Virtues of Ramadan: Hadith 06 - Part 1

Abu Ubaidah Al-Jarrah RA reports:"I have heard Rasulullah (SAW) saying - "Fasting is a protective Shield for Man, as long as he does not tear up that protection."

COMMENTARY In the above narration, "protective shield" means - just as a man protects himself with a shield, similarly fasting protects him from his well-known enemy i.e. the Shaytaan. In other hadiths, we are told that fasting saves one from Allah's punishment and the Hellfire in the Hereafter.

Once somebody inquired from Rasulullah (SAW): "What causes the fast to be void?"

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) responded: "Telling lies and backbiting."

The aforementioned Hadith, when read in conjunction with so many others, actually tells us to avoid such actions which cause fasting to be wasted. In our times, we are fond of whiling away the time with unnecessary conversations. Some Ulama are of the opinion that lies, backbiting, slander, etc. actually nullifies the fast just like eating and drinking. However the great majority of the Ulama believes that such fast is not totally nullified, but loses its blessings and spiritual benefit.

The scholars of Islam have actually mentioned six things, about which care should be taken in fasting. They are as follows:

(1) First, one should keep the eyes away from any place where one should not look, and this includes looking at one's own wife with desire while fasting, let alone another woman. Similarly, looking at any evil action or where evil is committed should be avoided.

Rasulullah (SAW) said: "The glance is like an arrow from Shaytaan. Whosoever, out of fear for Allah, prevents himself from lookig at evil, Allah shall grant him such light of faith, the taste and ecstacy of which he will feel in the heart."

Some scholars interpret the above saying to mean that those sights which should be avoided include all such places and things that distract the mind from the remembrance of Allah. Such is the desirable standard of superior fasting.

(2) Secondly, one should guard the tongue against lies, unnecessary conversation, backbiting, arguments, swearing, and so on. In Sahih Bukhari, I have read that fasting is a shield for the fasting person; for this reason, those who fast should avoid all useless talk, joking, argument, etc. Should anyone pick an argument, then one should respond and say: "I am fasting". In other words, one should not start an argument, and if someone else starts it, then too, one should avoid taking it up. When the person who starts an argument is not an understanding person, then at least one should remind oneself that: "I am fasting".

During the time of our Nabi Muhammad (SAW), two women were fasting and suffered the pangs of hunger to such an extent that the fast became unbearable and both were at the point of death. The Sahabah RA brought this to the notice of the Prophet (SAW) who sent a bowl commanding them to vomit into it. When they both vomitted into the bowl, pieces of meat and fresh blood were found in it.

The Sahabah RA were greatly surprised, upon which our Nabi SAW said: "They fasted with Halal food from Allah, but partook of Haraam food by backbiting other people."

From the above, it also becomes clear that, by backbiting during fasting, the fast becomes so much more harder; and it was for this reason that both women in the above narration were near death. Similar is the case with other sinful acts, and experience shows that for the faithful, Allah-fearing persons, fasting is no hardship, whereas the sinful find it too hard to bear. One should therefore stay away from sins - especially major sins, like backbiting and slander, which are often indulged in to while away the time.

Let us take heed that Allah (SWT) actually says in the Qur'an that backbiting is tantamount to the actual eating of the flesh of one's dead brother. We find this also narrated in various hadiths.

Once the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), upon seeing some people, asked them to pick their teeth. They said that they had not tasted any meat that day. Nonetheless, the Prophet (SAW) said: "So and so's flesh is sticking to your teeth."

It transpired that they had been backbiting. May Allah keep us safe from this evil, because we are very neglectful of this warning. All are guilty of this. Not to speak of the common man, even the people of importance indulge in it, and worse - even the religious people in their gatherings do not avoid backbiting. Worst of all is the fact that we do not even realise what backbiting is; even when we suspect ourselves of this, we try to cover it up 'camouflaged' by narration of some event.

One of the Sahabah RA inquired from Rasulullah (SAW): "What is backbiting?"

Rasulullah (SAW) replied: "To mention something about your brother behind his back, which he would resent."

The Sahabi RA then said: "And is it still backbiting if the thing mentioned about him is really true?"

Our dear Nabi (SAW) said: "In that case (i.e. if that which was mentioned is really true) - then it is precisely backbiting; but if what is mentioned is false, then you have in fact slandered him."

We should know that the sin of backbiting is worse than fornication, while the sin of slander is worse than killing another Muslim.

Once the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) passed by two graves. Nabi (SAW) said: "On both the inmates of these graves, punishment is being inflicted in the grave. One is being punished because of backbiting, the other because of not having taken precautions (to stay clean) when passing urine."

Rasulullah (SAW) also said: "There are more than seventy degrees of evil in Riba (usury/interest). The lowest form of it is comparable to committing incest with one's own mother; and taking one Naira of interest is an evil worse than having fornicated thirty five times. The worst and most evil degree of taking interest is the slandering of a Muslim."

(3) Thirdly, we should be careful that the ears are kept away from listening to anything Makruh (undesirable). This is why listening to music is frowned upon. It is equally Haraam to listen to anything that should not be said.

Rasulullah (SAW) has said: "In backbiting, both the backbiter and the one who listens to it are equal partners in sin."

There would be a continuation of this post tomorrow.

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