Fasting for the Face of Allah, Most High
Allah, Most High, regulates our relationship with him by asking us to observe certain spiritual practices, and fasting is one of them. The practice of sawm, or fasting, is an important foundational practice for the seeker who is looking to deepen their connection with Allah. The standard way to fast is to refrain from eating, drinking, and sexual relations from the beginning of fajr prayer until the beginning of maghrib prayer.
Because the Sufi has a large heart and is always striving to subdue the nafs and walk toward Allah, Most High, the Sufi doesn’t just do the minimum. For the Sufi, fasting is not just refraining of eating and drinking and sexual relations, it is refraining from everything that displeases Allah, Most High. This includes, but isn’t limited to, abstaining from worshipping anything other than Allah, Most High, betraying the trust of others, speaking harmfully about others or oneself, speaking disrespectfully to parents, harming the property or bodies of others, etc.
Benefits of Fasting
Fasting benefits us in many way, alhamdulillah. Physically, it is extremely beneficial to give the digestive system a time of rest every day. Intermittent fasting has become a health trend over the past five years, but we Sufis have been doing it for centuries!
Fasting has many spiritual benefits, as well. Feelings of satiety we experience from eating and drinking dull our stronger emotions, like anger, pain, sadness, grief, frustration, longing, etc. When we fast for multiple days in a row, those stronger feelings are at full strength and they appear front and center, requiring our loving attention. Because we’re already fasting, it is the perfect time to increase our other forms of worship, which helps us release the emotions and become present with our heart’s true needs. Once we can identify the true needs, we can bring that to Allah in our salah, personal du’a, or other practices and receive deep healing, insha’allah.
How to Fast
- Start by setting your intention the night before the day you wish to fast. Establish it firmly in your mind that you are fasting tomorrow for the Face of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala.
- Fasting begins when Fajr begins, so be sure to look up the time Fajr begins ahead of time. It is sunnah to wake up earlier than this, eat a meal, and drink some water.
- Wake up at least 30 minutes before Fajr begins. Do wudu’ (or ghusl, if necessary) and eat and drink moderately. Reaffirm your intention to fast for the day.
- Pray Fajr and all of the prayers in the beginning of their time. Take this chance and do extra salah and practices to support your walking and your healing.
- When Maghrib begins it is time to break your fast. Know that Allah accepts all of the prayers of a fasting person, so before you break your fast, make the du’a that is in your heart. Then say, “Oh Allah, for You I fast and for You I break my fast. Please accept my fast,” and take a sip of water and eat 1 or 3 dates (which is sunnah).
- Pray Maghrib and then feel free to eat your dinner. If it’s Ramadan, there may be Tarawih prayers being prayed in congregation after ‘Isha, which is always beneficial for the traveler. Otherwise, do your ‘Isha and Witr, and optionally, Tajahhud, insha’allah, with Allah’s help.
Special Times Allah Made for Fasting and Worship
As Sidi said, there are special times, special places, and special people. Some of the special times are days that are best for fasting. These days are special because Allah has made them special for us-they are days Allah forgives our sins in abundance, alhamdulillah. They include:
- The 27th day of Rajab
- The 15th day of Sha’ban
- The entire month of Ramadan (it’s obligatory)
- The first 6 days of Shawwal
- The Fast of Ashura (9th & 10 or 10th & 11th of Muharram)
- The 13th, 14th, and 15th days of the lunar month (day before, day of, and day after the full moon)
- The first 9 days of Dhul Hijjah
- Mondays and Thursdays
- Anytime you feel called to do so
Caring for Your Body while Fasting
Days We Should Not Fast
The two holidays: ‘Eid al-Fitr and ‘Eid al-Adha. It is also not recommended to fast on the 15th of Sha’ban.
People Who Should Not Fast
- Those who do not fully understand what they are doing, including children and the mentally ill
- Menstruating women and women with post-partum bleeding
- People with an illness that makes it dangerous for them to fast, such as uncontrolled diabetes
Those Who Can Choose Not to Fast Without Penalty
- Women who are pregnant, post-partum, or breastfeeding
- People who, for medical reasons need to eat food or drink during the hours of fasting.
- People who are travelling
- The elderly
- The terminally ill
People Who Need to Make Up Missed Obligatory Fasting Days
- Women who are menstruating, pregnant, or breastfeeding
- The ill (but not terminally ill)
- Preparing for Ramadan
- Ramadan Basics
- Zakah (Charity)
- Salah – Getting Started (Prayer)
- Salah (Prayer)
- Tarawih Prayers (Special Salah for Ramadan)