Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fasting and Piety

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you As it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint (al-Baqarah : 183).
The verses (ayah) preceeding the above one explained about a number of obligations imposed on Mu’min. In ayah 178 it is mentioned about the obligation of qisâs punishment to the perpetrators of murder. The punishment could not be imposed if the perpetrators get forgiveness from the victim’s family and pay compensation (diyat). It is confirmed in the next ayah that in qisâs punishment there is a life.
The three verses that followed talked about a will. The dying people are required to make a will over the wealth which is left to their inheritors (see 180). Anyone who dare to change the will that has been made liable to sin (see 181). There is no wrong in anyone who fears impartiality or wrong doing on the part of the testator, then he makes peace between them (ayah 182). After from this ayah to ayah 187 – except ayah 186 – explain about the obligation of fasting.

Tafseer ayah

Allah Swt says : Yâ ayyhuhâ al-ladzîna kutiba ‘alaykum al-shiyâm (O ye who believe! Fasting has been prescribed to you). The call of this ayah is addressed to the believers (Mu’min). The call to the Mu’min in this ayah and other ayah contain clues that the nature of faith requires the perpetrators to obey, follow, and listen to the commands and prohibitions which will be conveyed in the next sentence.
It is mentioned in this ayah, that the believers are obliged to fast. As explained by many mufassir, such as Ibnu Jarir al-Tabari, Ibnu ‘Atiyah, al-Khazin, and al-Biqa’i the word kutiba ‘alaykum here means furidha ‘alaykum (it is prescribed for you). Even according to al-Farra’ all phrases of kutiba ‘alaykum in al-Quran mean furidha ‘alaykum (it is prescribed for you). In addition to fasting, the word kutiba ‘alâ is also used for some other obligations. In (al-Baqarah 2: 178) it is stated: kutiba ‘alaykum al-qisâs. The phrase kutiba ‘alaykum is also imposed on dying people to give a will to the parents and the relatives (al-Baqarah : 180). It is noteworthy that the obligation to make a will is finally abolished (nasakh) with the ayah about a will In (al-Baqarah: 216) Allah Swt also says : kutiba ‘alaykum al-qitâl. All phrases of kutiba ‘alaykum in those ayah give the meaning of furidha ‘alaykum.
In addition to the phrase kutiba ‘alâykum, the obligation of fasting is also based on the indication (qarînah) which is found in the following ayah, that the sick people or travelling are exempted from fast. However, they are obliged to replace or to compensate fasting (qadha) on other days. The obligation of compensating fast on other days shows that the law of fasting is mandatory. ‘Ata bin Khalil stated that in every appeal in which there is a speech or deed which requires continued actions unless there is a reason (uzur), then be given rukhshah, qadha’, or forgiveness is one of the indication (qarînah) for jazm (firmness and certainty) of an appeal.
Linguistically, the word al-siyâm means al-imsâk (to refrain) from doing something, either eating, talking or walking. This literal meaning is as found in the saying of Allah Swt:
إِنِّي نَذَرْتُ لِلرَّحْمَنِ صَوْمًا فَلَنْ أُكَلِّمَ الْيَوْمَ إِنْسِيًّا
I have vowed a fast to ((Allah)) Most Gracious, and This Day will I enter into not talk with any human beings (Maryam : 26).
In the ayah, the word sawm[an] means to refrain from talking. While the shari’i meaning, al-siyâm means to refrain from eating, drinking and doing intercourse (jima’) from dawn until dusk which is accompanied by intention (niyat). This understanding is taken from the arguments in al-Quran and Sunnah. In relation with the prohibition of eating, drinking, and haing intercourse as mentioned in the saying of Allah Swt:
أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ لَيْلَةَ الصِّيَامِ الرَّفَثُ إِلَى نِسَائِكُمْ هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَكُمْ وَأَنْتُمْ لِبَاسٌ لَهُنَّ عَلِمَ اللَّهُ أَنَّكُمْ كُنْتُمْ تَخْتَانُونَ أَنْفُسَكُمْ فَتَابَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَعَفَا عَنْكُمْ فَالْآَنَ بَاشِرُوهُنَّ وَابْتَغُوا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا حَتَّى يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ ثُمَّ أَتِمُّوا الصِّيَامَ إِلَى اللَّيْلِ
Permitted to you, on the night of the fasts, is the approach to your wives. They are your garments and ye are their garments. Allah knoweth what ye used to do secretly among yourselves; but He turned to you and forgave you; so Now associate with them, and seek what Allah hath ordained for you, and eat and drink, until the white thread of dawn appear to you distinct from its black thread; then complete your fast till the night appears (Baqarah : 187).
In that ayah it is confirmed that the Muslim are allowed to have sexual relationship between husband and wife at night in the fasting month. It means that they are forbidden during the day. In terms of eating and drinking the muslim are welcomed to eat and drink at night. The limit is until dawn. When dawn is set , then muslims are ordered to fast until evening, which is until sunset.
In relation to an intention to do fasting, it is based on the Hadith from Umar bin al-Khattab, he heard Rasulullah saw said:
إِنَّمَا الْأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ وَإِنَّمَا لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى
Truly, the rewards of deeds depends on intention (niyat), and indeed all things depends on intention (Bukhari, Abu Dawud, and Ibnu Majah from Umar bin al Khattab).
Based on this Hadith, the action of fasting can be declared valid, if it is accompanied by the intention of the one who is fasting. If it is not based on intention of fasting, then the deeds are not categorized as fasting, though physically it looks the same or simlilar to fasting. Imam al-Nawawi stated, the intention (niyat) is required to differentiate between ‘âdah (ordinary action) with worship, or one kind of worship with another worship being practised. He gave an example of someone who is sitting inside a mosque. The action can be intended to sit down only , it can also be done as an act of worship (ibadah) with the intention of i’tikaf. What renders the two different (between ibadah or a common deed) is the intention.
Especially for obligatory fasting, the intention of fasting must be done before dawn. It was narrated from Hafsah ra, from Rasulullah saw said:
مَنْ لَمْ يُجْمِعْ الصِّيَامَ قَبْلَ الْفَجْرِ فَلَا صِيَامَ لَهُ
Anyone who does not have an intention to fast before dawn, then his fasting is illegitimate. (Reported by Abu Daud and al-Tirmizi).
This Hadith becomes a dalil of the necessity to have intention on the eve of fasting. In other words, the intention of fasting must be done at night, starting from maghrib. While for sunnah fasting, the intention is allowed after dawn. It is based on a hadith from Aisyah ra who said that :
رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ذَاتَ يَوْمٍ يَا عَائِشَةُ هَلْ عِنْدَكُمْ شَيْءٌ قَالَتْ فَقُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ مَا عِنْدَنَا شَيْءٌ قَالَ فَإِنِّي صَائِمٌ
One day Rasulullah saw came into my place and asked , “Do you have something (to eat)?” Aisyah replied, “No.” He said, “Then, I am fasting.” (Reported by Muslim).
This attitude (Fi’liyyah) of Rasulullah (SAW) is a dalil that the intention for sunnah fasting can be done during the day on the condition that someone has not been eating or drinking.
Furthermore, in this ayah Allah Swt says : kamâ kutiba ‘alâ al-ladzîna min qablikum (As it was prescribed to those before you). Ibnu ‘Abbas said that they are People of the Book. Al-Zamakhshari, al-Alusi, and al-Baidawi said that the previous people starting from Prophet Adam to this ummah. According to Abdurrahman al-Sa’di the notice is useful to arouse the spirit of this ummah. “Let you compete with other ummah in perfecting righteous deeds and hastening in correcting the attitude, and that is not a burdening matter.
There are differences in tasybîh (resemblance) of fasting that is required to the previous ummah. Some said that the resemblance of fasting is in terms of time and size . Another opinion said that the resemblance is simply in the obligation of fasting itself. The second opinion seems to be more acceptable because the resemblance of the obligation does not require the resemblance of kayfiyyah. Even, each of the prophet’s shariah has their own kayfiyyah. It is generally reported by Allah Swt in His saying:
لِكُلٍّ جَعَلْنَا مِنْكُمْ شِرْعَةً وَمِنْهَاجًا
To Each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. (al-Maidah : 48).
Furthermore, Allah Swt says : la’allakum tattaqûn (that ye may (learn) self-restraint). At the end of this ayah, it is explained that the wisdom of the obligation of fasting is that the perpetrators become pious people. Abdurrahman al-Sa’di said that fasting is the greatest means to be pious (taqwa).
The word taqwâ is originated from the word waqâ which means to protect. The word is then used to refer to attitudes and actions to protect oneself from the wrath and punishment of Allah Swt. This means by implementing the commands of Allah Swt and staying away from His prohibitions. This is the meaning of taqwa.
In the next ayah it is explained that the obligation of fasting was imposed for several days (ayah 184). The days that are required to fast are the whole days in the month of Ramadhan. In the month when al-Quran was revealed, anyone who has no excuse (uzur) is required to fast (ayah 185).

Reaching for Taqwa by Fasting
Among important matters explained in this ayah is the wisdom acquired by fasting. According to this ayah, fasting can make the perpetrators have the attitude of piety, which is the willingness to be obedient and subject to all commands and prohibitions of Allah Swt.
When examined carefully, fasting can bring the believer to attain piety on condition that fasting can be understood and carried out correctly. In fasting, someone is trained to remember Allah Swt in any space and time. When fasting, someone is reminded that there is no hidden place from the sight and hearing of Allah Swt. So, wherever he is, he does not dare to eat even a tiny bit; drink water even just a sip; or have an intercourse with his wife although in an enclosed space. If the conviction is implemented not only in fasting, but in all activities of life, then it will result in pious individuals. It is the individuals who are always obedient and faithful to His commands and prohibitions, wherever and whenever he is.
Fasting also trains humans to control passion. It is true that they need to eat, drink and interact with the opposite sex. However, those things should not be excuses for them to indulgence in lust such as what is done by animals. Humans are only allowed to consume food and drinks which are halal. Likewise, it is the same with the relationship with the opposite sex. People are only allowed to have intercourse with someone who is lawful. People who are fasting are able to control their desires.
By fasting, people are trained to live in disciplined manner by the shariah. He is very disciplined, eventhough being thirsty or hungry, they must resist not to drink or eat until maghrib time arrives. Although their sexual instincts may get agitated , people are still able to suppress it until the permitted time. If fasting is done successfully, this may be the way to attain personal piety becomes achievable. Imagine that during fasting they are able to withstand thirst and hunger of which is lawful in other months, then they should also able to refrain from eating or drinking from forbidden wealth. If someone is able to refrain from having intercourse with his wife at noon, he should be able to refrain from committing fornication.
Therefore, it is no wonder that someone who has not been married is ordered to fast. Rasulullah said:
يَا مَعْشَرَ الشَّبَابِ مَنْ اسْتَطَاعَ مِنْكُمْ الْبَاءَةَ فَلْيَتَزَوَّجْ فَإِنَّهُ أَغَضُّ لِلْبَصَرِ وَأَحْصَنُ لِلْفَرْجِ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَعَلَيْهِ بِالصَّوْمِ فَإِنَّهُ لَهُ وِجَاءٌ
O youth, anyone of you who have been able to bear burden, you should marry. It is because marriage is more able to lower gaze and protect your privates. Anyone who has not been able to marry, then he should fast, because fasting is a shield for him (Reported by al-Bukhari, Muslim, from Abdullah ra).
As a result, if fasting is understood and done correctly, it (fasting) will bring the make those undertaking the fast to become pious. Not only fasting, all activities of worshipping Allah Swt, if understood and done correctly, will also bear the fruit of piety. Allah Swt says:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اعْبُدُوا رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ وَالَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
O ye people! Adore your Guardian-Lord, who created you and those who came before you, that ye may have the chance to learn righteousness (al-Baqarah : 21).
We beg to Allah Swt that all of our fasting and worship can bring us to become pious people; to whom paradise, as wide as heaven and earth, is provided.
Rokhmat S. Labib, M.E.I. and Mohammad Saleem

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