The month of Sha’baan is upon us and with Ramadan fast approaching and it is time for us to reflect upon the merits of fasting as well as the month of preparation, the distinguished month o f Sha’baan. While the merits and virtues of fasting can tend to become a rather in depth topic, I hope to at least offer a glimpse into the reality of its blessings.
Fasting is a fundamental principle in Islam, prescribed by Allah in his word, Al Quran:
“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint, - (Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (Should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (With hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will, - it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.” Surah Al Baqara 02:183-184
But is this really an act suffering we are forced to endure with no purpose? Of course not! Allah is the Most Merciful, Oft Forgiving
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah's Apostle said, "Allah said, 'All the deeds of Adam's sons (people) are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.' Fasting is a shield or protection from the fire and from committing sins. If one of you is fasting, he should avoid sexual relation with his wife and quarreling, and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, 'I am fasting.' By Him in Whose Hands my soul is' The unpleasant smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting.” Sahih Al Bukhari Volume 3, Book 31, Number 128:
Allah’s mercy is ever abundant when we see that while “fasting is for Allah” it is still a protection for us against transgression, a shield which we will be rewarded for carrying. These examples abound, showing the mercy of Allah if we only take to heart (and action) that which he has prescribed for us.
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah's Apostle said, "Fasting is a shield (or a screen or a shelter). So, the person observing fasting should avoid sexual relation with his wife and should not behave foolishly and impudently, and if somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should tell him twice, 'I am fasting." The Prophet added, "By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, the smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. (Allah says about the fasting person), 'He has left his food, drink and desires for My sake. The fast is for Me. So I will reward (the fasting person) for it and the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten times." Sahih Al Bukhari Volume 3, Book 31, Number 118
Allah has rewarded our patience and perseverance with the knowledge of its virtues, yet he still in his infinite Compassion goes further, multiplying the rewards of our good deeds by ten. But Allah does not need us it is we that need him, so be sincere in your actions:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
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.)" Sahih Al Bukhari Volume 3, Book 31, Number 127
Now that we have reflected upon the act of fasting itself, let us look further into the month of Sha’baan and why it is important. The Prophet's example (the best) is all we need see to realize the virtues of Sha’baan:
“'A'isha, the Mother of the Believers (Allah be pleased with her), reported that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) used to observe fasts (so continuously) that we said that he would not break, and did not observe (them) till we said that he would not fast: and I did not see the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) completing the fast of a month, but that of Ramadan, and I did not see him fasting more in any other month than that of Sha'ban.” Sahih Muslim Book 006, Number 2580
While we know Ramadan is a sacred month in which we offer ourselves with fasting for the entire month, there are clear examples that the Prophet himself took advantage of Sha’baan to offer voluntary fasting more so then in any other month. It is important to note that the Prophet made a clear distinction between fasting and not fasting, and never fasted a full month besides Ramadan. An example for all, our Prophet was balanced:
I asked Anas about the fasting of the Prophet. He said "Whenever I liked to see the Prophet fasting in any month, I could see that, and whenever I liked to see him not fasting, I could see that too, and if I liked to see him praying in any night, I could see that, and if I liked to see him sleeping, I could see that, too." Anas further said, "I never touched silk or velvet softer than the hand of Allah's Apostle and never smelled musk or perfumed smoke more pleasant than the smell of Allah's Apostle." Sahih Al Bukhari Volume 3, Book 31, Number 194
So let us not go too far or not far enough. Let us follow the example of the Messenger of Allah and take advantage of Sha’baan:
'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) did not observe fast in any month of the year more than in the month of Sha'ban, and used to say: Do as many deeds as you are capable of doing, for Allah will not become weary (of giving you reward), but you would be tired (of doing good deeds); and he also said: The deed liked most by Allah is one to which the doer adheres constantly even if it is small. Sahih Muslim Book 006, Number 2582
Let us take the blessings of our good deeds in Sha’baan and use them to prepare for Ramadan. Take advantage for ourselves with the fasting, and take advantage for all with our good deeds which will multiplied ten fold. In the end I wish only to remind it is the duty of every Muslim, man and woman to fast, and it is one of the actions that guarantees our place with Allah.
“For Muslim men and women, - for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in Charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise,- for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward. Surah Al Ahzab 33:35