Prepare to Receive the Fragrance of Fasting
As the month of Ramadan fast approaches, and as Muslims the world over await its arrival in joyous anticipation, here is a short piece by Ibn al-Qayyim to help prepare its welcome. He says, while commenting on the following hadith:
‘God enjoins upon you the fast. Indeed, the likeness of that is as a man carrying a sack-full of musk in a crowd of people, all of them revelling in its fragrance. For the breath of someone fasting is more fragrant to God, exalted is He, than the smell of musk.’1
The Prophet uses the imagery of a person carrying a sack-full of musk hidden from view, under his clothes, after the habit of those who carry musk. Likewise, fasting is hidden from the eyes of people and unperceived by their senses. The fasting person’s limbs fast (abstain) from sins; his tongue fasts from lies, foul speech and false witness; his stomach fasts from food and drink; and his genitals fast from sexual union. If he speaks, he says nothing to violate his fast; and if he acts, he does nothing to spoil his fast. All his speech is salutary and wholesome, as are his deeds – just like fragrance one smells while sitting next to the bearer of musk. Anyone who sits with a fasting person benefits from his presence and is safe from false witness, lies, foul language and wrongdoing. This is the fast prescribed by the Sacred Law; it is not simply abstinence from eating or drinking.
Hence, one sound hadith has it: ‘Whoever does not refrain from speaking and acting falsely, or acting ignorantly, God does not need him to refrain from food and drink.’2 In another hadith: ‘Perhaps a fasting person gains nothing from his fast except hunger and thirst.’3
True fasting, then, is when the limbs abstain from sin and the stomach from food and drink. As food and drink can break the fast or spoil it, so sins can cut off its rewards and spoil its fruits; as if one had not fasted at all.4
1. Al-Tirmidhi, no.2867; Ibn Hibban, no.1222. The hadith is sahih.
2. Al-Bukhari, no.1903.
3. Ibn Majah, no.1690; al-Bayhaqi, Shu‘ab al-Iman, no.3642.
4. Al-Wabil al-Sayyib (Beirut & Damascus: Maktabah Dar al-Bayan, 2006), 59-60.
Thank you for this post.
I find its impact so strong despite the fact that it’s a relatively brief post.
Thank you for describing the “inner” fast (I don’t know what else to call it) of the body and senses, alongside the giving up of food & drink.
I will be revisiting this post a lot. It’s inspiring.
All good wishes,
Thank you for your comment. The term, “inner” fast has indeed been used by Muslim scholars, though they use it to refer to the fasting of the heart (or soul). The first article I ever wrote in the blog discusses the three levels of fasting, and can be read here: http://thehumblei.com/2012/08/13/fasting-starving-the-ego-feeding-the-soul/
Once again, thank you for your comment and kind words.
Thank you sharing this other very interesting post. I just read it.
All good wishes,
Wonderful and inspiring. Please continue illuminating the beauty back into our actions.
Jazakallahu khayran. May Allah guide us both to the ways of beauty.
JazakAllahu Khairan. Its Beautiful and inspiring alhamdulillah
Barakallahu fikum. May Allah perfume us all with fasting’s fragrance.
Jazakallahu khayran. Ibn al-Qayyim’s words do indeed have a way of touching hearts.
Concise and to the point. Strikes directly at the essence of the fast.
May Allah grant us its reality and essence in our lives.