With Ramadan fast approaching, now is a great time to start getting our bodies into a familiar habit of fasting. A common habit of our Prophet (may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) was to fast twice a week, particularly on Mondays and Thursdays.
According to a hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah (RA), Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is reported to have said, “Deeds are shown (to Allaah) on Mondays and Thursdays, and I like my deeds to be shown when I am fasting.” (Tirmidhi).
Fasting is a hugely rewarded deed, the quantity of such reward being known only by Allah. It is also a great way to increase your closeness to Allah, particularly if your fast is something you are doing privately, kept between just you and your Creator.
It is interesting to note that various non-Muslim health enthusiasts are coining the use of intermittent fasting, and you may have heard of the trendy 5:2 diet. Isn’t it curious to think that people with no interest or connection to Islam are enthusiastically plugging the scientifically proven health benefits of a ‘diet’ our Prophet was in the habit of implementing over 1400 years ago?
The so-called ‘5:2 Diet’ gained mainstream popularity after it was features in a BBC Horizon documentary called Eat, Fast and Live Longer, broadcast in August 2012. According to the NHS website, Champions of the 5:2 diet claim that other than helping people lose weight, 5:2 diet can bring other significant health benefits, including increased lifespan, improved cognitive function, and protection against conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as protection from other diseases.
As with anything, there are sceptics who claim that the evidence supporting the physical benefits of fasting is not reliable. However, this becomes entirely irrelevant when you experience for yourself the spiritual benefits of fasting for Allah. Making voluntary fasting a regular aspect of your life and your religion, you may notice benefits such as stronger imaan, increased motivation in other aspects of worship, and a sense of inner peace and contentment.
If you have some days to make up from your previous Ramadan, fasting Mondays and Thursdays, or even just one of the two on a weekly basis, is a great way to fulfil that debt. Even if you have no fasts to make up, or this year will be your first Ramadan, having set days on which you will fast leading up to that precious month is a great way to get yourself into a positive mindset and into a healthy habit of preparing your suhoor (pre-dawn meal) and making sure you get plenty of water before the fast.
It can take some serious will-power and motivation to get up before Fajr prayer and to last the day without food or drink, especially when doing it voluntarily as opposed to the obligatory fasts of Ramadan. Maybe reading some of these ahadith will help give you that little necessary boost:
“The one who fasts has two joys: the joy of breaking his fast and, when he meets his Lord, the joy of having fasted.” (Muslim)
Fasting will be an intercession for the slave on the Day of Resurrection, when it will say: “O Lord, I stopped him from eating and drinking during the day, so let me intercede for him.” (Ahmad)
“The smell (coming from the mouth of) the fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the scent of musk.” (Muslim)
“Fasting is a protection and a strong fortress against the Fire.” (Ahmad)
“Whoever fasts one day for the sake of Allah, Allah will keep his face seventy years’ distance away from the Fire because of it.” (Muslim)
“Whoever fasts a day seeking the pleasure of Allah and then dies [i.e. that is the last thing he does] will enter Paradise.” (Ahmad)
“In Paradise there is a gate called al-Rayyaan, through which those who fast will enter, and no-one else will enter through it. After they have entered, it will be locked and no-one else will enter it.” (Bukhari)