O YOU who have attained to faith! Fasting is ordained for you as it was ordained for those before you, so that you might remain conscious of God: [Quran 2:183].
It was the month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was [first] bestowed from on high as a guidance unto man and a self-evident proof of that guidance, and as the standard by which to discern the true from the false. Hence, whoever of you lives to see this month shall fast throughout it . . . [Quran 185].
On the authority of Abu ‘Abd ar-Rahman ‘Abdullah, the son of Umar ibn al-Khattab (RA), who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) say: “Islam has been built on five [pillars]: testifying that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, performing the prayers, paying the zakat, making the pilgrimage to the House, and fasting in Ramadan.” [an-Nawawi, Forty Hadith, #3].
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)” [Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 127].
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) said, “Fasting is a shield (or a screen or a shelter). So, the person observing fasting should avoid sexual relation with his wife and should not behave foolishly and impudently, and if somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should tell him twice, ‘I am fasting.” [Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 118].
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) said, “Allah said, ‘All the deeds of Adam’s sons (people) are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.’ . . . By Him in Whose Hands my soul is’ The unpleasant smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting.” [Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 128].
The Fast of the [spiritually elevated] Elite means fasting of the heart from unworthy concerns and worldly thoughts, in total disregard of everything but God, Great and Glorious is He. This kind of Fast is broken by thinking of worldly matters, except for those conducive to religious ends, since these constitute provision for the Hereafter and are not of this lower world. [Imam al-Ghazali, The Mysteries of Fasting the Month of Ramadan].
Know, O dear readers, that there are three classes of fast. (1) Fast of the general Muslims. It is to restrain, oneself from eating and drinking and from sexual passion. This is the lowest kind of fast. (2) Fast of the few select Muslims. In this kind of fasting, besides the above things one refrains himself from sins of hand, feet, sight and other limbs of body. (3) Fast of the highest class. These people keep fast of mind. In other words, they don’t think of anything else except God and the next world. They think only of the world with the intention of the next world as it is the seed ground for the future . . . This highest class of people are the Prophets and the near ones of God. This kind of fast is kept after sacrificing oneself and his thoughts fully to God [Imam al-Ghazali, Ihya Ulum-id-Din (The Book of Religious Learning)].
The Holy Prophet said, ‘Fasting is a protection from the calamities of this world, and a veil from punishment of the next.’ When you fast, intend thereby to restrain yourself from fleshly appetites and to cut off those worldly desires arising from the ideas of Satan and his kind. Put yourself in the position of a sick person who desires neither food nor drink; expect recovery at any moment from the sickness of wrong actions. Purify your inner being of every lie, turbidity, heedlessness and darkness, which might cut you off from the meaning of being sincere for the sake of Allah. [Imam Ja’far Al-Sadiq, The Lantern of the Path, Fasting].
Fasting kills the desire of the self and the appetite of greed, and from it comes purity of the heart, purification of the limbs, cultivation of the inner and the outer being, thankfulness for blessings, charity to the poor, increase of humble supplication, humility, weeping and most of the ways of seeking refuge in God; and it is the reason for the breaking of aspiration, the lightening of evil things, and the redoubling of good deeds. It contains benefits which cannot be counted. It is enough that we mention some of them to the person who understands and is given success in making use of fasting, if God wills. [Imam Ja’far Al-Sadiq, The Lantern of the Path, Fasting].
There is an unseen sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness! Man is like a lute, neither more nor less: When the lute’s stomach is full, it cannot lament, whether high or low. If your brain and stomach burn from fasting, their fire will draw constant lamentation from your breast. Through that fire you will burn a thousand veils at every instant–you will ascend a thousand degrees on the Way and in your aspiration. [Jalauddin Rumi, Divan: Ghazal 1739].
When satiated by food and drink, an unsightly metal statue is seated where your spirit should be. When fasting, good habits gather like helpful friends. [Jalauddin Rumi, Divan: Ghazal 1739]
Be empty of stomach and cry out, in neediness, like the reed flute! Be empty of stomach and tell secrets like the reed pen! [Jalauddin Rumi, Divan: Ghazal 1739].
The fasting prescribed by the religion is to abstain from eating and drinking and sexual intercourse from dawn to sunset, while spiritual fasting is, in addition, to protect all the senses and thoughts from all that is unlawful. It is to abandon all that is disharmonious, inwardly as well as outwardly. The slightest breach of that intention breaks the fast. Religious fasting is limited by time, while spiritual fasting is forever and lasts throughout one’s temporal and eternal life. This is true fasting. [Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani, Spiritual Fasting].