The Spirit of Fasting: Gratitude to God
Ramazan is called ‘roza’ in urdu, and ‘fasting’ in English. People generally consider it a month of reward. But ‘reward’ is an ambiguous term. In truth, Ramazan is a month of training. This training is not in a limited sense. For example, the Prophet observed fasting. One day when he broke his fast, had food and then said: “I fasted by God’s permission. I fasted by the sustenance given by God and I broke my fast with the sustenance provided by God.” When the Prophet drank water, he said: “Nerves are refreshed and reward has been established with God!” On usual days, the experience of nerves being refreshed is had less often. But when, you feel hungry and thirsty. If you then drink water, you realize how big a blessing water is. On usual days also you understand the importance of water, but if you drink water when you are very thirsty, the realization of its importance increases manifold. When you eat and drink after being hungry and thirsty, your feelings about God’s blessings become intense. The purpose of fasting is to know that food and water are indeed big blessings of God. When you remain hungry throughout the day, you realize that food provides you with strength and without it you become weak and unable to perform any work. So, you are reminded of the blessings of food and water during Ramazan. We need to revive the realization of God’s blessings, we need to rethink how important the blessings of food and water are. I once went to Kashmir. There I had water after a long time during the day. When I had water after feeling very thirsty, I drank about six glasses! This is the purpose of fasting – to remember God’s blessings and the sustenance which He has provided us. When you have intense realization of the importance of food and water, you will remember all other blessings of God. This entire universe has been made by God for man. This entire universe is custom-made for man. This is indeed a unique mercy of God – He has made the entire universe custom-made for us! When you break your fast at the time of iftar and offer tarawih prayers, your realization of God’s blessings increases manifold. Only food and water are not blessings. Everything we have is God’s blessing. For example, the air all around us – we breathe in oxygen from the air. This oxygen which we inhale is a great blessing. Oxygen is so precious that we cannot survive without it. When we exhale, we breathe out carbon dioxide. This is indeed a great system of nature. Everything we have is a blessing from God Almighty. We need to remember these blessings and thank God for them. Shukr (gratitude) is a result of deep feeling of God’s blessings and bounties (atiyat-e-ilahi ka gehra ehsas). We need to revive this feeling. During Ramazan, we need to try our utmost to lead lives as thankful servants of God. Your worship and every other action of yours should include the emotion of gratitude to God. This should not be your state only during a month in the year, but throughout the year and during the whole of your life. I pray to God to make us thankful to Him. May God accept our worship and our thankfulness. Question and Answer Session Q1. What is the significance of tasawwuf? A1. There is a spirit and a form of tasawwuf. The current form of tasawwuf is entirely based on the heart. I do not subscribe to this notion of tasawwuf. But the other kind of tasawwuf – one based on the mind – is the right tasawwuf and is very much according to Islam. Islamic tasawwuf is based on the mind, while the ritualistic tasawwuf is based on the heart. I do not believe in the latter, rather I follow mind-based tasawwuf. This point has been explained in detail in my book ‘Discovering God’. Q2. Please tell something about Maulana Mawdudi. A2. I have met Maulana Mawdudi perhaps twice. I have written about this. You can read about this. Q3. How to develop shukr? A3. The way for this is reflection and contemplation. Q4. Can we give zakat to someone without mentioning it publicly? A4. Yes, the real significance is of one’s intention (niyat). Q5. Please say something about Javed Ghamidi Sb. A5. Ghamidi Sb is a good scholar. I respect him. I have even met him in Dubai. Q6. What is the command for the disabled? Will they have ease in the Hereafter? A6. Yes, they will be in a situation of ease. They will receive God’s special mercy. They must thank God and never indulge in complaints. In this way, their reward will increase manifold. Q7. Please give me spiritual guidance. A7. The greatest thing is shukr, or to acknowledge God. You must remember God often and thank Him much. This is the greatest form of worship. Q8. I can’t fast because of physical weakness. What should I do instead? A8. You should pray and perform worship. One who cannot fast is excused according to all scholars. Providing food to the poor is to be done by those who leave fasting for some other reason. Whatever you do will be accepted by God. Q9. How to be positive in a situation of loss? A9. You should pray for the one who has caused you loss. You must also pray for compensation from God. In such a situation, you need to also do shukr (gratitude to God). Shukr needs to be done in every situation. Q10. I get angry a lot. How to manage my anger? I just performed my prayer and cried. I asked God to help me. Please advise. A10. I have written a lot on anger. I myself used to get very angry. I realized that not being angry is a great form of worship. If you sip your anger, you will get great reward. This made me control my anger. Q11. What is the real purpose of fasting – is it learning discipline? A11. The real purpose of fasting is training ourselves to leave those things which are undesirable and to be thankful for God’s blessings such as food and water.