Section 8 : The General Fast
 

The general fast is the fast that is obligatory on every one who meets the conditions of fasting. Basically it is to refrain from eating, drinking, copulation, and all those things mentioned by the esteemed jurists in their books of Divine law. To abstain from some of the basic necessities is really a challenge, but its result is so rewarding that it can determine the eternal salvation of the human being. There is a universal law Almighty Alla-h mentions in the Qura-n which despite its brevity reveals a world of meaning. After excusing the traveler and ailing one from fasting in this holy month and allowing them to fast after the holy month, He says:



God desires ease for you, and He does not desire hardship for you[64]

Although this clause is brought after a particular case, it should be known that it applies in every dimension of human life. The ambiguity that remains however is that what is the definition of yusr (ease), and whether one who is healthy does not feel the pangs of hunger and thirst. To respond to this query, we should look at the following verse:

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For indeed ease accompanies hardship; Indeed ease accompanies hardship.[65]

Most commentators, appreciating the lexical intricacy involved in the verse say that difficulty is interlinked with two kinds of ease- ease in this world and ease in the Hereafter. Or, more accurately, ease in this world, and ease in the realm beyond; the latter, due to our limited comprehension cannot be fathomed, save by one who is endowed with the penetrating sight mentioned in the following verse of Su-rat Qa-f:



You were certainly oblivious of this. We have removed your veil from you, and so your sight is acute today.[66]

Some traditions clearly state that Paradise can be achieved (only) through the pains and difficulties of worship in this world. The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said:

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Paradise is enveloped by difficulties and Hell Fire is enveloped by desires.[67]

Ima-m Ali- (a) is reported to have said in a lengthy tradition:

... .


I swear by Alla-h, surely the fasting one among you enjoys in the gardens of Paradise, and the Angels pray for his success until he breaks his fast.[68]

Observe the tone of the tradition: Ima-m Ali- (a) swears when he informs his true followers about their state when they fast. Many of those who sincerely fast do enjoy these stations in Paradise while they fast, but the curtains that veil them from perceiving the higher realms of existence do not allow them to appreciate this reality. If the curtains were lifted they would witness their exalted state while they still reside in this mortal world.

In the introduction to his anthology Shahrulla-h fi- al-Kita-b wa al-Sunnah, when explaining the kind of Divine Banquet that believers should anticipate in the holy month of Ramada-n, Hujjat al-Islam Muhammadi- Ray Shahri- quotes al-Risa-lah al-Majdiyyah of Shaykh Rida- al-Isfaha-ni-, where the latter explains the kind of Divine Repast that the believers are invited to. At one point he says:

Indeed I have heard several times and repeatedly from one who is closest to me in terms of relationship and kinship[69] saying: I was busy reciting the well-known Ziya-rat Ami-n Alla-h in the holy sanctuary in Najaf, and when I reached the verse wa ma-wa-id al-mustati-mi-na muaddah (and the banquets of those who seek sustenance are ready) and reflected over its meaning and thought about it, I was suddenly made to see a banquet on which lay different kinds of food and drinks, which I had never thought of, and I was eating from them, and in the course of that state I was contemplating about an Islamic ruling. Surely it is an amazing state which renders one perplexed! The truth is that this is the reality of [Paradisal] food, which does not break the fast[70]

Al-Isfaha-ni later continues[71] saying:

ɡ ɡ " " : )


Do not think that the expressions of this servant resembles the imaginations of the poets and their vain ideas or the theopathetic utterances (shatahiyya-t) of the extremist so-called su-fi-s (mutasawwifah). I dare not transcend the bounds of the speech of the Book of God and the Sunnah, or adopt a course in my belief that is other than what Alla-h and His Messenger brought and ordered [us to follow]. What I only mean here is the word of Alla-h in chapter Hal Ata- where Alla-h Says:



and their Lord made them drink a pure drink.[72]

Therefore despite the apparent hardship of fasting, the ease that it accompanies is inexpressible. Those endowed with deep insight also term hunger as the the clouds from which rains of wisdom heavily fall. In his poetic masterpiece of Islamic laws & their secrets called Nibra-s al-Huda-, Mulla- Ha-di- Sabzawa-ri says:

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And hunger is a rainy cloud of wisdom.[73]

Notes:

[64] Holy Qura-n, 2:185 .
[65] Holy Qura-n, 94:5-6.
[66] Holy Qura-n, 50:22.
[67] Rawdat al-Wa-izi-n, vol. 2, pg. 421.
[68] Mishka-t al-Anwa-r, pg. 170.
[69] It is highly probable says Rayshari-, that he is referring to his father who was a well known saint in his time.
[70] Shahrulla-h fi- al-Kita-b wa al-Sunnah, pg. 21.
[71] Shahrulla-h fi- al-Kita-b wa al-Sunnah, pg. 21.
[72] Holy Qura-n, 76:21.
[73] Nibra-s al-Huda-, pg. 236.