"And So It Was Said…"


In the Name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate
 
Amazing, isn't it, that Ramadan is half-over. Where did the days go? Anyway, as we enter into the second half of the month of Ramadan, I cannot help but reflect over the act of fasting itself (especially since I have been enmeshed in this act of worship for the last two weeks). Of all the acts of worship in Islam, fasting is the only one that cannot be feigned for show.
 
People can pray in public for show; they can make sure the largest number of people are watching when they raise their hands to their ears and say Allahu Akbar ("God is the Greatest") to start the prayer. They can loudly proclaim, in front of the people, that they testify there is nothing worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is His Messenger. People can make sure others are watching them when they raise their hands to donate $10,000 to this cause or that. People can even make the pilgrimage to Mecca for show.
 
Fasting, however, is different. You cannot fake the fast. Sure, you can tell everyone else you are fasting. But, when the hunger pangs come, you will answer to the call of the stomach. When the sting of thirst covers your mouth, you will seek to soothe its pain with water or other drink. Indeed, you may have to hide in order to eat or drink, but then, is this really fasting? No, of all the acts of worship, fasting is the one ritual which cannot be faked. That is because, no one knows except you (and God) what you do when you are all alone – as thirsty and hungry as ever – and food and drink is within reach of your hands and out of sight of others.
 
That is the true spiritual test of fasting, and that is why the reward is so great. And that is precisely why God said, as recorded in a Sacred Hadith, "Fasting is for Me, and I give the reward for it." The practice of fasting reminds me of this hadith below, which speaks of some of the first people who are brought before God in judgment:
 
The first of people against whom judgment will be pronounced on the Day of Resurrection will be a man who died a martyr.  He will be brought and Allah will make known to him His favours and he will recognize them.  [The Almighty] will say: "And what did you do about them?" He will say: "I fought for you until I died a martyr."  He will say: "You have lied – you did but fight that it might be said [of you]: He is courageous.  And so it was said."  Then he will be ordered to be dragged along on his face until he is cast into Hell-fire. 
 
[Another] will be a man who has studied [religious] knowledge and has taught it and who used to recite the Quran.  He will be brought and Allah will make known to his His favours and he will recognize them. [The Almighty] will say: "And what did you do about them?  He will say: I studied [religious] knowledge and I taught it and I recited the Quran for Your sake."  He will say: "You have lied – you did but study [religious] knowledge that it might be said [of you]: 'He is learned.' And you recited the Quran that it might be said [of you]: 'He is a reciter.'  And so it was said." Then he will be ordered to be dragged along on his face until he is cast into Hell-fire. 
 
[Another] will be a man whom Allah had made rich and to whom He had given all kinds of wealth.  He will be brought and Allah will make known to his His favours and he will recognize them. [The Almighty] will say: "And what did you do about them?"  He will say: "I left no path [untrodden] in which You like money to be spent without spending in it for Your sake."  He will say: "You have lied – you did but do so that it might be said [of you]: 'He is open-handed.'  And so it was said." Then he will be ordered to be dragged along on his face until he is cast into Hell-fire.
This hadith frightens me to death each time I read and think about it. It is a stark reminder that we must be mindful of our intentions and must always ensure that everything we do be for the sake of God alone. And if we are tested with the temptation of showing off in our acts of worship, then let the fast of Ramadan train us to shed this temptation. Just as we continue to deny ourselves food and drink when no one is around, then we should likewise pray, give charity, and the like when no one is watching us. That way, we are truly doing the things we do for the sake of God. And, God willing, we will never be one of those people to whom God will say on the Day of Resurrection, "And so it was said…"
 
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