Are there different levels for people who fast in Ramadhan?
Waalaikumussalam wrt, wbt.,
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
The Advantages of the Month of Ramadhan
The month of Ramadhan is a month filled with blessings. It is the month where the holy book of the Quran is revealed. Allah SWT states:
شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ
“The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion.”
Surah al-Baqarah (185)
Syeikh al-Tantawi when commenting on this verse said: “Allah SWT praises the month of Ramadhaan compared to any other months because Allah SWT’s book (the Quran) is revealed in it.” (See al-Tafsir al-Wasit li Tantawi, 1/386)
The month of Ramadhan is the month where we can increase our faith and the month of forgiveness from Allah SWT. This is stated in a hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah RA, where the Prophet PBUH said:
مَنْ صَامَ رَمَضَانَ إِيمَانًا وَاحْتِسَابًا غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ ذَنْبِهِ
“He who observed the fasts of Ramadan with faith and seeking reward (from Allah), all his previous sins would be forgiven,”
Sahih Muslim (760)
When Imam al-Nawawi commented on this hadith, he said the meaning of having faith is acknowledging its benefits and the meaning of hoping or seeking rewards is a person who fast only with hopes to be rewarded by Allah SWT and not to show off to others or anything that contradicts with the meaning of sincerity. (See al-Minhaj Syarh Sahih Muslim, 6/39)
In the month of Ramadhan, the doors of paradise are opened and the doors of hell are closed and this is explained in a hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah RA, where the Prophet PBUH said:
إِذَا جَاءَ رَمَضَانُ فُتِّحَتْ أَبْوَابُ الْجَنَّةِ وَغُلِّقَتْ أَبْوَابُ النَّارِ وَصُفِّدَتِ الشَّيَاطِينُ
“When there comes the month of Ramadan, the gates of mercy are opened, and the gates of Hell are locked and the devils are chained,”
Sahih Muslim (1079)
In commenting the above hadith, Imam Badr al-Din al-Aini stated in his book: “What is meant by the opening of the gates of mercy (paradise), for there are increase in obedience in the month of Ramadhan. The same is like when Allah SWT opens the gates of worship, thus the path towards paradise is made easy in the month of Ramadhan because our worships and good deeds are easily accepted.” (See Umdatul al-Qari Syarah Sahih al-Bukhari, 10/266)
The Levels of Those Who Fast
Imam al-Ghazali classifies the level or status of those who fast are divided into three parts:
- The fast of al-Umum is abstaining his stomach and desires. This is specified for the public or common people (awwam).
- The fast of al-Khusus is observing his sight, hearing, speech as well as all senses from committing any transgression and sin. This level of fasting is for the pious or the solihin. They lowered their sight from anything that could turn their hearts away from remembering Allah SWT. Protecting their speech against lies, backbiting, insults or degrading others. And they would increase their dhikr to Allah SWT and recite the Quran.
- The fast of khusus al-Khusus is for a person who protects his heart from thinking and remembering the worldly matters. And focusing his whole heart only to Allah SWT and the hereafter. And only think about worldly matters for religious commandments. And this is the fast of the Anbiya, Sadiqin and Muqarrabin.
Furthermore, Imam al-Ghazali also states the encouraged actions to be done while fasting in order to protect and increase our deeds, which are:
- Lower one’s sight from committing transgression and don’t look at anything that can turn his heart away from Allah SWT.
- Protect one’s speech against talking of unbeneficial matters, lies, backbiting and insults. Always increase the recitation of the Quran and dhikr to Allah SWT.
- Protect one’s hearing against prohibited matters. The reason is every thing that is haram to be uttered is also haram for him to listen to.
- Protect one’s senses from committing any sin and transgression. Likewise, for committing anything that is doubtful when breaking his fast. Fast is not an excuse to break one’s fast with excessiveness. (See Ihya’ Ulum al-Din, 1/234-235)
According to the above question asked, there are different levels of people who fast and protecting his deeds and actions. This is as stated in the divisions presented by Imam Ghazali in his book which are umum, al-khusus and khusus al-khusus.
Thus, it is encouraged to increase our deeds to increase our faith and piety towards Allah SWT as stated in the Quran:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.”
Surah al-Baqarah (183)
Imam al-Maraghi when commenting on the above verse said it is an obligation to fast and to increase one’s deeds in the month of Ramadhan as well as abstaining one’s desires to increase his piety and faith in Allah SWT. (See Tafsir al-Maraghi, 2/68)
Allah SWT raises the levels and status of His slaves who are able to protect and increase their worships in the month of Ramadhan with sincerity. The reason is every good deed in Ramadhan will be rewarded by Allah SWT Himself. This is narrated in a hadith from Abu Hurairah RA, the Prophet PBUH said:
يَقُولُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ الصَّوْمُ لِي وَأَنَا أَجْزِي بِهِ يَدَعُ شَهْوَتَهُ وَأَكْلَهُ وَشُرْبَهُ مِنْ أَجْلِي
"Allah said: The Fast is for Me and I will give the reward for it, as he (the one who observes the fast) leaves his sexual desire, food and drink for My Sake.”
Sahih al-Bukhari (7492)