How was the fasting of prophet muhammad?
“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, so that you may guard (against evil).” (al-Baqarah 2; 183)
Fasting is an excellent act of worship, which strengthens the spiritual side of human beings. By means of fasting, people go into such an atmosphere that even angels admire them. Fasting, at the same time, prevents servants from falling into sins in the extent of weakening the inner self. There is no other act of worship which controls the self and polishes the spirit more effective than fasting does.
When Abu Umamah (r.a.) asked the Messenger of Allah:
“O Messenger of Allah! Tell me such an act of worship that Allah the Almighty would reward me because of it.”
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) replied:
“I advise you fasting for there is no other act of worship resembling to it.” (Nasai, Siyām, 43)
One of the acts of worship, which Allah’s Messenger constantly performed, is fasting. He (pbuh) informs us about the value of fasting as follows:
“Every good deed of the son of Adam would be multiplied. A good deed will be receiving a tenfold to seven hundredfold reward. Allah, the Exalted and Majestic, has said: With the exception of fasting, for it is done for Me and I will give a reward for it, for My servant abandons his passion and food just for My sake. There are two occasions of joy for the one who fasts, one of them when he breaks it, and the other when he meets his Lord. The breath of an observer of fast is sweeter to Allah than the fragrance of musk.” (Muslim, Siyām, 164)
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would fast even on the warmest days of the summer. Abu Darda’ (r.a.) reported:
“We set out during the month of Ramadan with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) in such an intense heat that one of us would place his hand over his head in order to protect himself against the excessive heat, and none among us was observing the fast, except the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and ‘Abdullah b. Rawaha.” (Muslim, Siyām, 108-109) He stated that “Fasting is a shield (or a screen or a shelter)” (Bukhari, Sawm, 2) and he always used the strongest shield.
Fasting is an act of obedience which takes those who observe it to piety. And through piety a servant will be protected from Hell-fire and get closer to Paradise. In this respect, the Prophet (pbuh) said that:
“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.” (Bukhari, Jihad, 36)
A believer, who is hungry because of fasting, comprehends the state of the poor and treats them mercifully and generously. With an empty stomach one tastes spirituality deeper than those with full stomach. Their spirituality and comprehension become stronger. Those who recognize their humility and servitude diverge from bad habits and eventually adorn with good manners. Jalal al-Din Rumi (q.s.) expresses that fasting strengthens the spirituality and weakens the inner animal self in the following lines:
“These austerities of dervishes—what are they for? (The reason is) that that tribulation (imposed) on the body enhances the everlasting life of spirits. Unless a (mystic) traveler gains the everlasting life of his (spiritual) self, how should he make his body a sick and perishing through fasting and worship?” (Mathnawi, II, 3349-3350)
In order to attain the above mentioned results from fasting, it should be observed just for the sake of Allah the Almighty and it should be performed according to the Prophet’s instructions. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) wants those who observe fasting to stay away from evil acts and words; and be gentle, dignified, and merciful. In fact this is stated in the following sayings of the Prophet (pbuh):
“The Prophet 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, Sawm, 8)
“… If one of you is fasting, he should avoid speaking bad and quarreling, and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, ‘I am fasting’…” (Bukhari, Sawm, 9)
We see that the Prophet (pbuh) acted moderately in his fasting just like in his all other acts and advised his companions to do the same. From time to time, he warned those who would leave everything and would observe fasting and prayer all the time. He (pbuh) told them to take him as an example. The Prophet (pbuh) prohibited sawm al-wisal (fasting continuously without breaking one’s fast in the evening or eating before the following dawn). When companions told the Prophet (pbuh):
“But you practice al-wisal?” the Prophet (pbuh) replied,
“I am not like any of you, for I am given food and drink (by Allah) during the night.” (Bukhari, Sawm, 48)
When moderation is not observed, people choose excess in one or another direction. Those who exaggerate get tired after a while and cannot even keep up the minimum requirements. The most difficult problem about the acts of obedience is to get tired and bored from performing them. When a person’s self gets tired from an act, he/she cannot achieve pious reverence and his/her act cannot be considered as an act of worship. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) points out this fact by saying: “Every act has a vital state, and every state of vitality has a point of tiredness and boredom…” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 21) Just like prescribing medicine to a patient, Allah the Almighty ordained the acts of obedience neither too much nor too little but just as much as His servants need.
Bahili (r.a.) experienced such an incident which shows the significance of moderation in worship.
“One day Bahiliyyah visited the Apostle of Allah (pbuh). He said:
“O Apostle of Allah, do you not recognize me?” The Prophet (pbuh) asked:
“Who are you?”
“I am al-Bahili who came to you last year.” He said:
“What has changed you? You were looking well, then you were good in appearance before?”
“I have fasted during the mornings and have food only at night since I departed from you.”
Thereupon the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) said:
“Why did you torment yourself? Fast during Ramadan (the month of patience) and fast for one day every month.”
“Increase it for me, for I have (more) strength.”
“Fast two days.”
He again said:
“Increase it for me.”
“Fast three days.”
He again said:
“Increase it for me.” He said:
“Fast three days from the inviolable months (Rajab, Zilqadah, Zilhijja, and Muharram) and then stop; fast three days from the inviolable months and then stop; fast three days from the inviolable months and then stop.”
He indicated by his three fingers, and joined them and then opened them.” (Abu Dawud, Sawm, 55)
According to Anas’s (r.a.) report, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) always acted according to the conditions. He did not fast in some months so that his companions thought that he was not going to fast again; and he fasted in some other months so many days that his friends thought that he was going to fast the entire month. (Bukhari, Sawm, 53) In addition, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would not exaggerate fasting by observing it a number of months continuously. In fact according to the reports of Umm Salama (r.a.), he never happened to fast two entire months in a row except the months of Sha’ban and Ramadan. (Tirmidhi, Sawm, 37) Even this happened only in some years.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) wanted those who fast to hurry in breaking their fast. And he said “The people will remain on the right path as long as they hasten the breaking of the fast.” (Bukhari, Sawm, 45) One day Masruq (r.a.) told Aisha (r.a.):
“Mother of the Believers, there are two persons among the Companions of Muhammad (pbuh) one among whom hastens in breaking the fast and in observing prayer, and the other delays breaking the fast and delays observing prayer.” She said:
“Who among the two hastens in breaking fast and observing prayers?”
“It is ‘Abdullah. i. e. son of Mas’ud” whereupon Aisha (r.a.) said: This is how the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) did…” (Muslim, Siyām, 49-50)
Source: An Excellent Exemplar, Osman Nuri Topbaş, Erkam Publications