Fasting and Its Philosophy in Imam Ali’s Words

SHAFAQNA - Fasting and Ramadan is most well-known among the human beings for a long time.

Fasting has been common in Judaism, Christianity and other religions. In the existing Old and New Testament, we read that the prophet Moses and Prophet Jesus (peace be upon them) used to fast for 40 days.

Fasting has several consequences including personal, social, educative, health and clinical effects as well as material and spiritual advantages.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in a famous hadith states that “fast to become healthy”.

Meaning, Importance and Necessity of Fasting

Meaning: In the Holy Quran fasting is called “sawm” literally means “standing up without doing anything after it”.

Some others have interpreted it as keeping or abstaining something. Both meanings are correct based on the Islamic law’s meaning of fasting. It means a person’s abstinence from what has been forbidden in the Islamic law during a day with having an intention.

“Sawm” in Islam is a special kind of abstinence from food and other things which starts from dawn and ends up when night starts.

“Sawm” in Islamic law means: 1-abstinence from eating special things 2- in a special way 3- from persons with special characteristics 4- in the condition of having an intention.

It has also been mentioned in “Resale Amaliyeh” that fasting is when a person abstains from what breaks fasting from dawn to sunset in order to obey God’s commands.

Importance: Fasting is so important that it is interwoven with life and surviving. Fasting burns the extra fats and what has not been absorbed in our bodies. In fact, it does “spring cleaning” for our bodies.

Necessity: Today machinery life and synthetic foods and beverages have confronted human beings’ environment with a serious danger and have deprived human of tranquility. One of the most effective cures of all physical and mental diseases is “fasting therapy” in which bodies are cured by inhibiting of eating food, and souls are cured by watching egos. In a part of Ramadan pray, it is said that “God! Heal all the sick”.

Categories of Fasting

Fasting has different types in jurisprudence which are as follow:

Obligatory fasting, forbidden fasting, recommended fasting and disapproved but not forbidden fasting.

Obligatory fasting: Ramadan fasting and its compensation, atonement for fast, Qaza fasts of parents which are upon their oldest son, vowed fasts and rental fasts.

Forbidden(Makrouh) fasting: Eid al-Fitr (which is the first day of Shavval month, one of the months of lunar year immediately after Ramadan) fasting, Eid al-Qorban (10th day of Zil-hadjah month, another month of lunar year) fasting, harmful fasting, wives’ fasts if their husbands’ rights are not being reserved and kids’ fasts when offend their parents.

Disapproved fasting: Ashura fasting, fasting in a day when it has not been specified whether it is the Day of Arafah or Eid al-Qorban, guest’s fast without his/her host’s permit.

Recommended fasting: Fasting in all days of the year except those mentioned before (which are forbidden) is recommended but fasting in some days have been enforced.

Another Type of Fasting Categorization

In a Hadith, fasting has been classified into two groups by Imam Ali (AS): body fast and soul fast.

Body fast is in a lower place of fasting and it is limited to a specific time. Since everybody with a weak will is able to body fast, it is considered an easy fasting.

Not eating for some hours is easy for a religious person. She/he is able not to eat and drink even for some days and survive safe and sound.

What is important is soul fast which covers a wide range of activities, so it is a tough fasting. It is not possible for everyone, and every person cannot achieve it through physical fasting.

Body fasting could be a preparation to the higher level of soul fasting. Overcoming doubts, temptations and incentives is not achievable by just body and physical fasting.

Another point is that at the level of soul fasting, all of organs do fast. Ears, eyes, looks, tongues, minds and breaths do fast. These organs fast when person eats and sleeps. They fast not only among people but also in private.

Imam Ali (AS) states that soul fast is the avoidance of sins of five senses. So souls can be set aside from filth.

If man’s soul fasts, five senses would be always vigilant. So the soul would not tend to do sins.

The Philosophy of Fasting

1- Strengthening faith and will

Imam Ali (AS) has said that “Certainly, the best things to be resorted to for God seekers are believing in God and his prophet, Jihad in their way which makes Islam proud, being a theist that human being’s nature demands, praying which is religion pillar and paying Zakat (that is the needy’s rights in your properties and is obligatory in Islam) and Ramadan fasting which deters from torment”.

Imam has also said that “It’s upon you to fast in Ramadan that is like a shield preventing you from the Hell”.

2- Self -building

Self-building and patience-practicing in worshiping should be started from fasting.

Regarding this, Imam Ali (AS) says “Avoidance of God’s disobedience has protected God’s servants from sins and has accompanied their souls by God, so they are vigilant during nights and fast during the hot days therefore they achieve Hereafter’s comfort by this world’s agony.

The Almighty God has said in the Holy Quran: “Certainly, every affliction is accompanied by a relief”. So every thirst is followed by an encouragement and every hunger is followed by an advantage.

Imam Ali says that” God obligated fasting to test servants’ sincerities”.

Sincerity as well as all man’s beliefs should be tested in such a huge examination as Ramadan.

Westerns consider fasting as health warranty but they are unaware of its effect on human being’s psych. Since fasting is a treatment for many psychotic diseases and stresses.

The main secret of fasting in Islam is attaining souls’ health. If it is not fulfilled, human has lost everything.

3- Fighting against arrogance:

The establisher of arrogance is Satan. Therefore, to fight against arrogance we should fight against Satan and participate in major Jihad. This fighting has no end, peace does not take place in it and it continues until the Dooms Day.

One of the objectives of prophets’ mission has been fighting against the arrogance. Another aim has been human capital training.

Imam Ali (AS) has also said: One of great aims of worships such as fasting is overcoming the arrogance.

Imam states that: “If God had given the power of pride to one of His servants, certainly He would have given a grace to His selected prophets, but the Almighty God did not like pride and preferred humbleness for them. So prophets humiliate their face on soil out of humility and were humble in front of the pious and they themselves were the oppressed ones. God enquired them by hunger and entangled them in adversities and examined them by fears and sickness and rummaged them in adversities and via these solidified their faith.”



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