Eternal Bliss and Transient Pleasure: Insights on Fasting

قال الله عز وجل: { وَيَوْمَ يَحْشُرُهُمْ كَأَن لَّمْ يَلْبَثُواْ إِلاَّ سَاعَةً مِّنَ النَّهَارِ يَتَعَارَفُونَ بَيْنَهُمْ قَدْ خَسِرَ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُواْ بِلِقَآءِ اللَّهِ وَمَا كَانُواْ مُهْتَدِينَ} سورة يونس 45 .

Allah the Exalted says: { And on the Day when He shall gather them together, (it will be) as if they had not stayed (in the life of this world and graves) but an hour of a day. They will recognize each other. Ruined indeed will be those who denied the meeting with Allah and were not guided} (Surah 10, verse 45).

عن أنس بن مالك رضي الله عنه قال: قال رسول الله صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم: « يُؤْتَى بِأَنْعَمِ أَهْلِ الدُّنْيَا مِنْ أَهْلِ النَّارِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فَيُصْبَغُ فِي النَّارِ صَبْغَةً، ثُمَّ يُقَالُ: يَا ابْنَ آدَمَ هَلْ رَأَيْتَ خَيْرًا قَطُّ؟ هَلْ مَرَّ بِكَ نَعِيمٌ قَطُّ؟ فَيَقُولُ: لَا وَاللَّهِ يَا رَبِّ، وَيُؤْتَى بِأَشَدِّ النَّاسِ بُؤْسًا فِي الدُّنْيَا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ فَيُصْبَغُ صَبْغَةً فِي الْجَنَّةِ فَيُقَالُ لَهُ: يَا ابْنَ آدَمَ هَلْ رَأَيْتَ بُؤْسًا قَطُّ؟ هَلْ مَرَّ بِكَ شِدَّةٌ قَطُّ؟ فَيَقُولُ: لَا وَاللَّهِ يَا رَبِّ مَا مَرَّ بِي بُؤْسٌ قَطُّ وَلَا رَأَيْتُ شِدَّةً قَطُّ». رواه مسلم.

Narrated Anas Ibn Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “A person among the people of Hell who had led a life of ease and plenty in the world will be brought forth on the Day of Judgment and immersed only once in Hell. Then he will be asked: ‘O son of Adam, did you ever experience any comfort in your life? Did you ever get any material blessing in the world?’  He will reply: ‘By Allah, no, my Lord.’

And then a person among the people of Paradise who had led the most miserable life in the world will be brought forth and immersed only once in Paradise.  Then he will be asked: ‘O son of Adam, did you ever experience any misery in your life? Had you any hardship in the world?’  He will reply: ‘By Allah, no, my Lord, never did I experience any misery or face any hardship.’ ”  Related by Imam Muslim.

——————-

When it comes to emotions and feelings of faith, the Muslim is most conscious of them while fasting, and especially so during the blessed month of Ramadan. When the Muslim stops himself from food and drink from sunrise to sunset, he feels a special bond and closeness to his Lord since he does so only to obey his Lord and please Him. And soon enough, through this struggle, the Muslim realizes that fasting involves deeper meaningful purposes and aspects beyond merely refraining from food and drink.

Indeed, the objectives and purposes of fasting are numerous.  Fasting is a discipline and a training exercise for the Muslim, for when the Muslim stops himself from the permissible, it is even easier to avoid the forbidden.

Thus, while he starts out by avoiding food, he ends up abandoning sins.

Furthermore, when the Muslim devotes more than half of his day for this sacred worship, he realizes the importance of paying attention to his hereafter.  And when the Muslim feels the pangs of hunger or yearns to quench his parched throat, he starts tasting the sweet taste of faith as never before, and is eager to do more to please his Lord.

Everyone is familiar with hunger and thirst, but these feelings are heightened during the long fast. Yet the Muslim sacrifices his will to eat and drink to obey and please his Lord. Not only that, but when the Muslim breaks his fast at sunset, he is rewarded with the sweet taste of faith (Iman) which brings him closer to his Lord and makes him more aware of God.  This moment of happiness will be followed by another joyous moment in the Hereafter, as mentioned in the following authentic hadith:

عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه قال: قال رسول الله صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم  : ( كل عمل ابن آدم يضاعف: الحسنة بعشر أمثالها إلى سبعمائة ضعف. قال الله تعالى: “إلا الصوم، فإنه لي وأنا أجزي به؛ يدع شهوته وطعامه من أجلي”.  للصائم فرحتان: فرحة عند فطره، وفرحة عند لقاء ربه. ولَخَلُوف فم الصائم أطيب عند الله من ريح المسك. والصوم جُنَّة. وإذا كان يوم صوم أحدكم فلا يرفث ولا يصخب، فإن سابَّه أحد أو قاتله، فليقل: إني امرؤ صائم). متفق عليه.

Narrated Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Allah said: ‘Every good deed of the son of Adam will be multiplied ten times to seven hundred times except fasting, which is for Me and I will reward for it accordingly; for he abandons his (sexual) desire, food, and drink for My sake.’

Verily, there are two moments of joy for the fasting person: one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time of meeting his Lord (in the Hereafter).

Verily, the altered smell emanating from the mouth of the fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the scent of musk.  Fasting is a shield (with which a servant protects himself from the Fire). When one of you is fasting, then he should avoid shameless and loud idle talk. And if someone calls him bad names or fights with him, then he should say: ‘I am fasting.’”  (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).

Thus, there are two joyous and pleasurable moments for the fasting person: one when he breaks his fast and the other one in the Hereafter when he meets his Lord.

And herein is a great lesson and reminder for us.  After fasting the whole day, after experiencing hunger and thirst the whole day, and after waiting long hours, within minutes of eating and drinking at sunset all of that hunger and thirst is gone!  We no longer remember the long hours of waiting but enjoy the food in front of us. Indeed, the long day is forgotten and we feel like our fasting lasted only a short time. The same feeling will be experienced on the Day of Judgment.  The many years of struggle on earth will be remembered as one day, one morning, and even one hour.

The Muslim should take heed of the shortness and transience of the worldly life and should give preference to the long and everlasting Hereafter, while fulfilling the necessities of the worldly life. Just like fasting the whole day is diminished at the time of breaking the fast, so this worldly life will be diminished after death and will be felt like a short time only.  But the Hereafter continues on and on forever.

The Muslim should take care to avoid sins in this world just like he prevents himself from food and drink during the day–and he should expect Allah to grant him happiness at the end of his life just like he experiences happiness at the end of the fast.

One of the scholars said, “Live your entire life as if it were Ramadan; your death will be like Eid!”

On the other hand, indulgence in sins will be greatly regretted on the Day of Judgment.  If the whole worldly life will seem like an hour on that Day, then forbidden pleasures would seem like seconds or even parts of a second, and the regret will be much greater that a person compromised on so much for the sake of seconds. But it will be too late.

Allah the Exalted gives us a contrast of the two conditions and their recompense very clearly in Qur’an, and urges us to be forewarned and act righteous.  He says:

{35.The Day when man shall remember what he strove for.

  1. And Hell-fire shall be made apparent in full view for (every) one who sees.
  2. Then, for him who transgressed (the bounds of Allah by disobeying Him),
  3. And preferred the life of this world (by following self-desires and lusts),
  4. Verily, his abode will be Hell-fire;
  5. But as for him who feared the standing before his Lord, and restrained himself from evil desires and lusts,
  6. Verily, Paradise will be his abode} (Surah 79, verses 35- 41).

 

Indeed, the temporary forbidden pleasures of this world can never be compared to the eternal real bliss of the Hereafter.  What seems like years and years now will feel like a short time on the Day of Judgment.  What seems like a long life now, will seem as an hour on that great Day.  And any comforts enjoyed and hardships suffered will be forgotten. Only devotion to the Lord will remain as the only criteria for the final Judgment.  May Allah guide us to the Right Path and grant us Paradise.  And Allah and His Messenger know best.