The gates of paradise are thrown open to you
Mystics of various religions have believed fasting to be an effective way of controlling the lower
The gates of paradise are thrown open to you (Getty Images)
Sufi Masters say that hunger brings about illumination of the soul, for Allah provides spiritual sustenance to those who keep hungry for His sake. Rumi writes, "Hunger is God's food for which he quickens the bodies of the upright." Shaqiq Balkhi taught that 40 days of constant hunger could transform the darkness of the heart into light.
Sahl Tustari fasted perpetually and earned the title of Shaykh ul Arifin, Master of the Knowers. He said, "Hunger is God's secret on earth." Abu Madyan the African mystic wrote, "One who is hungry becomes humble, one who becomes humble begs and the one who begs attains God. So hold fast to your hunger, my brother, and practise it constantly for it means that you will attain what you desire and will arrive at what you hope."
Muslims believe that God through Gabriel revealed the Quran to Prophet Muhammad in Ramzan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. One of the five pillars of the faith, fasting is defined as abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual activity in the prescribed hours, dawn to sunset. God's Messenger said that the breath of a fasting person is more pleasing to God than the fragrance of musk and that there were two joys associated with fasting. One is the joy of breaking the fast and other is when one meets the Lord. Scholars say that breaking the fast is akin to meeting the Lord.
Ramzan is a wonderful enclosure in time, just as a place of worship is in physical space, commanding the same respect. Islam describes the month as a portal of mercy, a time when the gates of Paradise are open and the gates of Hell are closed. It is a time for reflection, self-purification and retreating from the commotion of a worldly life into a state of deeper contemplation. Through the power of patience, fasting raises taqvah, one's consciousness of God.
After a few days of fasting, the physical system slows down and the 'i' separates from the body. Hunger is felt not as 'i am hungry' but as 'My body is hungry', just as you would observe another's hunger. This process helps one recognise that the intellect, body and heart are different components, readying one for a spiritual journey.
Fasting without abstaining from wrongful actions such as engaging in foul conversation or gossip, is fruitless. Harbouring suspicion, rancour or negative opinions about others is especially noxious in Ramzan, as also cheating, vanity and irrational anger. Prophet Muhammad taught that a person who fasts and does not guard the tongue simply remains hungry, achieving little or no spiritual benefit. Likewise, the love of praise and the oppression of others are struck down for they are an anathema to the spirit of Ramzan.
Ramzan is also known as the month of spending in the way of God, divesting oneself from material assets and investing in the Hereafter. Prophet Muhammad was the most generous of people and in Ramzan he was known to be even more generous. He said that the best charity in Ramzan is setting things right between people who are in conflict and those who harbour hatred for each other.
Ramzan presents a great opportunity to be mindful, to build resolves to purify the heart and come closer to the Almighty.
The writer is author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam.
Sufism (Arabic: تصوّف - taṣawwuf, Persian: صوفیگری sufigari, Turkmen: tasavvuf, Urdu: تصوف) is generally understood to be the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a ṣūfī (صُوفِيّ), though some adherents of the tradition reserve this term only for those practitioners who have attained the goals of the Sufi tradition. Another name used for the Sufi seeker is dervish.
All Sufi orders trace their spiritual chains to Ali ibn Abi Talib with an exception of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order, which traces its chain to Abu Bakr, the first caliph and father-in-law of the Prophet of Islam.
- Salman the Persian, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad.
- Ja'far al-Sadiq
- Bayazid Bastami
- Shaik Abul-Qasim Junaid Baghdadi, laid the groundwork for 'sober' Sufi mysticism.
- Rabia Basri
- Mansur Al-Hallaaj
- Shaik Abdul-Qadir Gilani, founder of Qadri Sufi order.
- Shaik Baha'uddin Naqshband, founder of Naqshbandi Sufi order.
- Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi, founder of the Mujaddidi line of the Naqshbandi order, popularly known as Mujaddid-i Alf-i Thani in the subcontinent.
- Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti 'Khwaja Gharib Nawaz', founder of Chishti Sufi Order in Indian sucontinent.
- Shaik Dhia-uddin Suharwardi, founder of Suharwardi Sufi Order.
- Shaik Fareeduddin ataar
- Jalaaluddin Muhammad Rumi
- Shaik Abu-Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali
- Abu-Ishaaq Shaami
- Yusuf Hamdani
- Shaik Abul-Hasan al-Kharaqani
- Nur ad-Din Abd ar-Rahman Jami
- Khwaja Qutub-uddin Bakhtiyar Kaki
- Shaik Fareeduddin Ganjshakar, of the Chishti Sufi order.
- Shaik Alauddin Sabir Ahmad Chishti Kaliyari 'Sabir Ahmad Kaliyari'
- Nizaamuddin Auliya, of the Chishti Sufi order.
- Haji Waris Ali Shah
- Khwaja Nasiruddin Mahmud Chishti, known as 'Chirag-e-Dehlavi'
- Khwaja Syed Muhammad al-Hussaini Chishti 'Khwaja Bande Nawaz', of Gulbargah.
- Syed Abdullah Shah Naqshbandi, Islamic Scholar from Hyderabad (India) and the compiler of Zujajat ul Masaabih.
- Aala Hazrat Ahmed Raza Khan Barelwi
- Mahbooballah, a famous sufi of south India.
- Bahr-Ul-Uloom Maulvi Abdul Qadeer Siddiqui Qadri (Hasrat), author of the Tafsir-e-Siddiqui.
- Hazrat Khwaja Allah Bakhsh Naqshbandi, also known as Sohna Saeen
- Hazrat Khwaja Muhammad Tahir Naqshbandi, also known as Sajjan Saeen
- ^ Dr. Alan Godlas, University of Georgia, Sufism's Many Paths, 2000, University of Georgia: http://www.uga.edu/islam/Sufism.html
- ^ Nuh Ha Mim Keller, "How would you respond to the claim that Sufism is Bid'a?", 1995. Fatwa accessible at: http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/nuh/sufism.htm
- ^ Dr. Zubair Fattani, "The meaning of Tasawwuf", Islamic Academy. See: http://www.islamicacademy.org/html/Articles/English/Tasawwuf.htm
- ^ wikipedia:sufism