New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

Fasting Six Days in Shawwal: Part Three

Posted in articles by Imam Zaid Shakir on 2009-10-07

This is the third part of our translation of excerpts from Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali’s section dealing with fasting in Shawwal from his book, Lata’if al-Ma’arif (pp. 394-396)

“[Among the benefits of fasting six days in Shawwal] is that continuing to fast after Ramadan is a sign that the fast of Ramadan has been accepted. Surely, if Allah accepts a servant’s action, He gives him divine Providence to undertake a similar righteous act after it. This is as one of the righteous people said, “The reward for a good deed is the good deed that follows it. So, for one who does a good deed and then follows it up with another one, the second good deed is a sign of acceptance for the first good one.” Just as, concerning one who does a good deed and then follows it up with a misdeed, this is a sign that the good deed is rejected and unacceptable.

Among those benefits is that fasting Ramadan is a cause for the forgiveness of prior sins, as has been previously mentioned, and that the fasting people are given their reward in full on the Day of the Festival –it is the Day of the Prizes (Yawm al-Jawa’iz). Therefore, continuing to fast after the festival is a form of thankfulness for this blessing, and there is no blessing greater than the forgiving of sins. The Prophet, peace upon him, used to stand in prayer until his feet swelled. It was said to him, “You are doing this while God has forgiven all of your past and future mistakes?” He replied, “Should I not therefore love to be a thankful servant?” [1]

Allah has ordered His servants to express their appreciation for the blessing of fasting the month of Ramadan by extolling His remembrance and by other means. He says, In order that you complete the designated period, that you extol the greatness of Allah for guiding you, and in order that you give thanks. (2:185) Of the forms of the servant’s thankfulness to his Lord for gracing him with the Providence to fast Ramadan, His assisting him in its undertaking, and His forgiving his sins, is his fasting after that as an expression of appreciation. One of the early Muslims, when graced with the Providence to spend a night in prayer would fast the following day. He would make his fasting an expression of thanks for the Providence to undertake the prayer. Wahib bin al-Ward was asked about the reward for a particular act such as Tawaf or something similar. He responded, “Do not ask about the reward for an act. Rather, ask about what form of thankfulness is incumbent upon one who was blessed to undertake the act.”

Every religious or worldly blessing Allah bestows upon the servant necessitates a form of thankfulness. Then being graced with the Providence to thank Allah is a second blessing that necessitates thankfulness. Being graced with the Providence to undertaking the second act of thankfulness is another blessing that necessitates thankfulness. This cycle continues indefinitely. Hence, the servant will never be able to adequately express his appreciation for the blessings [he has received]. The true essence of thankfulness is admitting ones inability to adequately express ones thankfulness.

Abu ‘Amr al-Shaybani says that Moses, peace upon him, addressed Allah on the day he ascended Mount Sinai, “If I have prayed it is owing to You; and if I have been charitable it is owing to You; and if have I delivered your message, it is owing to You. How can I then adequately thank you?” He said, “O Moses! You have just thanked me.”

As for following up the blessing of the Providence to fast the month of Ramadan with sinful rebellion, this is the action of one who has arrogantly rejected Allah’s blessing. If such a person has planned during the fast to resume sinning after its completion, his fast is rejected, and the Gate of Mercy is slammed shut in his face. [2]  Ka’b mentioned:

Whoever fasts Ramadan and during the fast makes up his mind to never again rebel against Allah once the month has passed will enter Paradise without any questioning or any accounting. And whoever fasts Ramadan and makes up his mind to rebel against his Lord once the month has passed his fast is rejected.

Among these benefits is that the acts the servant undertakes during Ramadan to draw close to His Lord do not end upon the passing of the month. Rather, they continue after the passing of the month for as long as the servant lives. This meaning is embodied in a previously mentioned Hadith that the resumption of fasting after Ramadan is like returning to the fray after a strategic retreat. The wisdom in that is because many people are joyous at the end of Ramadan because of the difficulty, boredom, and lengthiness it involves. Anyone in this state is not going to quickly resume fasting. As for one who resumes fasting immediately after the festival, his speedy resumption is an indication of his deep desire to fast and that it is not something that bores him, nor is it a burden for him, nor does he find it disagreeable.

In a Hadith related by Imam al-Tirmidhi and referred back to the Prophet, peace upon him, “The most beloved acts to Allah are those that are completed and then resumed immediately (al-Hall al-Murtahil).” [3] An illustration of this is a Qur’an reciter, he moves from the beginning of the Qur’an to the end and from the end to the beginning. Every time he finishes he begins again. One who resumes fasting after breaking for the festival is like the Qur’an reciter who as soon as he finishes begins again. Allah knows best.

It was said to Bishr, “The people are really worshipping and exerting themselves in Ramadan.” He said, “What a vile folk who only acknowledge the right owed to Allah during Ramadan. A righteous person is one who worships fervently and exerts himself throughout the year. Shibli was asked, “Which month is better, Rajab or Sha’ban?” He replied, “Be devoted to your Lord! Do not be devoted to Sha’ban!” He then recited, “If you are truly totally devoted to combating your soul’s caprice, every place is a battleground.”


Notes:

[1] Bukhari, 1130

[2] An example of this would be a person saying during the month of Ramadan, “I can’t wait for Ramadan to end so I can start drinking beer again.” We seek refuge with God from such a vile course.

[3] Tirmidhi, 2927

 

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