, death is the fate of all human beings; whether man enjoys a low or a high social status, whether he is a wealthy king or a poor debtor, death is the common fate of all mankind.

5 - What happens after death?

 What happens after death? Man either enters Paradise of endless pleasures or Hellfire of endless torment.
 Therefore, Allah has enjoined fast on us so that man can be the happiest one on the surface of the earth at death time. Actually, when you read the stories of the noble companions’ lives, you find that their happiest moments were lived by them on their deathbeds. The daughter of Sayyidina Bilal, may Allah be pleased with him, said to him while he was no his deathbed:
"How great is the distress of my father ", he answered: "There will be no distress for your father after today; tomorrow he will meet his loved ones –Muhammad and his companions."
Thus, as I mentioned earlier, when you read the stories of the noble companions’ lives, you find that the happiest moments of their lives were when they were on the point of meeting their Lord and that was because they feared to disobey Him while they were alive and thus were able to feel such great happiness in their hour of death.

6 – Contemplating death is a must:

 Dear brother, it is not a kind of pessimism or melancholy to think about death or say to yourself: Where shall I die? At home, on the road, at work, while travelling; at night or in the morning, among my family or alone? Where will my body be washed? In the kitchen, in the bathroom or in the living room? Where shall I be buried? What will happen after death? What will happen to my house and my business after my death? The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said:

((Remember often the destroyer of all worldly pleasures –death.))


 Death is the separator of lovers and the disperser of groups. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said:

((Live as long as you want; you will die. Love whomever you want; you will leave them. Do whatever you want; you will be recompensed for it.))

[Al-Shirazi and Al-Bayhaqi]

 Dear brother, whoever considers carefully this fate cannot sleep peacefully at night nor can he commit wrongdoing. So, fast was ordained to remember the hour of death, to fear the danger which lies in wait for everybody and for which one should prepare. Allah the Almighty says:

"By Al-'Asr (the time). * Verily! Man is in loss, * Except those who believe (in Islamic Monotheism) and do righteous good deeds, and recommend one another to the truth (i.e. order one another to perform all kinds of good deeds (Al-Ma'ruf) which Allah has ordained, and abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds (Al-Munkar) which Allah has forbidden), and recommend one another to patience (for the sufferings, harms, and injuries which one may encounter in Allah's Cause during preaching His religion of Islamic Monotheism or Jihad, etc.)."

(Al-Asr, 1-3)

7 –All people are in loss except for…:

 It is the God, the Creator and the Lord of the Worlds, Who says to you in the Noble Qur'an "By Al-'Asr (the time)". Here, Allah swears to you that you are a loser. O Allah! How can it be? How come I am a loser? Some scholars said: The passage of time itself consumes man day by day, month by month and year by year; then the hour of death arrives. Every single day, we read dozens of death notices, the death rate here being 150 people a day. So, as you read every day notices about other people's deaths, one day people will read about yours. Sayyidina Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said:

"You should know that the Angel of Death has been reaching sh3er and will reach us soon, so pay heed."

 Every day you go to the mosque to perform salah and the day will come when you will enter the mosque inside your coffin so that people can pray for you, isn't it true? So, every day we enter the mosque to pray and one day we enter it in a coffin so that people can supplicate for us. Every day you leave your house in the vertical position; but the day will come when you will leave it horizontally (when you will be placed in your coffin); and you will never again return home. Naturally, none of the family members of the deceased will wait for him to return home. Rather, they will give away all his clothes and personal things to charity in order to forget him, and after 2 or 3 weeks he will be put out of their minds. Hence, he was a man, then just a death notice. Allah the Almighty says:

"And We made them as Ahadith (the true stories for mankind to learn a lesson from them)."

(Al-Mu'minun, 44)

 So, he used to be a man, then he became a death notice; and fast has been ordained in order to make the greatest calamity, death, the happiest moment in your life.

 "How great is the distress of my father!” He said, “There will be no more distress for your father after today. Tomorrow he will meet his loved ones, Muhammad and his companions."

A story and a lesson about the righteous end of a life:

 On one occasion, while visiting Turkey, I was given a book in the Arabic language about one of the great Turkish scholars who had written a small booklet about the prohibition of imitating disbelievers, especially wearing hats such as they do. Ten years later, Kemal Ataturk prohibited Islamic dress and ordered people to wear western clothes. He was informed that there was a book which prohibited it so he ordered to imprison the author of the book, although legislation can never be retroactive, this being guaranteed by all constitutions. So, that great scholar was imprisoned. Then, as transmitted by a friend of his who was his cell mate, he started to write a declaration that when he wrote that book, he had the approval of the Ministry of Education, then he obtained the printing permission, then the circulation permission; and thus he did not do anything that was against the law. He wrote more than 80 pages in his defense, pleading total innocence of this charge.
 One day, he woke up in a state of indescribable joy, happiness and optimism –his face was shining, his eyes glittering. He picked up the statement he had written and tore it up. His friend asked him why he had done it, saying that he had been writing it for a month! He answered: "I do not need it any more. I saw the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, in my dream and he told me I would be their guest the day after tomorrow." The following day he was hanged. What people saw with their eyes was his execution, but in reality he joined the company the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.
 Thus, there is a big difference between feeling that death is a terrifying incident, the biggest calamity, the change from everything to nothing; and feeling that death is a change from owning nothing to owning everything. Allah the Almighty says:

"Think not of those who are killed in the Way of Allah as dead. Nay, they are alive, with their Lord, and they have provision. * They rejoice in what Allah has bestowed upon them of His Bounty, rejoicing for the sake of those who have not yet joined them, but are left behind (not yet martyred) that on them no fear shall come, nor shall they grieve."

(Al-Imran, 169-170)

Such is the true believer's feeling about death:

 Dear brother, fast is ordained in order to turn the disaster of death into the joy of death, the perfect happiness and the absolute delight. To clarify it further, consider the example of a poor but intelligent man who is promised the post of the Minister of Health on condition of his obtaining a PhD degree. Such a post implies, according to our customs, being rich, having sumptuous house and luxurious vehicle, a villa by the sea, an astronomical salary, and so forth. Accordingly, the man travels to France and in order to make his living obtains the employment as a dishwasher in a restaurant and another job as a night guard. He has to attend his lectures in the morning and study at least four hours a day. He spends eight years learning the French language first, working hard, attending lectures, studying, washing dishes and working as a night watchman. He endures overwork, worries, problems, language examinations, exacting teachers, difficult curricula, extensive course books and demanding restaurant management. Eventually, he graduates, gets his diploma, has it ratified, packs up, hires a vehicle, heads for the airport, enters the airport lobby, shows his passport and ticket and receives his boarding card. Is not the moment he sets his foot on the airbridge the happiest moments in his life? It is a great day for him as all his misery and fatigue have come to an end and the bliss and the recompense have started.
 Such indeed is the situation of the true believer when death comes, as Sayyidina Bilal said:
 "Tomorrow l will meet the loved ones; Muhammad and his companions."

 Allah the Almighty says:

"O you who believe! Observing as-saum is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become al-muttaqun. "

 Which means that you should fear this hole –the grave, its darkness, its confinement and the snakes which are there. Allah the Almighty says:

"The Fire; they are exposed to it, morning and afternoon, and on the Day when the Hour will be established (it will be said to the angels): "Cause Fir'aun's (Pharaoh) people to enter the severest torment!"

(Ghafir, 46)

 Pharaoh and his people have been exposed to Hellfire every day, morning and afternoon, for 6000 years, and they will be till the Resurrection Day, while the believer's grave is a garden from the Gardens of Paradise. So, fast is a chance to change the greatest calamity into the happiest moment of your life. Hence, believers should fear the grave, the torture of the grave and of the Hellfire, the Torture of Allah, the One, the Judge, and fear the Punishment of Allah.
Allah the Almighty says:

"O you who believe! Observing as-saum is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become al-muttaqun. "

 In conclusion, fast is an intensive course in obeying Allah, in repenting to Him, in abiding by His Orders, in preventing what He has prohibited, in turning to Him and in feeling the taste of getting closer to Him, as the poet said:

If your eyes saw the Beauty of Ours the true believers have seen, you would never turn your back on Us for another’s sake

If your ears heard Our Nice Speech, you would cast away the garb of arrogance and come to Us
If you saw any of Our Illuminations, you would leave all creatures for Our Sake

Our Love is not easily found, and whoever thinks so We say to him: You have not really known Us.

 Dear brother, in Ramadan, the believer gets closer to Allah more than in any other month; and he can catch up with what he has missed in Ramadan after it has passed.

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