The Qur’an specifically states this, and links the institution of Ramadan as the proper month of fasting for Muslims with the month “wherein the Qur’an was sent down to be a guidance to the people, and as a clear sign of Guidance and Salvation.” The night on which the first revelation took place is known as the Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Power), “which is better than a thousand months.
The practice of fasting as a spiritual discipline is both ancient and widespread. It antedates Islam, even among the Arabs, and from time immemorial has been observed in various ways by Jews, Christians, and eastern and pagan religions. The Prophet himself, according to several authentic traditions' was wont to observe, like his own tribe of Quraysh, the fast of ' Ashura' on the tenth day of Muharram. The custom was taken over from the Jewish '5.sor fast of the Day of Atonement, which fell on the tenth of Tishri. "When the Prophet came to Medina he found the Jews fasting on the Day of '.Ashur5.'. When they were asked about it they said: 'This is the Day on which God gave victory to Moses and the children of Israel over Pharaoh, so we keep it as a fast to honour it'. The Prophet replied: 'We are more worthy of Moses than you are', and commanded that it be kept a fast." 2 After the break with the Jews the fast of Ramadan was instituted, but the custom of fasting 'Ashura' became optional and supererogatory. It commemorates the day on which Noah left the ark.
Though not one of the four pre-Islamic sac- red months, namely-dhu-'l-Qa'dah, dhu-'l-Hijjah, Mul)arram, and Rajab, during which fighting was unlawful, Ramadan was of special religious significance among the Quraysh. Those of them who desired to do penance were accustomed to go to Mt. Hira' upon the beginning of Ramadan where they performed their tahannuth (religious devotion and penance). The exercises lasted the entire month, and at its conclusion the devotees made their way to the Kaaba where they performed the circumambulation seven times and then returned home to resume normal life. The Prophet him- self observed the same custom." And it was during one of those vigils of devotion and penance in Ramadan that the Prophet received his first divine revelation. The Qur'an specifically states this, and links the institution of Ramadan as the proper month of fasting for Muslims with the month "wherein the Qur’an was sent down to be a guidance to the people, and as a clear sign of Guidance and Salvation." 1 The night on which the first revelation took place is known as the Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Power), "which is better than a thousand months; in it the angels and the Spirit descend, by the leave of their Lord, upon every command. Peace it is, till the rising of dawn." 2 It was also in Ramadan that the Prophet won his first major decisive victory at Badr, which was interpreted as the divine sanction of the new faith,3 the miraculous Furqan which distinguished good from evil. For all these reasons, the institution of Ramadan as the proper month of fasting became quite natural. The battle of Badr took place in Ramadan, A H. 2 [February-March A. D. 624], and, in all likelihood, the fast of Ramadan to be fully observed was that of A.H. 3 [February IS-March 16, A.D. 625].
The following pages are a translation of the Kitab Asrar, al-Sawan (On the Mysteries of Fasting) which is the fifth book of the first quarter of the Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din. The translation is based on three printed texts and one in manuscript form. The printed texts are: first that printed at Kafr al-Zaghari in A.H. 1352 from the older Cairo edition of A.H. 1289 j second, that contained in the text of the Ithaf al-Sadah al-Muttaqin bi-Sharh Ulam al-Din of al-Sayyid al-Murtada al- Zabidi (d. 1791); third, that reproduced in the margin of the same Ithaf al-Sadah and fourth, the text preserved ill a four-volume manuscript in the Garrett Collection of Arabic Manuscripts in the Princeton University Library (No. 1481). In the translation of Quranic verses, I have depended mainly on J.M. Rodwell's version.
It IS my hope that by making still another Book of the Ihya' available in English, non-Arabic-speaking scholars will be benefited, even from my mistakes.
Praise be to God who hath shown great favour unto His servants by delivering them from the wiles of Satan; who hath thwarted the hopes of the devil and frustrated his designs by making fasting a bulwark and a shield for His saints; who hath opened "he gates of Paradise unto them and taught them that the way of Satan to their hearts lieth in secret lust; who hath made known unto them that only through subduing its secret lust could the soul at rest assert its superiority,
In accordance with the words of the Apostle that "fasting comprises half of fortitude" and "fortitude forms half of belief" fasting equals one-fourth of belief. Furthermore, it is distinguished from the other pillars [of Islam] by its special and peculiar position in relation to God, since He said through the mouth of His Prophet "Every good deed will be rewarded from ten-to- seven hundred fold except fasting which is endured for My sake and which I shall reward." 1 God also said, "Verily, the patient shall be repaid: their reward shall not be by measure." 1 Fasting comprises one-half of fortitude and its reward transcends reckoning and calculation. To have an idea of its excellence you have only to remember the words of the Apostle when he said, "By Him who holds my life in His hand, the soul breath of the fasting man's mouth is more fragrant before God and better pleasing to Him than redolent mush." 'The fasting man abjureth his food and drink and suppresseth his appetite for My sake,' said the Lord, 'and I shall reward him for it.' 3 The Apostle also said, "Verily Paradise hath, [among others], a gate which is called al-Rayyan and through which no one shall enter except those who have observed the fast." And again, "Two joys are prepared for him who observes the fast the joy of breaking the fast and that of meeting his Lord." On another occasion he said, "Everything hath a gateway and the gateway of worship is fasting." 1 And again he said, "The sleep of the fasting man is worship."
Abu-Hurayrah related that the Apostle once said, "When the month of Ramadan arriveth the gates of Paradise are flung open while those of Hell are closed. At the same time all the devils are put in chains  and a herald crieth out, '0 thou who seekest good come hither, and thou who desireth evil desist'.
Commenting on the words of God, "Eat ye and drink with healthy relish, for what ye did afore time in the days that have gone by," Waki' said that "the days that have gone by" were the days of fasting, since during those days [men and women} have abstained from food and drink.
On another occasion the Apostle himself included the renunciation of the world and fasting [in the list of things which lift man to] the rank [of the angels]. Thus he said, "Verity God will make His angels vie with the ascetic young man saying, '0 young man who hast suppressed thy carnal lust for My sake and who hast consecrated the 9time of thy life unto Me, thou art in My sight as one of My angels'."
And again the Apostle said that God would address His angels concerning fasting and say, "O My angels t Behold My servant: he hath suppressed his carnal lust, abjured his pleasures, and given up his food and drink-he hath done all that for My sake."
Concerning the words of God "No soul knoweth what joy is reserved for them in recompense of their works," 3 it has been said that "their works;" it tasting, since God said, "Verily the patient shall be repaid: their reward shall not be by measure." Thus will the reward of the fasting man be generous and even profuse and it will be beyond imagination or estimate. It is very meet that it be so, because fasting belongs to God and, by virtue of this relationship, it has been rendered noble, although all the acts of worship belong to God, just as the House (al-Bayt)l has been made noble by its special relationship to God, although the whole earth is His also. Fasting belongs to God in two respects: first, because it is a form of desisting and relinquishing, in its very nature concealed from human sight, whereas all the other acts of worship are apparent and exposed to it. It stands alone as the only act of worship which is not seen by anyone except God. It is an inward act of worship performed through sheer endurance and fortitude. Second, because it is a means of vanquishing the enemy of God, Satan, who works through the appetites and carnal lusts. These appetites and lusts are strengthened by eating and drinking. For this reason the Apostle said, "Verily Satan affects the son of Adam by pervading his blood. Let him therefore make this difficult for Satan by means of hunger."! For the same reason he told' A'ishah, "Persist in knocking the door of Paradise." When she asked, "With what shall I knock the door of Paradise?” he replied. With hunger. The excellence of hunger will be discussed under the section which deals with the evils of gluttony and the remedy therefrom [in the Book on the Two Appetites] in the Quarter on the Destructive Matters of Life.
Whereas fasting is primarily a method of subduing Satan, blocking his path, and placing obstacles in his way, it deserves a special place in relation to God, since subduing the enemy of God is an aid to Him, and His aid is not forthcoming unless men aid Him. Thus He said, "If ye aid God, He will help you, and will set your feet firm:' The servant should take the initiative and commence his efforts and God will crown him with success by guiding him into His ways. For this reason God said, "And whoso maketh efforts for Us, in Our ways will We guide them," God also said, "Verily God changeth not what a people hath until they change it for themselves." Change increases temptation and strengthens the appetites which are the grazing grounds of the devils and their pasturing land. As long as they are fertile the devil will continue to frequent them, and as long as he frequents them the majesty of God will not be revealed to the servant and [His glory] will always remain concealed from him. The Apostle said. "Had it not been for the fact that the devils hover around the hearts of the children of Adam, the latter would have readily lifted their hearts unto the Kingdom of Heaven."! In this respect fasting becomes the gateway to worship and a protection [against the fires of Hell].
Since its excellence has become so very important, it is necessary to describe its outward and inward conditions by enumerating its principles and regulations as well as its inward rules. We shall discuss this under three sections.
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