During the Month of Ramadān I am sure we are all accustomed to hearing about the virtues of Ramadān, the Qur’an, fasting, and so on. However, it is rare to hear about the virtues of two important aspects of fasting that we seldom do remember the spiritual significance of: suhūr and iftār.
For many of us, iftār and suhūr is not a spiritual experience, rather it is simply a means to only fill our stomachs. In this brief article I would like to mention some of the important Prophetic traditions related to these two aspects of our fast and their significance. In one Hadīth the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:
“The one who fasts has two moments of happiness: when he breaks his fast and when he meets his Lord.” [Bukhāri]
The scholars commented on this narration saying that this happiness is a natural happiness due to the removal of his hunger and thirst. However, there is another reason why the believers should be happy as well. Namely that they were able to complete this great act of worship and that they are pleased that they are fulfilling the commandment of their Lord in breaking their fast. In fact the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:
“Indeed Allāh is happy with his servant who praises Allāh when he eats.”
Therefore, when a person eats whilst being grateful, he will become delighted at the prospect that Allāh (subhānahu wa ta’ālā) will be happy with him. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) also said:
“The one who eats and is grateful is on the same level as the one who fasts and is patient.” [Bukhāri and Tirmidhi, Albāni: Sahīh]
Surely this should be a reason for us to be delighted with iftār and for being delighted that Allāh (subhānahu wa ta’ālā) is our Lord and will be, inshā’Allāh, happy with us. Essentially, this is also the reason why ‘Īd is such a joyous occasion, for it reflects one’s happiness in receiving Allāh’s grace by being able to accomplish this great act of worship.
Another aspect of iftār that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) stressed was the importance of hastening to break the fast and not to delay it. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:
“Mankind will continue to remain well as long as they hasten to break their fasts.” [Agreed Upon]
Also the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:
“This religion will remain to be manifest as long as people hasten in breaking their fast. This is because the Jews and the Christians delay in breaking their fasts.” [Abū Dāwūd – Hasan]
For some, the relationship between the manifestation of the religion and one’s hastiness in breaking the fast, might seem at first to be a bit obscure. However, the scholars mentioned that this is the case since it shows that if people are eager to be different from the People of The Book, and preserve their unique standards then that will entail that this religion will remain to be uncorrupted and unblemished by the ill practices of other faiths and traditions. Also, it shows that if the Ummah is eager in following the sunnah, stopping at its boundaries regardless of whether it agrees with their intellects or not, it will entail the manifestation of this religion since Allāh (subhānahu wa ta’ālā) will give tawfīq to such people. Therefore, it is of no surprise that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:
“My Ummah will continue to remain upon my sunnah as long as they do not delay their iftār until the stars appear.” [Abū Dāwūd – Hasan]
To summarise, breaking the fast is a spiritual experience; it causes one to feel happy at the fact that they have completed a great act of worship by the grace of Allāh (subhānahu wa ta’ālā). One should also remember that thanking Allāh for the food that he has provided us with also leads to the pleasure of Allāh (subhānahu wa ta’ālā). This is especially important to state here because this is a golden opportunity to recognise the blessing of Allāh (subhānahu wa ta’ālā) for the food he has provided us with. We must also remember that hastening to break the fast is an important sunnah since we are differing from the Jews and the Christians.
The pre-dawn meal, suhūr is also another aspect of our fasting that we truly neglect and do not realise the significance of. For some it is simply a means to ‘store up’ food for the coming day and nothing more. However, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) would encourage his companions to have suhūr for a number of reasons other than to simply fill their stomachs. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:
“Have Suhūr for verily there is blessing in it.” [Abū Dāwūd – Hasan]
Therefore the suhūr is an opportunity to reap some barakah (blessings). However, one may ask: “Where does the barakah lie in having suhūr?” To answer that, the following are some of the blessings that are attained through suhūr:
- Following the Prophet’s sunnah;
- Differing from the People of the Book;
- Strengthening ourselves for worship;
- Repelling bad characteristics that are usually associated with hunger such as anger;
- Opportunity to engage in charity by providing suhūr for others;
- Opportunity to make dhikr and du’ā at a blessed time.
There are plenty of sources of good in this great act of suhūr. It is of no surprise therefore that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said about it:
“Indeed it is a blessing that Allāh (subhānahu wa ta’ālā) has given to all of you, so do not leave it!” [Nasā’ī – Sahīh]
He (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) also said:
“Have Suhūr even if it is a mouthful of water.” [Ibn Hibbān – hasan/sahīh]
In addition to that, how many of us remind ourselves of the following hadīth when we have suhūr?
“Indeed Allāh and his Angels send salāh upon those who have suhūr.” [Tabarāni – hasan/sahīh]
The salah of Allāh (subhānahu wa ta’ālā) entails that He (subhānahu wa ta’ālā) mentions that person amongst the highest of gatherings whilst the salah of the Angels entails them making istighfār for those who have suhūr. SubhānAllāh, if this were the only virtue of suhūr then it would suffice as an encouragement to have suhūr and never leave it.
Remembering the virtues of any act of worship helps one to truly benefit spiritually from that act of worship, and this applies to suhūr and iftār as well. May Allāh (subhānahu wa ta’ālā) grant us the ability to benefit from our fasts, from dawn to dusk and make us feel the sweetness in worshipping Him.