In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful
All praise and thanks are due to Allah. We praise and give thanks to Him. We seek His aid and ask for His forgiveness and refuge from the evil of ourselves and from our evil actions.
Whomsoever Allah guides then none can misguide him, and whomsoever he misguides then none can guide him. I bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah alone. He has no partner, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and His Messenger.
My respected listeners! Know that abstention from food is considered a fast in normal terms. Consequently going without food and water is fasting. And also know that many non-Muslims practice some form of fasting. They do so for different reasons – physical, mental, spiritual or political. The Hindus consider fasting a meritorious act and they fast on many special occasions. The Jews fast on the 10th day of the month of Tishri. They fast for atonement following the injunction laid down in torah. Christians fast in lent according to the Bible. They fast in penitence and in commemoration of the birth of Jesus (AS).
But none of the above fasts are genuine fasts. In all these fasts some form of food or liquid can be taken. Also they do not fully combine the three ingredients of fast, that is, physical, mental and spiritual such as that practiced in the Islamic month of fasting, i.e. Ramadan.
Islamic fasting is total absenteeism from food, drink and from sexual intercourse from dawn to dusk. And this is just one element of Islamic fasting. The greater element of Islamic fasting is devotion and worship, charity and caring, personal, self development and Allah’s (swt) consciousness – taqwa – and avoidance of all forms of sinful acts. All this expected to be accomplished while the Muslim is going about his normal duties of earning a living or attending to the daily chores. The only exception being the last ten days of fasting, when any Muslim wishing to do so may retire to the local mosque (I’tikaf) for concentrated devotion and prayer. But this requirement is not obligatory.
Islam has institutionalized fasting as a regular exercise in self discipline and self purification. The Qur’an, following the previous revelations, reaffirms the continuity of fasting as an obligatory duty of Muslims. Muslims fast from dawn to dusk for the entire month of Ramadan, the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar.
Fasting – Sawn or Siyam – is one of the five pillars of Islam. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) is reported to have said: “The superstructure of Islam is raised on five pillars: Tawheed – the Oneness of Allah (swt), Salah – the establishment of prayers, Zakah – the payment of poor due, Sawm – the fast of Ramadan and Hajj – the pilgrimage to Makkah.” (Bukhari and Muslim).
Fasting has been made obligatory by the following verse of the Qur’an:
“O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fast) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious),” Al-Bakara 2:183.
Allah (swt) revealed the Qur’an, the greatest book of guidance, in the month of Ramadan. It is a very blessed month as it contains a night, Lailatul-Qadr which is better than a thousand months. It is a month whose beginning is mercy, whose middle is forgiveness and whose end is freedom from hell.
Fasting commences with a light pre-dawn meal called suhur and with niyah or intention of fast. Fasting ends with iftar which means breaking the fast after sunset. Iftar is eaten after making the following du’a for breaking the fast:
“O Allah! I fasted for your sake, and I am breaking my fast from the sustenance you have blessed me with, accept it from me.”
The institution of fasting influences a Muslim society in a positive way. Fasting enhances the feeling of inner peace and provides tranquility of mind. It teaches patience and perseverance. It is also the best programme to cut down over-indulgence and to give the digestive system some rest. In addition, an attitude of sharing, concern, caring, humility is instilled in those who fast.
Fasting develops taqwa – Allah’s consciousness which develops piety. In Islam the most pious are the most beloved and most honoured in the sight of Allah (swt). During this month millions of Muslims all over the world ask for forgiveness of their sins and exert themselves in prayer, invocation and in reciting Allah’s (swt) book. A special reading of the Qur’an is completed through taraweeh prayer which is performed in congregation after the isha’ prayers.
Fasting in Islam is not done as a penance. It is undertaken for the pleasure and for the sake of Allah (swt) for which there is a mighty reward in the Hereafter.
The feast of fast breaking at the end of the month is marked by the festivities of Eid-ul-Fitr. It begins with a special congregational prayer and thanksgiving followed by rejoicing among family, friends and neighbours. Zakatul-fitr is payable before the Eid prayers. It is preferable to pay it a few days before so that the poor and needy members of the community can also make arrangements for Eid and take part in its festivities.
Like hajj, the institution of fasting unifies Muslim societies and regulates their social lives. All Muslims, male and female, rich and poor, go through the same experience of fasting with no special privileges or favours to anyone. This practice simultaneously followed by all the Muslims in the world every year for the entire month of Ramadan establishes equality, unity and contributes towards a more virtuous and strong Ummah. Fasting is based on the Muslim lunar calendar. Thus, each year Ramadan falls on a different date and different part of the season. This is unique as no one community in the Muslim world, because of its location in a certain time and temperature zone, can permanently face fasting in the same season. They will experience fasting in all seasons and at all times of the year possibly up to three times if they are blessed with a long life. The same, of course, applies to the Islamic festivals.
Lastly, I ask Allah to grant success to myself, those who are helping and propagating the religion of Allah, all of the Muslim and Nigerians in general. And that He establishes us upon the way and methodology of His Prophet (saw). He is the best One to ask and the greatest one who responds, and our final call is all praise is for Allah, Lord of the entire world. And peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you all… Ameen!
This khutbah (Friday sermon) was prepared for delivery today (Juma’a) by Imam Murtada Muhammad Gusau, the Chief Imam of Nagazi Jumu’at Mosque, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via 08038289761 and firstname.lastname@example.org