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Now that fasting is of three [successive] grades, namely, the fasting of the general public (sawm al `umum), the fasting of the elite among the select few (sawm Khusus al-khusus).
The fasting of the general public involves refraining from satisfying the appetite of the stomach and the appetite of the sex, as has already been discussed. The fasting of the select few is to keep the ears, the eyes, the tongue, and hands, and the feet as well as the other senses free from sin.
The fasting of the elite among the select few is the fast of the heart from mean thoughts and worldly worries and its complete unconcern with anything but God. Such a fast is broken by thinking on anything other than God and the last day, as well as by concern over this world, except in so far as it promotes religion which belongs to the hereafter. Thus, those’ whose hearts are sanctified have said, “He who spends his day worrying over what he will have for breaking his fast sins.” This is because he has little confidence in the bounty of God and little faith that the livelihood promised unto him will be received. In this rank stand the prophets, the saints and the favourites of God the most high. We shall not dwell very long on the verbal description of the kind of fasting but shall define it through its active operation. It is to seek God with all of one’s strength and to turn away from all other things besides Him. In short, it is to embody the words of God when He said, “Say `God, then leave. them in their pastime of cavillings.” 42
The fasting of the select few, which is the fasting of the virtuous men, is to keep the senses free from sin and is accomplished through six things: To refrain from looking at anything blameworthy and disapproved, or anything which occupies the person and diverts him from remembering God. The Apostle said, “The coveting glance is one of the poisoned arrows of the devil. He who for fear of God abstains therefrom will receive from Him a belief, the sweetness of which will fill his heart.”
On the Mysteries of Fasting and its Inward Conditions
THE MYSTERIES O F FASTING
BEING A TRANSLATION WITH NOTES
The Kitab Asrar al-Sawm
AI-Ghazzali’s “Ihya” Ulum al-Din”
NABIH AMIN FARIS
AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF BEIRUT