Our beloved Messenger ﷺ said, “Fasting is half of ṣabr” (Tirmidhī).

Ṣabr, often translated as patience, refers to holding back our reactions and being in control of our emotions, and to persevere in doing something we dislike, for the sake of Allah.

The reward of ṣabr is unique. Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā) informs us,

إِنَّمَا يُوَفَّى ٱلصَّٰبِرُونَ أَجْرَهُم بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ

“Certainly, those who observe patience will be given their reward in full without measure” (39:10).

Like fasting, the reward of ṣabr has been left unspecified. It has been kept a surprise. This is because it is a difficult quality to attain. To persevere and not give up, to endure life’s difficulties without complaint and to continue struggling against all the odds is a trait of the great. It is as Allah described, one of the “matters that require strong resolve” (31:7).

Ṣabr is the path to attaining Allah’s forgiveness, mercy, and guidance. It is the secret to worldly and eternal success. It is the means of being protected from one’s enemies, and to becoming a role model for the believers. Ṣabr leads to one enjoying the special companionship (maʿiyyah) of Allah, and attaining His love.

There are three types of ṣabr:

(1) Ṣabr in obeying Allah.

(2) Ṣabr in staying away from sins.

(3) Ṣabr in regards to the trials Allah has decreed.

Fasting combines the first two types. If we develop the first two types, it will become much easier for us to have ṣabr of the 3rd category when we face difficulties in our lives.

The 1st type of Sabr

The 1st type of ṣabr involves persevering and remaining steadfast on the commands of Allah. Throughout Ramaḍān, standing for long during the night prayers, spending long durations in the recitation of the Qur’ān, and iʿtikāf in the masjid require ṣabr. Fasting for 20+ hours in certain countries, along with other life commitments, such as long hours at work, isn’t always easy. Thus, enduring the hunger, thirst and fatigue for the sake of Allah develops ṣabr.

The 2nd type of Sabr

The second type of ṣabr is ṣabr on staying away from sins. Fasting especially, is designed to help us develop this type of ṣabr. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Fasting is a shield from the Hell-fire” (Tirmidhī). Fasting restrains lust and greed for food. Fasting also includes the ‘fasting’ of the tongue, eyes, ears etc. Controlling these impulses should make us less vulnerable to shayṭān and sinning. When this occurs, our hearts become purified, and we will inshāAllah be saved from the punishment of Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā).

Fasting is a physical and spiritual detox: it removes the toxins from the body and the spiritual heart, allowing our bodies and souls to heal and become healthy. Fasting is a training programme to help us stop sinning, especially the sins of the tongue, and eyes:

The tongue

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “There are many who fast, who gain nothing of their fast except hunger; and there are many who stand for the night prayer, who gain nothing of their prayer except sleeplessness” (Ibn Mājah).

This ḥadīth illustrates the wisdom behind fasting. It is not merely to give up food, drink and intimacy, but rather it is to be conscious of Allah in every action.

In order to protect ourselves from this warning, we should be extremely conscious of our tongues in Ramaḍān. This includes:

– Backbiting and slandering

– Lying

– Foul language

– Saying hurtful things

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Whoever does not give up lying and false conduct, Allah has no need in him giving up his food and his drink” (Bukhārī).

“If you see hardness in your heart, weakness in your body, and deprivation in your livelihood, know that you have spoken about something that does not concern you!” – Mālik b. Dīnār (rahimahullah)

We should be conscious in our dealings, and we should make an active effort to stop cheating, being fraudulent in our dealings, and dealing with interest (ribā).

Ramaḍān is the perfect time to cultivate our akhlāq (good character), to develop self-restraint, and to control our tongues. The Prophet ﷺ taught us a method to use during our fasts: “When one of you wakes up fasting, he should neither use obscene language nor act ignorantly. If anyone insults him or argues with him, he should say: ‘I am fasting, I am fasting.’” (Muslim)

“A man fasts from the pure and lawful, but he breaks his fast with the evil and unlawful: the flesh of his brother (i.e. ruins his fast by backbiting his brother).” – Yāḥyā b. Kathīr (raḥimahullāh)

Ramaḍān should train us to become real Muslims, as our beloved Prophet ﷺ said, “The Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand the people are safe.” (Nasā’ī)

Anger

ʿAbdullāh b. al-Mubārak (raḥimahullāh) was asked, “Summarise for us good character in one phrase.” He replied, “Avoiding anger.” Ramaḍān is the time to control our anger, and especially when we may be feeling irritable due to hunger (‘hangry’). If you feel angry, seek Allah’s protection from shayṭān, perform wuḍū, move away and control your tongue.

“Tie up your anger with a ‘chain’ of forbearance. Anger is like a dog; if it is let loose, it will wreak havoc.” – Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahullāh)

The purpose of fasting is to attain taqwā: to train ourselves to stop sinning. Sometimes we may limit our understanding of worship and taqwā to something which is only between us and Allah. But what fasting teaches us is that Allah takes the rights of His slaves very seriously. If we violate the honour and rights of our fellow believers, our fasting becomes deficient, and may not be accepted to Allah. Hours and nights of worship can be reduced into nothing, and it may be due to just a minute of backbiting. The nūr of fasting and qiyām should become apparent in our daily lives, and especially in our interactions with our families, neighbours and colleagues.

“Let there be an aura of tranquillity and dignity on the day of your fast. And don’t make the day when you fast the same as the day you don’t fast.” – Jābir b. ʿAbdillāh (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhumā)

The Eyes

We have to protect ourselves from all ḥarām, including looking at that which is ḥarām. This has become especially more important in our times, with the increase in shamelessness, easy access to ḥarām images and the normalisation of it. The eye is the entry point to our heart. What we look at affects our emotions, desires and thoughts. Gazing at ḥarām gives shayṭān open access to our hearts.

Ramaḍān is the time to delete/unfollow/end any ḥarām interactions with the opposite gender.

Which category do you wish to belong to: Angels, Devils or Animals?

Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahullāh) explained that when the ṣabr of the human overcomes his lusts and desires, he joins the ranks of the angels. However, if his lusts and desires overcome his ṣabr, he joins the rank of the devils. And if his eating, drinking, and sexual intimacy overcome his ṣabr, he joins the rank of the animals.

Fasting: A Metaphor For Life

Fasting is a metaphor for life. Throughout the day, we experience hunger, thirst and tiredness. We experience difficulties for the sake of Allah. At the end of the day, we gladly eat and say,

ذَهَبَ الظَّمَأُ ، وَابْتَلَّتِ الْعُرُوْقُ ، وَثَبَتَ الْأَجْرُ إِنْ شَاءَ اللهُ

“The thirst has gone, the veins have been moistened, and the reward has been secured, if Allah wills.”

Likewise, throughout our lives we should undergo struggle and difficulties in seeking knowledge, establishing the dīn of Allah on His earth, and staying away from the ḥarām. And at the time of death, we hope that we will also figuratively say, “The thirst has gone, the veins have been moistened, and the reward has been secured, if Allah wills.” The difficulties have come to an end, and we hope for a great reward by Allah, al-Aẓīm (The Magnificent).

2. Taqwa: The Purpose of Fasting
4. Fasting & Shukr: The Blessing of Iftar and Suhur