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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Imam Ghazali - The Mysteries of Fasting

The man who is truly fasting while not abstaining from food and drink is he who keeps himself free from sin; and the fasting man who is not truly fasting is he who, while he hungers and thirsts, allows himself every freedom in sin. But everyone who truly understands fasting and its secret knows that he who abstains from food, drink, and sexual intercourse but commits [all manner of] sins is like the person who, in performing the ablution runs his hand over one of his members thrice, thereby outwardly fulfilling the Law as far as the member is concerned, but neglecting the truly important thing which is the actual washing.

Consequently, because of his ignorance, his prayer is rejected. On the other hand, he who breaks the fast through eating but observes it by keeping himself free from sin is like the person who, in performing the ablution, washes each of the members of his body once only. His prayers are, by the will of God, accepted because he has fulfilled the principal thing in the ablution, although he has failed to fulfil the details. But he who does both is like the person who, in performing the ablution, washes each member of his body thrice, thereby fulfilling both the principal purpose of ablution as well as its elaborate details, which constitutes perfection.

The Apostle of God once said, "Verily fasting is a trust; let each, therefore, take good care of his trust." Again when he recited, "Verily God enjoineth you to give back your trusts to their owners," he raised his hands and touching his ears and eyes said, "[The gift of] hearing and [the gift of] seeing are each a trust [from God]."

Similarly [the gift of speech is a trust], for if it were not so the Apostle would not have said, "If anyone disputeth with another and sweareth at him let the latter say, 'I am fasting, verily I am fasting'." Or in other-words, "I have been interested with this my tongue in order to keep and hold, not in order to give it free rein in retort and reply to thee."

It is clear, then, that every act of worship is possessed of an outward form and an inner [secret], an external husk and internal pith. The husks are of different grades and each grade has different layers. It is for you to choose whether to be content with the husk or join the company of the wise and the learned.

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