Eid-ul-Fitr Sermon: Sincerity required when we are Fasting in Ramadan
by Shahid Aziz
24 October 2006 (Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat-e-Islam Lahore, UK)
Chapter 2, verse 183 of the Holy Quran tells us:
یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا کُتِبَ عَلَیۡکُمُ الصِّیَامُ کَمَا کُتِبَ عَلَی الَّذِیۡنَ مِنۡ قَبۡلِکُمۡ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تَتَّقُوۡنَ ﴿۱۸۳﴾ۙ
“O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil.” [The Holy Quran, 2:183]
So fasting is not a new religious duty or discipline. Earlier communities too fasted and this is evidenced by the fasts of the prophets Moses and Jesus in particular. It is true that fasts of other communities were seen as punishment so that by inflicting hardship and pain on oneself a person expatiated for one’s sins whereas in Islam the purpose of fasting is to
“guard against evil ”.
But there is another purpose to fasting. In verse 185 the Holy Quran says:
شَہۡرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِیۡۤ اُنۡزِلَ فِیۡہِ الۡقُرۡاٰنُ ہُدًی لِّلنَّاسِ وَ بَیِّنٰتٍ مِّنَ الۡہُدٰی وَ الۡفُرۡقَانِ ۚ فَمَنۡ شَہِدَ مِنۡکُمُ الشَّہۡرَ فَلۡیَصُمۡہُ ؕ
“The month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was revealed, a guidance to people and clear proofs of the guidance and the Criterion. So whoever of you is present in the month, he shall fast therein…” [The Holy Quran, 2:185]
and in another place:
اِنَّاۤ اَنۡزَلۡنٰہُ فِیۡ لَیۡلَۃٍ مُّبٰرَکَۃٍ اِنَّا کُنَّا مُنۡذِرِیۡنَ ﴿۳﴾
“We revealed it on a blessed night — truly We are ever warning.” (The Holy Quran, 44:3)
So another purpose of fasting is to give thanks to Allah for bestowing the Perfect Guidance upon humanity. And that is why the month of Ramadan is called the holy month or the blessed month for it is in this month that Allah bestowed upon us His greatest blessing — the Holy Quran. That is one reason for Ramadan being called holy or blessed but there are other reasons also.
As we all know, to honour the previous prophets, the Holy Prophet Muhammad kept voluntary fasts before fasting was made mandatory. It was in the second year of Hijra [Islamic Era] that fasting was made compulsory for the Muslims and the whole community began to fast in an organized manner. As I said, the purpose of fasting is to enable Muslims to
“guard against evil ”
but in another place the Holy Quran says:
وَ الصَّآئِمِیۡنَ وَ الصّٰٓئِمٰتِ وَ الۡحٰفِظِیۡنَ فُرُوۡجَہُمۡ وَ الۡحٰفِظٰتِ وَ الذّٰکِرِیۡنَ اللّٰہَ کَثِیۡرًا وَّ الذّٰکِرٰتِ ۙ اَعَدَّ اللّٰہُ لَہُمۡ مَّغۡفِرَۃً وَّ اَجۡرًا عَظِیۡمًا ﴿۳۵﴾
“…the fasting men and the fasting women, and the men who guard their chastity and the women who guard, and the men who remember Allah much and women who remember — Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a mighty reward.” (The Holy Quran, 33:35)
So what reward were the Holy Prophet Muhammad and his companions given for fasting? When we think of reward we always think of comforts of this world, the things that will make our lives easy. That is not what Allah means by reward.
The sincerity and devotion with which the Holy Prophet and his companions took to fasting was immediately rewarded. Their reward for fasting came within days of starting to fast. It came in the form of news that a well-armed army was marching from Makkah to Madina in order to annihilate Muslims. What great faith did those early Muslims have who had to march out immediately after fasting was made compulsory.
It is reported in Bukhari:
“When (the news of) the advance of Abu Sufyan (at the head of a force) reached the Messenger of Allah he held consultations with his Companions. Abu Bakr spoke (expressing his own views), but he (the Holy Prophet) did not pay heed to him. Then spoke Umar (expressing his views), but he (the Holy Prophet) did not pay heed to him (too). Then Sa‘d bin Ubada stood up and said: Messenger of Allah, you want us (to speak). By God in Whose control is my life, if you order us to plunge our horses into the sea, we would do so. If you order us to goad our horses to the most distant place like Bark al-Ghimad, we would do so. Now the Messenger of Allah called upon the people (for the encounter). So they set out and encamped at Badr.” (Book 19, Number 4394).
In one report it is said that the Ansar said that they will not say to the Holy Prophet what Moses’ followers had said to him, which was that Moses and his God should go and fight.
The army that was gathered is generally believed to consist of 313. Among the army there were boys as young as 16. The cavalry consisted of 2 horses and the transport of some 70 camels. Most people marched on foot. It was 80 miles from Madina to Badr where the encounter took place. And this was their first Ramadan. On the other side were a 1000 well armed men and when they lined up for battle they were well fed and well rested. What was their reward then? Their reward was that Islam and its devotions had freed them from the wants and needs of this world. They sacrificed their property and they sacrificed their lives at the Command of Allah and His Prophet. They had no need for these things, all they wanted was Allah’s pleasure. Their reward was that they were forever immortalised. Their reward was that all their shortcomings were forgiven by Allah and their reward was that their deeds were preserved in the Holy Quran. How would money and power and silks and jewels compare with their reward!
Our Christian friends believe that had it not been for the original sin, man would have lived for ever. It is as if death is the end of everything. My grand-daughters have moved to their next school. Their existence in the last school has come to an end but they continue to exist; they have moved on to a higher form of education. This was the secret that was instilled into the early Muslims. Death to them was not an end, it was simply moving on to the next stage in a journey. It was this lesson they put into practice at Badr and changed the course of Islam, and the course of history.
The Holy Quran says:
وَ لَقَدۡ نَصَرَکُمُ اللّٰہُ بِبَدۡرٍ وَّ اَنۡتُمۡ اَذِلَّۃٌ ۚ فَاتَّقُوا اللّٰہَ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تَشۡکُرُوۡنَ ﴿۱۲۳﴾
“And Allah certainly helped you at Badr when you were weak. So keep your duty to Allah that you may give thanks” (The Holy Quran, 3:123).
There was another event of similar magnitude which took place in Ramadan and that was the conquest of Makkah. It was on the 10th of Ramadan in the 8th year after Hijra that the Quraish violated the truce of Hudaibiya they had signed two years earlier. Although the Holy Prophet had signed the treaty against the wishes of his companions the wisdom of so doing could now be seen because in just two years of peace tables had been turned and Muslims had become a powerful force. The Quraish immediately called for an emergency meeting and decided to delegate their chief Abu Sufyan to Madina for a renewal of the truce. But all Muslims he approached, being aware of his tricks, would not speak to him or do anything for him.
Abu Sufyan returned to Makkah in a state of bitter disappointment and utter horror. There he submitted a report which dismayed the Makkans but did not expect imminent danger. The Holy Prophet prayed to Allah to keep his preparations a secret. As the Muslim army gathered the Holy Prophet received a revelation that the secret had been betrayed. Hazrat Ali and Zubair rushed out of Madina looking for the spy and brought back a women who had a letter hidden in the braids of her hair. She revealed that a companion by the name of Hatib was the author of the letter. It turned out that Hatib had a son and other family there and wanted to protect his family. In any country such a person would have been punished by death but such was the dignity and honour bestowed on the participants of the battle of Badr that despite Hazrat Umar’s insistence the Holy Prophet pardoned Hatib.
As the Muslims neared Makkah the Holy Prophet asked them to spread out and at night light as many fires as possible. Realizing that it was a momentous occasion the Holy Prophet gave strict instructions that fighting was to be engaged in as a last resort. He announced an amnesty through Abu Sufyan, the Chief of Makkah. The holy city was conquered without any fighting and there was no bloodshed as the Holy Prophet declared a general amnesty. This was a blessing and reward for sincere fasting and obedience to Allah.
As the Muslims had fasted out of sincere faith Allah had rewarded them by supporting them on two occasions which changed the course of history. Islam changes communities by providing the individual with the opportunities to rise to the highest level of the spiritual plane. We do have the guidance which can take us to the same heights as prophets but Allah makes things easy for us. As the Holy Quran says:
یُرِیۡدُ اللّٰہُ بِکُمُ الۡیُسۡرَ وَ لَا یُرِیۡدُ بِکُمُ الۡعُسۡرَ ۫
“Allah desires ease for you, and He desires not hardship for you”. [The Holy Quran, 2:185]
And to make things easy for us Allah has so arranged that in Ramadan, especially on Laila-tul-Qadr [The Night of Majesty], angels descend to the lowest firmament of heavens. The Holy Quran says:
اِنَّاۤ اَنۡزَلۡنٰہُ فِیۡ لَیۡلَۃِ الۡقَدۡرِ ۚ﴿ۖ۱﴾ وَ مَاۤ اَدۡرٰىکَ مَا لَیۡلَۃُ الۡقَدۡرِ ؕ﴿۲﴾ لَیۡلَۃُ الۡقَدۡرِ ۬ۙ خَیۡرٌ مِّنۡ اَلۡفِ شَہۡرٍ ؕ﴿ؔ۳﴾ تَنَزَّلُ الۡمَلٰٓئِکَۃُ وَ الرُّوۡحُ فِیۡہَا بِاِذۡنِ رَبِّہِمۡ ۚ مِنۡ کُلِّ اَمۡرٍ ۙ﴿ۛ۴﴾ سَلٰمٌ ۟ۛ ہِیَ حَتّٰی مَطۡلَعِ الۡفَجۡرِ ٪﴿۵﴾
“Surely We revealed it on the Night of Majesty. And what will make you comprehend what the Night of Majesty is? The Night of Majesty is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend in it by the permission of their Lord — for every affair — Peace! it is till the rising of the morning.” (The Holy Quran, 97:1–5)
Could it be any easier to attain nearness to Allah? He sends down His angels and He comes down Himself and calls out if there is any one who needs His help. He stretches out His hand as a father would to a drowning child to pull the child ashore. How unfortunate is the person who does not take advantage of this! We make a show of fasting but it cannot be sincere because if our fasting was sincere we would achieve what the companions did. We continuously ask for the reason for our fall from grace. Surely the answer is staring us in the face and that is that our devotions are not sincere, they are not for the sake of Allah, they are for show and to impress people with our piety. At the end of this Ramadan let us resolve to make everything that we do for the sake of Allah.