The religion of Islam contains all benefits, and Sharee’ah enjoins everything that is beneficial. Islam is based on wisdom and benefiting people. Imam Al-Baidawi stated in his book “Al-Minhaj”: “Evidence indicates that Allah, the Almighty, prescribed all His rulings to benefit His servants.” (p. 233) Real jurisprudence means knowing this wisdom and realizing these objectives. Ibn Taymiyyah () said: “The person who understands the Law-Giver’s wisdom is the real jurist.” He also said: “The core of jurisprudence is to know the wisdom, objectives, and merits of Sharee’ah.” (Al-Fatawa: 11/354)
When the worshiper realizes the objectives and wisdom of the acts of worship, the acts of worship become easier for him, and he can feel their spirituality and significance. This enables the worshiper to offer the acts of worship not as inherited habits and traditions whose sweetness is not felt and whose objectives are not understood. Sheikh Mustafa Al-Siba’i said in this regard: “This is in order for the act of worship to be more effective and influencing, so that the believer can be more tranquil and reassured when performing the act of worship and putting Sharee’ah into effect.”
Fasting is one of the rituals prescribed by the blessed Sharee’ah. Without the scholars’ explanation of the wisdom behind enjoining fasting and clarification of some of the objectives they realized, minds would not have been able to understand the wisdom of The All-Wise and the kindness of The Most-Kind and the All-Aware (of everything). The following includes the sayings of different scholars in relation to the wisdom of enjoining fasting.
First: Feeling Pity for the Deprived and Disseminating a Sense of Consolidation among the Believers
Imam Ibn Rajab mentioned in his book “Lata’if Al-Ma`arif” (p. 314) that one of the predecessors was asked: “Why was fasting enjoined?” He said: “In order for the rich to feel hungry so that they do not forget the poor and the hungry.”
When Prophet Yusuf (alayhi assalam) was asked: “Why do you not satisfy your hunger although you are in charge of the storehouses of the land?” He said: “I fear that satiety may cause me to forget the hungry.” Only the one who experienced tiredness can realize its meaning and only the one who experienced pain can understand its severity.
Only the one who suffered from longing can understand its meaning,
And only the one who experienced ardent love can realize how it feels.
Therefore, one of the great objectives of fasting is to experience the suffering of deprivation and hunger, to practically implant mercy in the hearts of rich Muslims towards the poor, so that they may remember the continuous deprivation of the poor and realize their suffering and pains. As a result, the hearts of the rich may soften, and they become willing to help the poor with money, food, charity, and different types of generosity and benevolence. This is the greatest social consolidation which creates harmony among the Muslims and strengthens relations among the members of the society.
Second: Consoling the Hearts of the Poor
When the rich are also deprived of food, drink, and pleasures, the hearts of the poor get consoled because they become on equal footing with the rich, even for one hour of daytime.
Third: Controlling the Sexual Desire to Avoid Sinning
A person may have a desire for women without being able to fulfil it, and may fear of committing a sin. So, he may resort to fasting in order to weaken his desire. Therefore, the Prophet () advised the youth, saying: “O young men, those among you who can support a wife should marry, for it restrains eyes from casting (evil glances), and preserves one from immorality; but those who cannot, should devote themselves to fasting for it is a means of controlling sexual desire.”
Fourth: Feeling the Weakness and Need of Servitude
When a person feels the pain of hunger, they feel how weak, humble, and needy they are, so they submit to their Lord and realize the extent of their weakness and inability. They see how they have lost power due to their need of even a morsel of food or a mouthful of water. If the servant does not see how humble and submissive he is, he will not know the greatness of his Lord. It was said: “The one who has known himself will be able to know his Lord.” This means that the one who has realized his weakness, destitution, and need will understand the power, richness, and might of his Lord, the Almighty.
Fifth: Lessening Satan’s Effect on the Fasting Person
Satan circulates in the body like the blood; when the Muslim fasts, Satan finds a limited opportunity to affect them, so he loses the ability to influence them or insinuate whispers to them in the manner he does when they are not fasting. This helps Allah’s servant to have self-control, which leads to all happiness; however, falling under the control of one’s desires and self leads to all misery and distress. Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “Fasting keeps the heart and organs healthy and restores to them that which desires have stolen from them.” (Zad Al-Ma`ad 2/29)
Imam Al-Kamal ibn Al-Humam stated in “Fat’h Al-Qadeer”: “Fasting controls the self, which is inclined to evil, and restrains it curiosity in relation to the eyes, the tongue, the ears, and private parts. Therefore, it was said that if a person becomes hungry, all the organs become satisfied and tranquil, and if a person becomes sated, all the organs become out of control.”
Sixth: Getting Accustomed to Patience During Calamities and Steadfastness During Hardships
The fasting person obliges himself to abstain from that which it craves for due to fasting, although these desired matters are lawful when they are not fasting. Therefore, fasting boosts the Muslim’s strong determination and patience, especially at the end of the daytime, when they become very hungry and thirsty, although water and food are available, but the Muslim cannot eat or drink, regardless of how much they crave for them. This is out of patience, endurance, and aspiration for rewards from Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. Therefore, fasting is half of patience.
Seventh: Reminding Allah’s Servant with the Difference between the Submission of Servitude and the Might of the Lord
As fasting reminds the person of his need of food and drink and his inability to dispense with them, it rids him of arrogance, pride, and self-conceit and causes him to be submissive to his Creator and Sustainer. Accordingly, no one can claim that he is a god, such as Pharaoh, Nimrod, and the like. Therefore, Allah denounced those who considered Prophet ‘Isa and his mother as gods, saying: “The Messiah, son of Mary, was not but a messenger; [other] messengers have passed on before him. And his mother was a supporter of truth. They both used to eat food.” (Quran 5: 75) Both of them need Him and are submissive to Him; God cannot be in need of anything or submissive, but should be one, self-sufficient, free of any need, and all creatures need him. This is in accordance of Allah’s saying: “O mankind, you are those in need of Allah, while Allah is the Free of need, the Praiseworthy. If He wills, He can do away with you and bring forth a new creation.” (Quran 35: 15-17)
Eighth: Attaining Piety
The most sublime and greatest objective of enjoining fasting is to enable the fasting people to attain the status of the pious. Fasting is one of the greatest acts of worship by which a person trains to attain this great status. Everything related to fasting enables the person to attain piety if they fast according to the prescribed manner.
According to Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him), piety means: “Fearing the Majestic, acting according to Sharee’ah, and getting ready for death.” The fasting person combines all the attributes of piety; they fast out of fear of Allah; otherwise, he will not fast. In addition, fasting implies adherence to the Book of Allah, obedience to His commands, and submissiveness to Sharee’ah. The fasting person does all these acts in order to be prepared for the Day of Resurrection. The Prophet said: “Indeed, anyone who fasts for one day for Allah's Pleasure, Allah will keep his face away from the (Hell) fire for (a distance covered by a journey of) seventy years." Nothing can be equal in reward to fasting, according to the following Hadith: “The fast is for Me. So I will reward (the fasting person) for it.”
According to Talq ibn Habib (), piety means acting in obedience to Allah with His guidance, seeking Allah’s reward, abstaining from acts of disobedience with His guidance, and fearing Allah’s punishment.” These qualities also apply to the fasting person, as fasting is an act of obedience in which the fasting person adheres to a time set by the Law-Giver, seeking Allah’s reward. Fasting also involves abstaining from everything that incurs Allah’s wrath or spoils this act of worship, out of fear of losing the reward of fasting and deserving Allah’s punishment.
Among the greatest evidence that piety is attained by fasting is that Allah’s servant does not break his fast without a reasonable excuse, even if he is punished or beaten. This is in order to honour Allah’s command. Ibn Rajab and other scholars mentioned that the greatest evidence that fasting involves piety is that the believer dislikes food, drink, and sexual desire because he knows that Allah dislikes them at a certain time (while fasting), then likes these things at the time when Allah makes them lawful (after breaking the fast). The greatest evidence is that the fasting person abstains from the unlawful things he desires even when he is not seen by people because he knows that Allah, the Almighty, sees him. This is the rank of perfection in religion, which is attained by worshipping Allah as if you see Him, and if you cannot achieve this state of devotion, then you must consider that He is looking at you.
The subject of the wisdom and objectives of fasting is vast and is open to discussions and additions. O Allah, the Most Merciful of those who show mercy, enable us to learn and understand, and accept our good deeds.