Imam al-Ghazali on Fasting

Peace, one and all…

Imam al-Ghazali on fasting.

‘The Messenger of God (as) related a narrative from his Lord, Exalted and Majestic: ‘Every benefaction is met with ten of its like, and up to seven hundredfold, except fasting, for this is for Me, and I reward for it’. And he said (as), ‘By Him in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, the odour of a fasting person’s mouth is more pleasant for God than the perfume of musk,’ God Almighty says that, ‘He shuns his desire, food and drink for My sake, so fasting is for Me, and I shall reward by it.’

And he said (as), ‘Satan’s cunning flows through the Sons of Adam (with) the flow of their blood, so constrict his flow by hunger’. Therefore he told Ayshah (ra), ‘Always knock on the door of Paradise,’ She said, ‘With what?’ ‘With hunger.’ And he said (as), ‘If not for the fact that the satans (the desires) circle (like vultures) round the Sons of Adam, they would (be able to) see the Kingdoms of the Heavens’. Fasting assists in breaking down desires…

Know ye that there are three grades of fasting: the fast of the ordinary, the fast of the elite, and the fast of the elite of the elite.

The fast of the ordinary is denying the stomach and the sexual organs the chance to satisfy their desires. The fast of the elite is keeping the hearing, sight, tongue, hands, feet and the rest of the limbs (which are six: the five just mentioned and the sex organs) from committing transgressions.

The fast of the elite of the elite is the fast of the heart from menial preoccupations and worldly thoughts, and keeping it completely from anything to do with other than God’.

Mukhtasar Ihya Ulum al-Din

From these words, it becomes clear that the purpose of fasting to allow us to lay aside our worldly desires and thoughts, that we might see God. Fasting is both a means of cleansing the body and soul, and a means of purifying our inward vision. Fasting also has different levels. We begin with bodily fasting and with time and effort, we move to an inward fast, in which we see nothing but God. This understanding of fasting as a process is very helpful. We aren’t expected to get everything right at once. We aren’t expected to be perfect, just sincere. Having these levels mapped out is also beneficial, as it allows us a way of measuring our own progress, though it is always important that we do so without judgement.

Ramadan Mubarak!

Ask olsun! May love increase!

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