DHU'L HAJJ - MUHARRAM 1424 H
Volume 17-02 No : 206
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Every good Muslim may try to win some additional reward by voluntary fasting. The Prophet’s (Pbuh) advice to them was to take matters easily and fast only a small number of days, perhaps three or five each month
By Adil Salahi
Every time fasting is mentioned, the great reward God bestows on us for it is highlighted. We have often mentioned the Hadith in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) quotes God as saying: “Every action done by a human being belongs to him except fasting: it belongs to Me and I give reward for it accordingly.” Mentioned in this way, the reward is much greater than we can imagine. It is promised by the One whose generosity knows no limits, the One who assigns a reward for even the slightest and most trivial of good actions, giving for each action at least 10 times its worth and multiplying that to 700 times and even well beyond that when He so wills. The reward for fasting is, however, measured by a different yardstick. It is an action which admits no hypocrisy. Hence, its reward is measured by Allah’s generosity.
Recognising this, every good Muslim may try to win some additional reward by voluntary fasting. We have already spoken about people who tried to fast voluntarily day after day. The Prophet’s advice to them was to take matters easily and fast only a small number of days, perhaps three or five each month. The upper limit the Prophet has placed on voluntary fasting is to fast on alternate days. However, voluntary fasting may present some difficulties because when a person fasts, he imposes on himself a system which is at variance with that of those who are around him. He may find himself in the middle of a social function where he will be the odd one out, or he may have to entertain an unexpected guest, or he may have to attend to an emergency, and in all these situations his continued fasting may present some sort of embarrassment. Is it possible for him to break his fast before the day is over? If he does, is it necessary for him to compensate for that day by fasting a day instead?
To answer these questions and other related ones, we may quote a Hadith related by Al-Bukhari in his Sahih under the chapter entitled: “A person who insists that his brother ends his voluntary fasting without having to compensate for it if that is more suitable to him.” The text of the Hadith is as follows: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) established a bond of brotherhood between Salman and Abu Al-Dardaa. One day Salman visited Abu Al-Dardaa to find his wife wearing humble clothes. He asked her: ‘What is the matter?’ She said: ‘Your brother, Abu Al-Dardaa, has no interest whatsoever in anything of this world.’ When Abu Al-Dardaa came in (as he was out when Salman arrived), he prepared food for Salman who, in turn, invited him to eat with him. Abu Al-Dardaa said: ‘I am fasting.’ Salman said: ‘I shall not eat until you do.’ Abu Al-Dardaa ate with him. At night, Abu Al-Dardaa prepared himself for night worship. Salman said to him: ‘Go to sleep.’ He slept a while then got up for night worship, and Salman told him again to go to sleep. At a later hour in the night, Salman said to him: ‘Get up now.’ They both prayed (their night worship) then Salman said to him: ‘Your Lord has a claim against you, and your body has a claim against you, and your family have a claim against you. Give to each one with a claim their right dues.’ He went to the Prophet (peace be on him) and told him what happened. The Prophet said: ‘Salman is right.’”
It is perhaps important to mention here that both Abu Al-Dardaa and Salman were two of the Prophet’s (Pbuh) companions who were known for their insight into the faith of Islam. We note that Abu Al-Dardaa complied with every request made to him by Salman. This is an example of the sort of attitude a Muslim takes toward his brothers. Perhaps Salman determined his approach when he realised the magnitude of the problem in which Abu Al-Dardaa’s wife found herself. In a fuller version of this Hadith, she is quoted as saying that her husband fasts most days and stands up most of the night in worship. Apparently Salman’s attitude was very emphatic when he was brought food. He wanted to make sure that Abu Al-Dardaa discontinued his fasting for that day. The fact that Abu Al-Dardaa, a learned companion of the Prophet, accepted Salman’s request and ended his fasting means that this is lawful. In fact, his action was later endorsed by the Prophet. This means that it is permissible for a person who has started a day fasting voluntarily to end his fast if circumstances require him to do so, or if that is more suitable for him.
Some scholars suggest that if one does so, he has to fast a day instead. This view is not supported by strong evidence. In fact, he is at liberty to fast a day instead or not to do so, unless he was fasting in compensation for a day in Ramadan which he did not fast. We understand this from a Hadith related by Ahmad, Al-Tirmithi and Al-Nassaie which mentions that Umm Hani, a companion and a cousin of the Prophet, one day went into the Prophet’s home when she was fasting. “The Prophet asked for a drink, and after drinking he gave her a drink and she drank it. She then asked him about this, and he asked her: ‘Were you fasting a day in compensation for one you did not fast in Ramadan?’ She answered in the negative. He said: ‘That is all right, then.’” Another version of this Hadith quotes the Prophet as saying: “If it is a day you have been fasting in compensation for obligatory fasting which you did not do, then you have to fast a day instead. If it is a voluntary fasting, you are at liberty to compensate for it or not.”
Having answered the main questions which may be raised on voluntary fasting and ending it before the day is over, we may find it useful to look at the Hadith as a whole. It is certainly easy to understand this Hadith. Indeed, it is self-explanatory. It may be useful, however, to give an example of how Hadith has been studied over the centuries by Muslim scholars.
Imam Ibn Hajar has written a commentary on the Hadiths listed in the Sahih of Al-Bukhari which runs into 14 large volumes. In his commentary, Ibn Hajar enlists the number of points which may be answered by this Hadith. These include the permissibility of establishing a bond of brotherhood between two Muslims, the desirability of visiting one’s brother’s family and spending a night with them. It is also permissible to have a conversation with a woman who is not one’s relative, to enquire about something which may serve some interest although it may not be relevant to the one who puts the questions. They also include the desirability of giving advice to a Muslim and alerting him to something which he may have overlooked, the high value placed on offering night worship at the late part of the night, the desirability of a woman putting on her fine clothes and wearing make-up before her husband and her rightful claim to be well treated by him.
It may also be understood from this Hadith that a woman has a rightful claim to sexual fulfillment. This may be gathered from the statement: “And your family has a claim against you.” The statement has been endorsed by the Prophet (Pbuh). The Hadith also allows us to discourage our brothers from doing what is normally desirable if it is feared it will lead to boredom, lack of interest, or negligence of other duties which may be more important. We may also understand from this Hadith that it is undesirable to drive oneself too hard when it comes to voluntary worship.
If you examine the Hadith very carefully, you will find that every point of these is mentioned clearly or hinted at in one way or another.
Finally, it should perhaps be clarified that the brotherhood which was established by the Prophet between Salman and Abu Al-Dardaa was not part of the bond of brotherhood which he established between the Muhajireen and the Ansar in the early days after his settlement in Madinah. That was a common bond of brotherhood, although it specified one man from the Ansar to be the brother of one man from the Muhajireen. It was a total brotherhood, which entitled each brother to a share of the inheritance of the other. This particular aspect was subsequently cancelled. The Prophet, however, continued to establish a bond of brotherhood between each two of his companions, when more people declared their acceptance of Islam. We know that Salman accepted Islam after the Battle of Uhud which took place in the third year after the Prophet’s migration to Madinah. So, it was a special bond of brotherhood the Prophet established between him and Abu Al-Dardaa.
Narrated ibn Umar (R.A), Allah'sMessenger (Pbuh) said: "Amongst the trees, there is a tree, the leaves of which do not fall and is like a Muslim. Tell me the name of that tree." Everybody started thinking about the trees of the desert areas and I thought of the date-palm tree. The others then asked " please inform us what is that tree, O! Allah's messenger?" He replied, " It is the date-palm tree." ( Sahih Muslim, Bukhari)
It may not seem like the perfect comparison, but when we compare ourselves with a tree, we find that we don't have to face even one per cent of the difficulties faced by a tree. Still, a tree always seems to be relaxed and calm. It does not oppose anything though it experiences everything. It doesn't have a home of its own, but becomes home for so many living beings.
A tree provides home and shelter for everyone without discriminating between animals and humans or between the stronger and the weaker and is thankful to others for giving it an opportunity to serve them. On the other hand, we humans fight over small pieces of land. And if we provide shelter to anyone we either charge rent or do not hesitate in mentioning the favour that we have bestowed on our fellow human beings.
A tree remains unaffected by strong winds, scorching heat, cold breeze, rain etc as it stands still on its ground firmly facing the different forms and forces of nature with indifference. On the other hand we humans have all the reasons to complain about the heat, cold, changing weather and other inhospitable conditions.
A tree experiences everything blissfully through the passing phases of time as it knows that everything is temporary. But we humans react negatively to changes because we expect everything to be unchanging and permanent. Hence we cry and complain when nothing is working for us because we feel nothing will ever work for us.
A tree remains static, not interested in anything but itself. That does not mean it is selfish, after being static also it is home for the animals etc. It meditates on itself in an attempt to realise its creator. But man does not have time to even think about all this - he is only interested in knowing how he can grow materially and is more interested in knowing what is happening outside his own life, especially in others' lives.
Instead of learning from trees, man has even exploited trees for his own selfish interests, out of arrogance that no one is better than him, forgetting that the life of a tree is much more useful than that of us humans.
A tree is strong. Nothing disturbs it. It experiences everything without complaining. The wind blows past it, the sun throws scorching heat at it and it is still the same. Then the rain comes and again it remains unaffected. Animals and humans take shelter under it and it is more than happy to give what they want. Birds make their nests in it, animals eat its fruits, but the tree is happy because others are happy. It remains within itself all the time; it does not react to wrong or right but observes everything as a beautiful experience without being judgmental.
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