Shaikh Saduq relates from an authentic source that Imam Reda (A.S.) related from his ancestors, who related it from Ali bin Abi Talib (A.S.) that latter said that one day, the Prophet of Allah delivered the following sermon to them:
‘O’ People! The Month of Allah (Ramadan has approached you with His mercies and blessings. This is the month that is the best of all the month in the estimation of Allah. Its days are best among the days; its nights are best among the nights. Its hours are best among the hours.
In this holy month, when you breathe, it has the thawab (heavenly reward of Tasbeeh) (The praise of Allah on rosary beads), and your sleep has the thawab of worship.
Verily I the person, who may not receive the mercy and benevolence of Allah in this month must be very unfortunate having the end as bad (in the Hereafter), While fasting, and remember the hunger and thirst of tomorrow in Qiyamat. Give alms to the poor and the needy, pay respects to your elders. Have pity on your Youngers and be kind towards your relatives and kinsmen. Guard your tongues against unworthy words, and your eyes from such scenes that are not worth seeing (forbidden) and your ears from such sounds that should no heard by you.
Be kind to orphans so that when your children become orphans they also be treated with kindness. Do invoke that Allah may forgive your sins. Do raise your hands at the time of Prayers as it is the best time for asking His mercy. When we invoke at such times, we are answered by Him, when we call Him, He responds, and when we’ ask for anything it is accepted by Him.
O’ People! you have made your conscience the slave of your desires, make it free, by invoking Him for forgiveness Your back is breaking under the heavy load of your sins, so prostrate before Him for long intervals and make it lighter.
O’ People! If anybody amongst you arranges for the’ Iftar’ (food for ending of fast at sunset) of any believer, then, Allah will give him the reward as if he has set free a slave. He will forgive his minor sins. Then the companions of the Prophet (S.A.W.A.) submitted: “But everybody amongst us did not have the means to do so.” The Prophet told them:
“Keep yourself away from the fire of Hell, by inviting for Iftar, though it may consist of only half a date or simply with water if you have nothing else. “
O’ People! The Gates of Paradise remain opened in this month. Do invoke that the gates may not be closed on you; while the Gates of the Hell are closed, do invoke Allah that these gates may never be opened.
The Commander of the Faithful Ali (A.S.) said that he got up and said, “O’ the Prophet of Allah (S.A.W.A.) what is the best deed in this month?” He (S.A.W.A.) replied,” O’ Abul Hasan! Abstaining from the matters forbidden by Allah, the Majestic, the Glorified, is the best deed in this month. “Then he (the Prophet) (S.A.W.A.) wept. Ali (A.S.) asked, “O’ the Messenger of Allah! What makes you weep?” He (S.A.W.A) replied, “O’ Ali (A.S.) I weep for what they will do with you in this month. As if I am with you, and you are offering prayers to your Lord, when the worst of the foregone, and those who are yet to come, a brother of the person who slew the camel of Samood has come and gives you a (sword) blow on your head, which reddens your beard.” The Commander of the Faithful said.
Ali (A.S.) asked “O’ the Prophet of Allah, will that be for the safety of my Faith” He (S.A.W.A.) replied, “Yes, it will be with the safety of your Faith O’ Ali (A.S.) whoever kills you has killed me; whoever bears enmity to you is my enemy; whoever abuses you has abused me; because, indeed you are to me like my own self; your soul is from my soul; your nature is from my nature; Indeed Allah Almighty, created me and you too; He chose me and you too; He selected me for Prophethood and selected you for Imamate; whoever denies your Imamate, has denied my Prophethood. O’ Ali (A.S.) you are my successor, father of my children, my son-in-Law, and my Khalifa over my (Ummat) people, both during my life and after my death..’ I swear by Him who made me the Prophet and made me the best of the people, indeed you are the Proof of Allah for His creatures, His Trustee of His Secrets, and the guardian of His slaves.
Sense of Fasting (Spiritual aspects)
Experience shows that a blind man has generally a stronger memory, and certain of his senses are more developed them those of an ordinary man who has sight. In other words, if certain faculties are not utilized, they may strengthen some other faculties. Similar is the relation between the body and the soul. In weakening the body there is strengthening of the soul, even as the pruning of the branches of a tree procures more flowers or fruits.
When an individual fasts, his conscience pricks him in the face of evil deeds, and he is more able to resist temptations. Further, the fast makes him think of God more, develops his inclination for charity, and makes him taste the sweetness of obedience to the Lord.
Students learn for several months continuously, then they get a summer vacation.
Employees work for six days of the week, the seventh day being a holiday for leisure and rest. Men expend mental and physical energy the whole day, where after the repose of sleep renovates their faculties for the next day. Even machines and tools require relaxation, and we observe this for motor cars, airplanes, locomotives, etc.., is it, therefore, not reasonable to think that the stomach and the digestive organs also require rest?
In fact modern medicine has also reached the same conclusion, and a large number of doctors in Switzerland, Germany, etc., prescribe, for various chronic diseases, forced hunger and thirst for longer or shorter periods according to the exigencies of the sickness and the physical capacities of the sick person.
They have also found that various glands secrete certain acids in the stomach on account of hunger and thirst and that these acids kill many germs which produce different diseases. Statistics have also shown that several digestive and other diseases are less abundant among people who have the habit of fasting every year.
We know that man requires a change of climate, air and water from time to time, Patients recovering from illness are sent away for convalescence to a place other than their habitual living place. The more fortunate among the Westerners pass a month of summer vacation outside their home. In other words, it is necessary to change the normal habits from time to time. This is also a kind of rest. We see, for instance that cultivators use their fields alternately and give ‘rest’ to the soil.
To terminate this discussion, those who fast on medical prescription or even under compulsion as a discipline, do get the material benefits inherent in fasting; but there being no intention of a spiritual search, they do not benefit thereby spiritually. Muslims fast with the intention of complying with the command of Allah. They therefore have its reward for their piety, while not losing the physical and materials benefits of the fasting.
If we think over the philosophy of worship and understand in the light of the Quranic verse that our existence is meant for worship and existence is based on eating and drinking, therefore it also has a bearing on worship. Then we shall realize that just as sometimes talking is worship and some time keeping silence, in the same way sometimes eating will be worship and sometimes abstaining from it. Both these aspects are sometimes prescribed by the physical physician and sometimes by the spiritual one, Accordingly Allah sent this message to us through the spiritual Physician Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.A.).
Fasting has been ordained to you as it was ordained to those before you so that you guard yourself (against evil). In this holy verse:
(i) ‘Has been ordained’ shows ‘Fasting is incumbent’.
(ii) ‘As it was ordained on those before you’ indicates ‘Fasting dates back to the beginning of mankind’.
(iii) ‘So that you may guard yourself against evil’ means fasting will make you pious. Now if we consider over the different phases of piety, the advantages of fasting will be clear. Man has three instincts:
(i) Quwwate Shahwania (Faculty of Lust) by this instinct a man nourishes his body and produces children. If it exceeds its limit concerning diet, it makes him greedy and gluttonous. It may make the blood impure or a man may fall a permanent prey to dyspepsia and so on. The excess of this very instinct in sexual sphere causes many internal and external diseases which cannot be enumerated here.
(ii) Quwwate Ghazabania (Faculty of a version and acquirement): By this a man seeks his advantages and wards off his disadvantages. If this instinct is not kept within proper bounds, a man either becomes a coward or quarrelsome. All these aspects are against ‘piety’ and to end the obligation of fast with piety shows that the observer of fast becomes pious, the natural conclusion of which is that his instincts are moderate. Neither he is gluttonous nor quarrelsome. Accordingly the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.A.) and the Infallible Imams (A.S.) have mentioned these attributes of fasting.
The Holy Prophet (Mohammad) (S.A.W.A.)
The Commander of the Faithful ALI (A.S.) says that a party of the Jews came to the Prophet (S.A.W.A.) and they a few questions, one of which was: ‘What is the good to your people in that Allah has enjoined fast on them and that, too only for thirty days (excluding nights) whereas the other people had to fast for more than thirty days?’
The Prophet (S.A.W.A.) replied: “When Adam ate of that tree the fruit remained ill his stomach for thirty days. So Allah enjoined upon his progeny to remain hungry and thirsty for that period, and the permission to eat in the night is Allah’s grace. Adam also had to fast for so many days and Allah enjoined those fasts upon my people.”
Then the Prophet (S.A.W.A.) recited this verse: Fasting has been ordained to you as it was ordained to those before you so that you may guard yourself against evil (and that too) for counted days’.
The Jew savant said, Mohammad, You are right. Tell me what is the reward for a person who observes those fasts?” The Prophet replied: ” Allah will characterize the believer who keeps the fasts in Ramadan to please Allah, with seven traits:
(i) If he has partaken of the forbidden food, it will be excreted after being digested.
(ii) He will not be deprived of the mercy of Allah.
(iii) He will share the compensation of his father’s (Adam) fault,
(iv) Allah will grant him relief in his agony of death.
(v) The observer of fast will not feel hungry and thirsty On the Day of Judgment.
(vi) Allah will grant him deliverance from Hell fire on the day of Resurrection.
(vii) He will satisfy him with the sacred diet of Paradise.
The Jew said: “Mohammad, you are right.”
Commander of the Faithful ALI (A.S.)
There is a sermon in “Nahjul Balagha”, in which the Commander of the Faithful has stated a few symbols of the obligations of the Religion of the Prophet (S.AW.A.) among them is this reason of the obligation of fasting:
“Fasting was enjoined so that the sincerity of the righteous may come to light.”
It is known that the righteous believes:
(i) Allah is our Creator and Lord.
(ii) He is Just and Wise.
(iii) He governs both our body and soul.
(iv) Any worship prescribed by Him for the two (body and soul) will be justified.
It is evident that if there were no physical worship the four aforesaid articles of Faith would remain concealed and the righteous and the evil doer would not be differentiated. Allah has provided an opportunity for the manifestation of these beliefs by enjoining the bodily worship. Therefore those who observe fast and offer prayers thereby demonstrate their beliefs which are inner states and invisible.
Imam Jaafar Sadiq (A.S.) the Truthful
When asked by Hisham, son of Hakam, about the philosophy of fasting he replied that Allah enjoined Fasting so that the rich and the poor may be equal. The rich never experience hunger that they may show mercy to the poor. The rich provide everything for themselves because of their wealth. Allah desired that his servants may be equal on this occasion and the rich may also feel hunger and suffer pain. He, therefore, enjoined fasting that the rich may be kind to the destitute and merciful to the hungry.
Imam Reda (A.S.)
Mohammad, son of Senan, narrates that Imam Reda (A.S.) gave this reason for fasting that the observer of fast may feel the pain of hunger and thirst, and prove himself meek, humble, worthy of reward, hopeful and patient before Allah, and this trouble here may remind him of the hardships of the Hereafter. By getting rid of the evil desires a men’s self learns a lesson in this world and expects the blessing of the Hereafter. The observer of fast sees through the circumstances of the needy and the destitute in this world as well as in the Hereafter. (The people who starve during (fast) will be rich in the Hereafter and those who do not observe fast and enjoy riches in the world, will face poverty in the Hereafter. The observer of fast finds out this subtle point.
These sayings of the Ma’soomeen (the Infallible) elucidate that the evil desires are crushed in fasting. It makes the rich attend to the poor for whom the Fasting Month (Ramadan) and the other months make no difference in starvation. The rich become humane and extend their helping hands towards the needy and the destitute.
The very fact that fasting is incumbent during Ramadan indicates that the conduct of men during this month should be different from that in the rest of the year.
In view of these things it is evident that the observer of fast is to be pious and is to abstain from these things strictly while fasting because they are against piety, and if piety is nullified the fast will be null and void. In the light of the Quranic verse and the aforesaid savings of the Masoomeen (A.S.) (the Infallibles):”a Muslim as the opportunity to mend his character, purify his soul, eradicate the defects of his temperament and attain the temperance which is desired by Islam and which is responsible for both the spiritual and physical health of mankind” .
Fasting for Fitness
Well-being: Aside from the spiritual value of fasting, there are Physical rewards that come to you by your not eating for a short time. These rewards are reaped not only by the over plump person, but by anyone who fasts. Many doctors advise fasting for a patient tussling with gout, heart disease, and skin disorder, general intemperance to food and drink, or excessive smoking.
Brain Benefit: Fasting is good for mental discipline, and it effects spiritual uplift. The brain benefits greatly. If you are doing heavy study, preparing for a speech, or otherwise engaging in deep concentration, you do well to fast, Fasting sharpens your mind and makes you alert and sensitive to mental effort. You concentrate more readily if your stomach is empty and not drawing blood from the brain to digest food.
Many of public speaker knows well that eating before speaking reduces mental acuity and cuts down on the force of speech. They fast before an important speech and eat later. They know the brain benefits by a fast.
Digestive Distress Relieved: Other organs that are relieved by a fast are the digestive organs. The stomach, liver pancreas, and intestines often are overworked. When the digestion is given a vacation, eating becomes a greater joy.
Rejuvenator and Skin Freshener: Fasting has been called a great restorer of youth and prolonger of like. This idea stems from the fact that people who fast acquire a clearer skin, a rosier tint to their cheeks, and a more youthful complexion than they had before. People troubled with skin disorders such as psoriasis, acne, or recurrent skin infection are often advised by their physicians to eliminate sweets and fats from their diet.
Boon to Smokers: For anyone trying to stop smoking or drinking, a fast can be a boon to the body. By stopping tobacco, alcohol, and food intake for a time, a person helps the body return to normal.
Rests Hearts: If you are a heart patient you will find that a fast takes a load off your heart and your circulation. If you have been short of breath, a fast improves your breathing and, by elimination of salt and water from the body, reduces tissue edema.
If the person who wants to improve his diet by cutting out meat, highly seasoned gravy, rich cake, and sugary preserves goes on a fast, he hurries the process of changing. After eating heavily of these foods for some time he cannot immediately enjoy a plain, wholesome diet. His taste is so perverted that he cannot enjoy good fruit, whole-grain bread, and vegetables.