Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Effects of Fasting and Hunger

The book Spiritual Journey of the Mystics has a great chapter on fasting. Insha'allah over the next several days I might share some short portions of it, beginning with what follows belong.

In the narration of Prophet's heavenly journey (Me'raj) the following has been narrated:

"O' Ahmad! Do you comprehend the outcome of fasting? 'No.' Replied the Holy Prophet [s]. 'The outcome of fasting is less eating and less talking.' Replied Allah, then explained the outcome of silence and less speaking as follows:

'The result of silence is wisdom; the result of wisdom is enlightenment; the result of enlightenment is certainty; and when a person attains the Exalted spiritual position of certainty, then he does not care how does he start his day, whether with ease or hardship, and tragedy or comfort. Such is the state of those who have attained the position of content, and whoever attains this position acquires three inseparable characteristics: thanks (shukr) not contaminated with ignorance, invocation (dhikr) not mixed with forgetfulness and love/worship not mixed with the love/worship of others.'

With the above-mentioned introduction we may see the numerous advantages and important points including:

1. One can discover with certainty why Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), treats his guests with hunger. Is not hunger the best means of attaining His knowledge, nearness, and countenance? Are not Allah's knowledge, nearness and countenance the most dearest and esteemed things?

2. It also becomes clearly explicit that fasting is not merely a divine obligation, rather is an invitation for attaining divine ceremonies, whose requirement is a divine Grace bestowed upon us for which we must be thankful to Allah. Awareness of this point makes clear the divine proclamation in the following verse:

"O' ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may ward off (evil)." - Holy Qur'an (2:183)

is a proclamation, extremely honorable, esteemed, distinguished, and sweet, because, it is an invitation to sit upon the table full of His generosity and to attain the sacred spiritual station of His union (wasal) and countenance (laq'a).

3. Realization of the fact that the wisdom behind the indispensability of fasting that is less eating, is to weaken the sinful sensual passions; therefore, we should not indulge in over-eating and consuming more food than the daily requirements after fast-breaking (iftar), thus, in this manner making the fasting and hunger of the whole day as useless.

4. Awareness about the merits and advantages of fasting would reveal that in order to observe it properly with devotion, we must make our best efforts so that we are not deprived from utilizing its vast benefits.

5. Pondering about the indispensability of fasting would reveal things, which enhance the value and worth of fasting, things which decrease its worth, and things which contradict and oppose fasting. It is from these considerations that the meanings of the following tradition can be appreciated, which says:

"Fasting is not only renunciation of food and drink, while observing fasting your flesh, eyes, tongue, and in accordance with certain traditions even skin and hairs must observe fasting and must remain pious and ascetic."

6. The above explanation would also reveal that our aim and objective for fasting should not be either for the sake of freedom from Hell's punishment or for receiving the bounties of Paradise, even though both of these objectives are achieved through fasting. Rather our aim and intention from fasting should be that this deed would make us closer to Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), thus, helping us attaining union with Him. It would lead a human being farther apart from bodily sensual desires and would make him closer to angelic and spiritual virtues.

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