Allah, Exalted is He says,
“O you who have faith! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you – so that hopefully you will have taqwa.” [Surah al-Baqarah (2): 183]
Meaning that hopefully you can safeguard yourselves from the Fire through fasting; fasting is a means to the forgiveness of sins, and sins lead one to the Fire.
The Two Sahihs record the hadith in which the Prophet (sallAllahu‘alayhi wa sallam) said,
“Islam is built upon five: that you worship Allah and reject the worship of anything else, to establish the prayer, the giving of zakat, performing pilgrimage to the House and fasting the month of Ramadan.” [This is a wording of Muslim, Bukhari has the first sentence as 'that you testify that none has the right to be worshipped save Allah']
The Virtues of Fasting
Fasting carries with it a number of benefits, amongst which are:
1. The elevation of ones rank.
2. The expiation of sins.
3. The breaking of ones desires and lusts.
4. The increase of charity.
5. The multiplication of actions of obedience to Allah.
6. Giving thanks to the One who knows the hidden matters, and
7. Preventing oneself from even contemplating the committing of sin.
1. The Elevation of Rank
With regards the elevation of rank, the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,
“When Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened, the gates of Hellfire are locked and the devils are chained.” [Reported by Bukhari]
He (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also said, relating from His Lord, Mighty and Magnificent,
“All of the actions of the son of Adam are for him except the fast for that is for Me and I will reward it. Fasting is protecting shield, so when it is the day when one of you are fasting, let him not behave or speak indecently; if someone tries to abuse or fight him, let him say, ‘I am fasting’. By the One in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, the smell emanating from the mouth of the one fasting is better with Allah then the smell of musk. The one fasting has two time of joy, when he breaks his fast he is happy and when He meets his Lord he will rejoice at his fasting.” [Reported by Bukhari and Muslim]
He (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also said,
“Every action that the son of Adam does, [its reward] will be multiplied, a good deed will be increased tenfold up to seven-hundred fold. Allah, Mighty and Magnificent, says, ‘except for the fast, for that is for Me and I will reward it for he left his desires and food for My sake.’” [Reported by Muslim]
He (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,
“In paradise there is a gate which is called ar-Rayyan through which the people who fasted will enter on the Day of Judgment, and no one else shall enter alongside them. It will be asked, ‘where are those who fasted?’ and they will walk through it, and upon the entry of the last of them, it will be locked, and no one else will walk through it.” [Reported by Bukhari and Muslim]
In another version the wording is,
“There is in Paradise a gate that is called ar-Rayyan, those who fasted will be summoned to it and whoever fasted will enter through it, and whoever enters it will never again experience thirst.” [Reported by at-Tirmidhi and an-Nasa'i]
“When people eat in the presence of a fasting person, the Angels invoke blessings upon him, until they finish.” [Reported by Ahmad and at-Tirmidhi]
With regards the ‘opening of the gates of Paradise’, this is a phrase that points to the increase of actions of obedience that in turn lead to the opening of the gates of Paradise. ‘Locking the gates of the Fire’ is a phrase that points to the decrease, and lack of therewith, of sins which in turn leads to the locking of the gates of the Fire. ‘The chaining of the devils’ is a phrase that points to the termination of their whisperings, and temptations, to those who are fasting because they give up hope of receiving a favorable response.
His saying, “All of the actions of the son of Adam are for him except the fast for that is for Me and I will reward it,” fasting has been specifically adjoined to Him in order to honour it because the hidden nature of fasting prevents ostentation entering it, and moreover, hunger and thirst are not used as means to draw closer to any king of this world nor any idol.
His saying, “And I will reward it,” even though He rewards all actions of obedience, this phrase points to the greatness of the reward of fasting.
His saying, “Fasting is a protecting shield”, means that fasting serves as barrier erected between the person and the punishment of Allah.
His saying, “let him say, ‘I am fasting,’” means let him remind himself that he is fasting so that this would serve to prevent him from repaying like with like.
His saying, “The smell emanating from the mouth of the one fasting is better with Allah then the smell of musk,” meaning that the reward for the smell emanating from the mouth of the fasting person is better with Allah than the smell of musk. [This explanation is a point of some difference and was the cause of a famous debate between ibn as-Salah and the author, may Allah have mercy on both.]
As for the two times of joy, the first is because the one fasting has been granted the divine accord to complete this act of worship and the second is because of the reward he will attain when Allah rewards him.
His saying, “He left his desires and food for My sake” meaning that he chose the obedience of his Lord over the obedience of the call of his soul, whoever chooses Allah, Allah chooses him. This is why when someone desires to commit a sin, then leaves committing it for fear of Allah, He says to the recording Angels, ‘Record it as a good deed, for he only left giving in to his lusts for My sake.’
With regards their being specified to enter Paradise through the gate of ar-Rayyan, this specification is because of the greatness of this act of fasting and its unique character.
With regards the Angels invoking blessings upon the one fasting, in whose presence food is eaten, this is because on such an occasion he has to exert himself more in fighting his desire to eat. Their invoking blessings upon him is a phrase denoting their asking for his forgiveness and mercy to be bestowed him.
2. The Expiation of Sins
With regards the expiation of sins, the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,
“One Ramadan to the next serves as anexpiation for what is done between them, so long as the major sins are avoided.” [Reported by Muslim]
“Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan, out of faith and expectant of reward, his previous sins will be forgiven him.” [Reported by Bukhari and Muslim]
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