Virtues of Fasting and Ramadan
Fasting in Ramadan is Obligation (Fardh):
It was narrated that Abu Umamah (R.A.) said:
'I said: O Messenger of Allah, “Which deed is best?”. He (S.A.W.) said: “Take to fasting, for there is nothing equal to it."'
In this Hadith, the Prophet (S.A.W.) singled out fasting when asked about a deed that leads its doer to the best of rewards. This fact alone is sufficient for us to understand the greatness of fasting.
Mere knowledge of the importance and superiority of fasting, however, is not enough for a Muslim to attain Allah's pleasure and then, InshaAllah, His great reward.
The Prophet (S.A.W.) has said:
"Perhaps a person fasting will receive nothing from his fasting except hunger and thirst."
(Ibn Majah: 1690)
This Hadith should raise our concern about fasting and increase our desire to perform this act of worship with the best intention and in accordance with the Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A.W.).
When we speak of the merits of something (Fadl or Fadail), we are actually saying the deeds in it are highly recommended and the reward and benefits highly emphasized and guaranteed. There are many Hadiths and Quranic verses that address the merits/importance of fasting during Ramadan, and filling the entire month with more Ebadah (worship) than any other month.
The first step for a Muslim to realize is the fact that fasting the month of Ramadan is obligatory and that Allah has prescribed it for us in His Book:
"O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious)."
(Surah Al-Baqarah 2:183)
Thus, Allah teaches us that Fasting is an obligation (one of the five pillars of Islam) and a means to attain Taqwa (piety), that which increases believers in their ranks with Allah:
"Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you."
(Surah Al-Hujuraat 49:13)
Furthermore, we should realize the words of the Prophet (S.A.W.) in which he tells us that Allah the Exalted said:
"The most beloved deeds with which my slave comes closer to Me are the obligatory deeds."
(Sahih Bukhari: 6502)
The reward for Fasting is immense:
As narrated by Abu Hurayrah (R.A.), The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) 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…. 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.’
(Sahih Bukhari: 1904)
The reward of fasting will be given by Allah as fast is only for Allah Almighty. Allah knows best what will be the reward given by Him on the day of resurrection to a fasting person. According to many scholars, it means Allah Himself will ask a fasting person what is his wish and whatever he will ask for, Allah will grant him that wish. This shows how important and significant is the fasting of Ramadan.
Also, Sahl Ibn Saad (R.A.) said that the Prophet (S.A.W.) said:
" There is a gate in Paradise called Ar-Raiyan, and those who observe fasts will enter through it on the Day of Resurrection and none except them will enter through it. It will be said, 'Where are those who used to observe fasts?' They will get up, and none except them will enter through it. After their entry the gate will be closed and nobody will enter through it."
(Sahih Bukhari: 1896)
Fasting is a shield against the Fire:
"Fasting is a shield or protection from the fire (Hell) and from committing sins"
(Sahih Bukhari: 1904)
Allah will protect the fasting person from the fire of hell as Allah Has said in this Hadith Qudsi that Fasting is a shield from the fire and committing sins. And we all know that freedom from the fire of hell means Paradise (Jannah) which is ultimate goal of every Muslim.
On the Day of Judgment, "Fasting will say: O My Lord I prevented him from food and desires, so accept my intercession for him."
(Imam Ahmad: 6589)
Abu Saeed Al-Khudri (R.A.) reported that the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.), said:
‘I heard the Prophet (S.A.W.) saying, "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."’
(Sahih Bukhari: 2840)
Abu Huryirah (R.A.) narrated that Allah's Messenger (S.A.W.) said:
"When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained."
(Sahih Bukhari: 1899)
In the famous Hadith of Muadh bin Jabal (R.A.),
I said: "O Messenger of Allah, tell me of an act which will take me into Paradise and keep me away from Hell-Fire.” He said: “You have asked me about a major matter, yet it is easy for him for whom Allah Almighty makes it easy. You should fast in Ramadan.” Then He (S.A.W.) said: “Shall I not show you the gates of goodness? Fasting is a shield.”
Fasting is a means for one's sins to be forgiven:
As narrated by Abu Hurairah (R.A.), The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) said:
"Whoever observes fasts during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah's rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven."
(Sahih Bukhari: 38)
The supplication of the fasting person is answered:
Abu Hurairah (R.A.) reports that Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) said:
"“There are three whose supplications are not turned back: ….. a fasting person until he breaks his fast."
(Ibn Majah: 1752)
The fasting person will be among the true followers of the prophets and the martyrs:
Amr ibn Murrah Al-Juhani (R.A.) said:
‘A man from Qudah came to the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) and said, “O Messenger of Allah! What do you think if I testify that there is no god except Allah and that you, Mohammad, is His Messenger, and I pray the five daily prayers, and fast in the month (of Ramadan), and pray at night in Ramadan, and pay Zakat?” The Prophet (S.A.W.) said: “Whoever dies on that will be among the ‘Siddiqeen’ (those who tell the truth) and the martyrs. "
(Sahih Ibn Hibbaan)
Fasting is a shield against one's base desires:
Abdullah Ibn Masud (R.A.) narrated that:
‘We went with Allah's Messenger, while we were young men who had nothing. He (S.A.W.) said: “O young men! You should marry, for indeed it helps in lowering the gaze and protecting the private parts. Whoever among you is not able to marry, then let him fast, for indeed fasting will diminish his sexual desire."’
Doors of Paradise Open, Doors of Hell Closed:
"We were with `Utbah Ibn Farqad while he was discussing Ramadan. A companion of the Prophet entered upon the scene. When `Utbah saw him, he became shy and stopped talking. The man (the companion) spoke about Ramadan, saying "I heard the Messenger of Allah say during Ramadan: 'The gates of Hell are closed, the gates of Paradise are opened, and the devils are in chains. An angel calls out: 'O you who intend to do good deeds, have glad tidings. O you who intend to do evil, refrain, until Ramadan is completed.'
when you know, O Dear Brother/Sister, that fasting subdues the desires and reduces their severity, and that it is these desires and lusts that lead to Hell Fire, then you will see how fasting comes between a fasting person and Hell Fire and you will rush to fast in Ramadan and after Ramadan in the best possible way.
Once we realize the greatness of fasting and what achievement it leads to, we must put all our efforts in performing fasting in the best manner possible. And since fasting is worship, it must be done solely for Allah's sake, and no intention is accepted, other than pleasing Allah and seeking His Face with all one's sincerity. Without a correct intention, no deed is of any value in the Hereafter. We Muslims must constantly verify our intentions and consider why we perform fasting. Do we do so merely because it is the practice of our parents and friends, or do we do so because it is part of our tradition, or perhaps because we simply want to conform to our environment in order to avoid any problems? A Muslim who realizes that only that which is with Allah remains, and that He is the only One who grants and withholds, would not be of those to which the Prophet (S.A.W.) alluded in the Hadith:
"On the Day of Judgment, a caller will cry out, 'Whoever performed deed for someone other than Allah may seek his reward from that for which he performed the deed' "