All acts of worship have an outer dimension and an inner dimension and we have been commanded to observe both of these as they are necessary for the individual to reach the reality and essence of his worship.
Fasting, like prayer, zakat, Hajj and all other direct forms of worship has a surface level and adeeper reality which are both fundamental to the journey of man towards Allah (swt). The minimum level of performing acts of worship is to ensure one understands the jurisprudential aspects of that action and observes all the rulings associated with it. However, one should not stop at this surface level of understanding but needs to also delve into the spiritual reality of the actions he is performing.
The term ‘Ramadhan’ is from the Arabic root letters ‘ra-ma-dha’ which refer to intense heat. The person who is fasting by avoiding eating and drinking on a jurisprudential level and freeing himself from the attachments of this world and breaking the idols within him, he burns all the sins he is engulfed in, as the Holy Prophet is reported to have said: “’Verily Ramadhan has been thus named because it scorches away sins”. By fasting, the traveller towards Allah (swt) burns the arrogance, jealousy, hypocrisy, self-centredness and other evils within him.
The month of Ramadhan is the month of meeting Allah (swt), it is the month of removing all the veils which the servant has made between himself and his Master, it is the month of becoming free from all the desires, imaginations and angers which diverts one from his main purpose in life. The month of Ramadhan is the month of finding one’s self, as Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli puts it this month is the beginning of the year for the wayfarers towards Allah (swt), such people account themselves and see how much they have progressed from the previous month of Ramadhan.
Is one’s understanding about the Laylatul Qadr (The night of Power), the Qur’an and himself the same as the previous year or has it improved? This night which is the night of measurement, has this servant measured the value of himself? Has he discovered the potentials of his soul and increased his knowledge with regards to the greatness that Allah (swt) created him with?
The real fasting through which the servant attains God-Consciousness is not by only avoiding food and drink because as Imam Ali (as) is reported to have said: “There is many a fasting man who yields nothing from his fast other than thirst…” but rather this Tawqa is achieved by refraining from any ill thought, action, glance and listening which takes one away from Allah (swt). It is achieved by taming the soul and making it in under the control of the intellect. It is the intellect of the human being which needs to govern his anger, imagination and desire, and by this governance he will become higher than the angels.
In this month, we are all the guests of Allah (swt), The Most Merciful is The Host of this divine banquet and it is up to the guest what he asks for in this banquet; there are those who only stand at the door of the host, those who sit beside the food but do not eat, those who only eat and benefit from the food which is provided at the host’s house and finally those who are not only satisfied with the food they are given, but rather are looking for the host himself, they want to meet him and talk to him. In the same way, these categories of guests also exist for those fasting in the Holy Month of Ramadhan.