By Mohammad Okasha
Fasting is an obligation and it has been decreed in the religions that preceded Islam. Almighty Allah says in the Quran,
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous. (Al-Baqarah 2-183)
The main goal of fasting according to the verse is that the Muslim becomes righteous and God-fearing. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said in a hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah, “Fasting is a shield. When any one of you is fasting on a day, he should neither indulge in obscene language, nor raise the voice; or if anyone reviles him or tries to quarrel with him he should say: I am a person fasting.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
The hadith shows that fasting is a shield against obscenity and ill manners, and that such acts are highly disapproved from the fasting person.
In another hadith, Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported, “The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “If one does not eschew lies and false conduct, Allah has no need that he should abstain from his food and his drink.” (Al-Bukhari) Thus, fasting is inconsistent with lying, falsehood and perjury.
But! Why does fasting seem fruitless today? Why doesn’t one find that positive effect of fasting on Muslims’ attitude? Why don’t Muslims change fro the better in Ramadan?
Unconsciousness of God, evil manners, falsehood, perjury and other bad things are widespread among an extensive part of Muslims. What’s wrong?
In fact, our problem now is acute and enormous. At a glance, one observes a great deal of deviation in some Muslims’ manners in various sides of the Muslim community.
The positive effect of worship in general dwindles and disappears from the Muslims’ life. One witnesses those who are habitual to attend to prayer in its due times, observe fasting and pay in charity, but the ethical dimension with them is progressively retreating.
This serious phenomenon reveals an interruption in the relationship between Muslims and worship.
To know how and why this happens, let’s recall the concept of worship.
What is worship?
According to Ibn Taymiyyah (a well-known Muslim scholar), worship is a comprehensive term that comprises all that pleases Allah the Almighty of the sayings, and the outer and inner deeds.
Everything that pleases Allah, including rituals, permissible works or activities, truthful intentions, sincere beliefs, good feelings and other similar things, are included in the general meaning of worship.
It is so comprehensive that it applies to all the permissible material and moral actions which are done for the sake of God. Thus, it embraces all the Muslim’s life, as Almighty Allah says,
Say, “Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah , Lord of the worlds. (Al-A`raf 6:162)
According to the verse, even death can be an act of worship. However, what did happen to that meaning?
Worship turned into mere customs
The basis of the acceptance of worship is two things: being dedicated for the sake of Allah alone, and compliance with the instruction of the Quran and Sunnah.
If an action meets these conditions, it is an act of worship. The influence of worship is depending on these two requirements. Also, worship must be offered with Khushu (reverence), love, submission, fear, faith, and sincerity to Allah.
A worshipper should be full of hope that Allah accepts his deeds, and full fear that Allah does not accepts his worship.
The problem now is that some Muslims, by the time, would do worship as something they are in the habit of, not because it is a duty and goal of his life. Thus, worship turned into lifeless routine that one does without touching their heart.
Prayer became mere bodily movements, fasting became limited to abstention from food and drink, charity turned into a subject of pride and similarly is Hajj. So, worship is offered incomplete. The most important requirements of worship, namely Khushu (reverence) and sincerity, are seriously inexistent which contributed to ineffectiveness of the worship.
Some Muslims do not feel the worship they offer. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “When any one of you is fasting on a day, he should neither indulge in obscene language, nor raise the voice; or if anyone reviles him or tries to quarrel with him he should say: I am a person fasting.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) tells us that the fasting person should feel that he is offering a sacred worship that should not be violated.
The evidence in the hadith is that if a fasting person comes across anything that is contrary to good doing, he or she should not react badly. They should recall the status they are in: they are fasting.
Thus, fasting is not restricted to abstention from eating, drinking and lawful sex but also from obscenity, evil manners, falsehood, perjury and other bad things. The Prophet (peace be upon him) showed that these things are contradictory to the essence of fasting.
Worship is a training
The Quran and hadiths of the Prophet indicate that worship is a training course for the worshipper to perfect his or her attitude outside them. If you feel shy to displease God during worship, such as fasting, let this be a course of life outside them.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “If one does not eschew lies and false conduct, Allah has no need that he should abstain from his food and his drink.” (Al-Bukhari)
Moreover, fasting, in particular, is legislated to prove for people the capabilities placed in them which they may not be aware of. It revives the capacities of patience and strong will inside them. The Muslim who fasts in Ramadan learns to be patient with the prohibition of lawful things, and this educates him to be patient. The same applies to prayer that teaches order and humbleness and Zakah (obligatory charity) that trains one on generosity.
Appreciating the worship
The one who does his best to perfect the worship in terms of submissiveness, following the model of the Prophet and sincerity will be keen not to spoil its reward by means of misdeeds and wrongdoing.
This is indicated by the hadith of Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) who reported: “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Do you know who is the bankrupt?” They said: “The bankrupt among us is one who has neither money with him nor any property”. He said, “The real bankrupt of my Ummah would be he who would come on the Day of Resurrection with Prayer, fasting and charity, (but he will find himself bankrupt on that day as he will have exhausted the good deeds) because he reviled others, brought calumny against others, unlawfully devoured the wealth of others, shed the blood of others and beat others; so his good deeds would be credited to the account of those (who suffered at his hand). If his good deeds fall short to clear the account, their sins would be entered in his account and he would be thrown in the (Hell) Fire”. (Muslim)
A true Muslim is always keen on his rewards, values them highly and fears that they are spoiled by indulging in wrongdoings. So, he keeps away from everything that can spoil the rewards of his good deeds.
In a word, the problem is not in worship but rather in ourselves, in our treatment and appreciation of worship, and in the way we perform the worship. The solution is in our hands and easy for everyone who wants to be benefitted by worship.