- Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
The Purpose of Fasting: Discovery of God's Blessings
Today instead of fasting, I will speak about hunger. When I was young, I once had the desire to know what hunger really is. I had to travel south from Azamgarh. The journey took me more than two days. Whenever a station would arrive, I would not deboard to eat food although I had money. When it was more than two days, my hunger increased. The train then stopped at a juncture where there was a canteen. People started proceeding toward the canteen. I too all so went in the direction of the canteen. But due to hunger I could not see properly where the canteen was located. Someone took my hand and made me reach the door of the canteen. When I went inside, everything was dark for my eyes. People were sitting and having food. Since I could not see properly, I began to sit on someone else. Then people pushed me and took me to an empty seat. I had to go to Bangalore. I could not differentiate between tables and chairs. One person took me to a chair and another ordered some food for me. When I had had food, I gave 100 rupees notes to the hotel staff. He returned some change. I began to leave without taking the money. So, he stopped me and put the extra money in my pocket.
The incident that followed was very unique. I reached Bangalore. It was a Bangalore different from what we see today. One day I was walking on a street. After a while someone held my clothes and pulled them. He was a stranger for me. Then he said to me that he had seen me at a canteen and told me that I was drunk then. I was actually not drunk, but my eyes were not able to see properly and so I was walking randomly, not being able to differentiate between tables and chairs. I later realized why the person had thought that I was drunk. The fact is that I was in a state of unconsciousness due to extreme hunger, not because I was drunk.
Now I have realized that hunger is something which suspends all the functioning of your body. After having food and water, a mechanism is set in motion which involves assimilation of the food eaten in the body. It is indeed unique! You need food without which you cannot do anything. This food grows from the soil, then water pours over it, and several other mechanisms follow. Finally, the food gets assimilated in the body. This is a unique mechanism. You cannot make anything work like this. Food and water convert into energy to give you strength. No factory can do this – convert food items to cells and tissue of your body and provide energy. The food and water you take convert to give you energy.
A British poet was once sitting adjacent to the dining table. He was not eating himself but seeing people and children eat. He then uttered: “It is very odd as odd as can be. Whatever Miss T eats turns into Miss T.” Food and water are separate entities outside the body of Miss T, but when she eats them, a natural mechanism was initiated. It is like a factory which converts the food she ate into blood, bones and tissue – everything that gives you life.
When I thought about this incident, I remembered an incident. It is said about the Prophet that he broke his fast with water. He was thirsty and drank water. Then Prophet uttered: “Thirst is quenched, nerves are refreshed and the reward is confirmed with God!” In other words, when I had water I got energy, my hands and legs began to walk. This mechanism of nature – when you eat food and water, it converts into energy. This is what fasting reminds you – the mechanism of nature is indeed unique. The sun gives you sunlight, rivers, clouds shed water from above – the whole universe is active to provide food to you, energy to your body, make you one who can see, hear and so on.
Fasting is for this – to remind you. If there is no water, you would be like the dead even though you were alive. Fasting is not so that you eat elaborate, delicious food. A Persian poet had said: People started eating more and more. What is actually desired during fasting is to discover what food is and what God’s blessings are really are. You are not required to eat a lot and then burp. You must discover the importance of God’s blessings – water, wind, food, crops, every edible item – all these are unique blessings.
Fasting is meant to give you an experience of hunger. I had experienced hunger and then also experienced what eating food is. This is the purpose of fasting. That is, you need to think how material things become part of the human personality.
I urge you all to discover this truth during fasting. God created you in this world, then gave you a custom-made universe. Everything that gives you energy has been spread out here in the world. In one word I will say that fasting is meant so that you experience hunger and when you break your fast, you should have discovered the greatness of God – how great blessings God has scattered throughout the world for us!