The Spiritual Purpose of Fasting: Closeness to Allah

In the Name of Allah, the Benevolent, the Merciful. May Allah’s blessings and peace be upon His Beloved Messenger, his folk, and companions

Ramadan isn’t the “Month of Fasting.” It is a month of seeking closeness to Allah. Fasting is a means. Prayer is a means. Zakat is a means. Reciting the Qur’an is a means. Taqwa is a means. Thankfulness is a means. Guidance and actions are means. The purpose is Allah, and Allah alone.

Allah Most High tells us of this powerfully, “All the actions of people are for them, except for fasting. Fasting is for Me and it is I who reward it.” [Bukhari 5927]

Spiritually, the purpose of fasting is closeness to Allah. After the verses dealing with fasting and the month of Ramadan, Allah Most High makes this purpose clear: “If My servants ask you about Me, then I am indeed near. I answer the call of those who call upon Me when they call. So let them heed My calls and let them truly believe in Me in order that they become rightly guided.” [Qur’an, 2:186]

Fasting and Spiritual Realization of Divine Oneness

In fasting, one experiences one’s neediness to Allah, which opens one’s heart to spiritual understanding. Allah tells us in the Qur’an: “O people, you are the ones absolutely in need of Allah; and Allah is the One free of all need, worthy of all praise.” [Qur’an, 35.15]

This neediness (faqr) that one realizes when fasting opens one’s heart to the absolute richness (ghina) of Allah—His being absolute, and absolutely free of the need for any other. Ibn Ata’illah said, “Become realized in your neediness, and He will assist you through His richness.”

This is at the very heart of true understanding of Divine Oneness, for the Qur’anic understanding of Allah, the one alone worthy of worship, is that He is the Rich (ghani), absolutely free of need of any other, and others are absolutely in poverty and indigence before Him. He is the Independent (samad) to whom all turn in need, and who is absolutely independent and beyond need. And He is the Sustainer (qayyum) who sustains all things at every moment, in every way, and who needs none to sustain Him.

In short, Allah is “the One free of any other, whom all are absolutely in need of.” [Sanusi, Umm al-Barahin]

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) expressed this beautifully at a time of intense drought when he addressed them before performing the drought prayer:

الحمد لله رب العالمين ، الرحمن الرحيم ، مالك يوم الدين ،

لا إله إلا الله يفعل ما يريد ، اللهم أنت الله ، لا إله إلا أنت الغني ونحن الفقراء

“All praise is due to Allah; the Merciful, the Compassionate; Lord of the Day of Reckoning; there is no god but Him, He does what He wills. O Allah, You are Allah, there is no god but You. You are the One free of all need, and we are the ones in absolute need.”

Then he asked for rain and prayed two rakats. [Abu Dawud]

The scholars mention that this (or similar supplication, followed by two cycles of prayer, is both a powerful expression of neediness (faqr) and a powerful means of fulfilling one’s worldly or spiritual needs.

And Allah alone gives success.

Faraz Rabbani