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Holy month of Ramdhan
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The Kashaful Mahjoob "Unveiling the Veiled"

Allah Almighty has said: "0, believers, fasting is ordained on you." [2:183]
The Prophet (s.a.w.) has said: 'God says fasting is for Me, and I am the reward thereof." What can be a greater reward than Allah Himself.
Translatorís Commentary: The exoteric meaning of this Hadith is that those who fast to please God, are rewarded by God Himself. But the explanation is hardly tena) e since it is God who rewards all good deeds. How can fasting be an exception? The real meaning as interpreted by the Sufis which is quite feasible, is that God Himself is the reward of those who fast for His sake. In other words, one gains God's nearness and union by fasting, more than any other deed of worship. The Sufi shaikhs have said: 'Fast-ing is one half of the spiritual journey to God." This is what the author means by
saying: "What can be a greater reward than Allah Himself."
Fasting is a kind of worship which has a spiritual significance more than any other form of worship. It has nothing to do with material gains. It is an act of supreme sacrifice which brings infinite recompense. It is said that entry into paradise is on the basis of other deeds of worship and a permanent stay in it is on account of fasting. This is because God has said "I am the reward thereof."
Junaid has said: "Fasting is half the journey.' I have seen such Sufl shaikhs who are always fasting, while there are others who fast only in the month of Ramadhan. Those who are always fasting do it for gaining Divine Nearness, while those who fast only during Ramadhan do it because of sheer obedience to God and to avoid ostentation (riya). I have also seen some shaikhs who fast but nobody knows about it, because when food is brought to them they have it. This is what the Prophet (s.a.w.) did.
[Translatorís] Commentary: This is applicable to voluntary fasting and not to the fasting in Ramadhan which is of a compulsory nature. Hadhrat Ayesha and Hafsa say, 'Once the Prophet came to us and we offered him some sweets. He said, 'Bring it although 1 am fasting. 1 will have it and fast another day instead'.'
Now a question arises why was it necessary for the Prophet (s.a.w.) to fast another day when his fast was of a voluntary nature? The answer is that it is one of the principles of Islam that when someone starts doing voluntary worship, but has to give it up for some reason, for instance giving up salat due to nullification of wudhu (ablution), it becomes incumbent on him to repeat that worship.
I have seen some shaikhs who fasted during ayam-i-beez,l ashura (first two days of Muharram) and the whole month of Rajab, Sha'ban and Ramadhan. There are others who fast like the Prophet Daud, on alternate days which the Prophet (s.a.w.) liked and called khairus-siyam (tlie best way of fasting).
Once I went to Shaikh Ahmad Bukhari who bade me to eat halwa (sweet dish) lying before him. But 1 refused the offer, saying I was fasting. When he asked th6 reason why I was fasting, 1 said, 'In conformity with such and such saint.' He said, 'It is un-Islamic for one human being to act in conformity to another human being." But when I.intciided to break my fast, he said, 'Do not break the fast in conformity to me, as I also am a human being.'
As a matter of fact, the purpose of fasting is to curb the force of the lower self (nafs) which embraces the entire philosophy of the Sufi doctrine. The least significant benefit of fasting is remaining hungry. And hunger has been admired as a 'feast given by God' to the Sufl shaikhs. Not only that, the sages of every religion and community have praised hunger as the best means of purification. So fasting for one month (Ramadhan) in a year is obligatory for every Muslim man and woman who has reached the age of puberty and is of sound health. The month of fasting begins from the first day of Ramadhan and continues till the last day of the month, with a fresh affirmation and greater intensity 'Ayam-i-beez [days of the luminous, white nights] are the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth days of a lunar month.of sincerity and love every day. Fasting involves not only abstinence from eating and drinking but also from eating ones' fill, guarding the eyes from lustful looks, the ears from hearing evil things, the tongue from talking ill of somebody behind his back, and the mind from thoughts of anything other than God, in accordance with the following Hadith of the Prophet (s.a.w.): "When you are fasting let your ears fast, your eyes fast and all your limbs fast." He has also said: "Most of you gain nothing through fasting except hunger and thirst."
I, Ali bin Uthman al- Jallabi, saw the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) in a dream and requested him to give me a word of advice. He said, "control your senses." The fact is that control over the senses constitutes the whole doctrine of mujahidah (self purification), because all knowledge is gained through these five doors, eyes, ears, nose, tongue and the sense of touch which is spread over the whole body. These five senses are like the five army commanders of knowledge and reason. The eye is the organ of seeing the shapes and colours of things; the car is the organ of hearing sounds; the tongue gives the knowledge of good and bad taste; and the nose tells us what is a pleasant or an unpleasant smell; but there is no particular organ of touch. It is spread over the whole body and gives us the knowledge of hot and cold, hard and soft, etc. We know everything through these senses except intuition and Divine Inspiration.
Another thing is that while there is no evil involved in intuition and Divine Inspiration, the knowledge acquired through the five physical senses is not immune from evil. They are the source of both good and evil. For instance, the eyes and ears provide us with the knowledge of God as well as of falsehood and lust. The same is the case with the tongue and nose by which both right and wrong can be acquired. It is, therefore, the duty of one who is fasting to have strict control over all his senses so that disobedience is turned into obedience, and the fast becomes real. To abstain merely from eating and drinking is not difficult. It can be done by the women and children. Real fasting is abstaining from sensuous pleasures, falsehood, vulgar talk and back-biting and not only from food and drink. God has said:'Nor did we give them bodies that ate no food," [21:8]
He has also said: 'Do you think We have created you in jest? (i.e. for nothing)' [23:115] So real fasting is abstinence from sin and not only from eating and drinking. I laugh at those who keep voluntary fasts but ignore compulsory worship, for voluntary fasting is a sunnat, while giving up sinful deeds is fardh (obligation). May God save us from sins. When you guard yourself from sin all your deeds become fasts.
It is related that when Sahl bin Abdullah Tustari was born he was fasting and when he died he was fasting. The day he was born he did not take milk till sunset. And when he died he was also keeping a fast.
But the Prophet (s.a.w.) has forbidden continuous fasting (sawm-al-wisal). When he re-sorted to continuous fasting and the companions tried to imitate him he prevented them from doing so saying: 'I am not like anyone of you. I spend the night with my Lord who gives me food and drink."
Translatorís Commentary: Sawm-al-wisal (continuous fast) means fasting continuously without eating or drinking in the morning and evening unlike in the month of Ramadhan when it is permissible to eat and drink before dawn and after sunset. The Prophet (s.a.w.) fasted like this for several days on end.
The spiritual enthusiasts maintain that this prohibition on the part of the Prophet (s.a.w.) was in the nature of a kindness and not of an order. It is related that Sahl bin Abdullah used to eat after fifteen days; and did not eat and drink anything during the whole month of Ramadhan except on the day of Eid (first of next month), and with this he performed four hundred bowings of salat every night. This is beyond human power and is not pos-sible without Divine Grace which itself becomes nourishment. This means that some live on food and for some Divine Grace is the food.
It is stated that Shaikh Abu Nasar Sarraj who is known to be the Peacock of Saints (taus-al-fuqara), went to Baghdad in Ramadhan and remained in the state of itikaf.(intense devotion) in a room in the mosque area. He was accepted as imam to lead the@tara'wih prayers (twenty bowings) every night, and he finished the whole Qur'an five tiriies over in the sacred month. Every night a servant would bring a loaf of bread for him and place it quietly in the room. On the day of Eid when he went out to say Eid prayers, the servant went in the room and saw the thirty loaves of bread lying intact.
Ali bin Bakr has said that Shaikh Hafs Masisi used to eat after fifteen days in Ramadhan, and that Ibrahim bin Adham did not eat or drink anything during Ramadhan, although he used to cut wheat on wages during the hot days of summer to feed the dervishes and stand in prayers every night from sunset to morning.
It is related that when Shaikh Abu Abdullah died he had completed forty chillahs of forty days each without eating and sleeping. I met a dervish who used to do two chillahs every year in the desert. I was present when Shaikh Abu Muhammad Danishmand died. He did not eat for eighty days although he never missed a single prayer in congregation @amaat). There were two dervishes in Merv. One was called Mas'ud and the other Abu Ali Siyah. Mas'ud sent a message to Abu Ali to come and perform a chillah of forty days without eating. Abu Ali's reply was, "Come and we will eat three times a day and remain with wudhu (without answering the call of nature) for forty days."
The controversy about sawm-al-wisal (continual fast) is still raging. The ignorant think it is possible and the physicians think it is impossible. I will now go into the matter in detail to end the controversy for good. It should be remembered that to keep continuous fast without violating any of the Divine Commands is nothing but a karamat (miracle) which can be performed by the elite and not common folks. If it were possible for the common people then everybody would be a Muslim and the elite and gnostics would not be compensated for gnosis. It is for this reason that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) who was competent to perform miracles, resorted to continuous fasting, and forbade his followers who were capable of karamat, (ordinary supernatural deeds), to perform miracles because prophethood,has to be proclaimed and sainthood is to be concealed in Islam. This is the difference between a miracle (muyizat) and an ordinary supernatural deed (karamat).
[Translatorís] Commentary: It is one of the important tenets of Islam to believe that (mujizat) is the speciality of the prophets, while ordinary supernatural deeds performed by any other than a prophet are called (karamat). This is to distinguish between the com-petence of the prophets and of the saints. Muyizat literally means such a miraculous deed which can silence the opponents. The word mujizat is derived from ijz which means inability.
So far as chillah is concerned, it is derived from the forty days of solitude of Prophet Musa (Moses) mentioned in the Qur'an [7:1381. When the Sufl shaikhs want to hear God's words spiritually they go into forty days chillah (without eating and sleeping). However, they cle'an their teeth to avoid bad smell. After forty days of intense worship and devotion they spiritually hear the word of God. But since the hearing of God's word is not possible without getting rid of the beastly nature of the human ego, therefore the forty days chillah is necessary to tame the beast or subdue the evils of human nature.
On Hunger and Matters Related to It
God has said in the Holy Qur'an: "We subject you to trials by fear, hunger and loss in property and in harvests...... [2:1551
The Prophet (s.a.w.) has said: "A hungry inner self is dearer to God than seventy heedless worshippers."
Know that the merits of hunger have been admired and appreciated by all religions and communities of the world, because outwardly it sharpens the intellect and purifies the body and mind. The Prophet (s.a.w.) has said: 'Make your bellies hungry, your livers thirsty and your bodies naked (undecorated) so that your hearts may see visions of God in the world."
Although hunger is a torture (bala) for the body, it is a torch (zia) for the heart (qalb); a purification (sofa) for the soul (ruh) and a vision (liqa) for the spirit (sirr).
[Translatorís] Commentary: The original passage in Persian is beautiful, interwoven with rhythmic words like bala (affliction) zia (light), sofa (purity) and liqa (vision) which constitute the peak of eloquence and speaks volumes. This flow of eloquence permeates the whole book, but cannot be translated.
Therefore, it matters little if immense benefits are gained through a little inconvenience to the body. To eat one's fill is to act as animals. It is certainly not greatness. Had it been greatness, animals also would have been great. Hunger is the cure for physical diseases. Gluttony leads to the construction of the body and destruction of the soul. He who spends his life in a state of spiritual perfection eventually becomes one with God. How can the one who is intoxicated in God, and the one who is intoxicated in the world be equal. The latter spends his life on the nourishment of the body and the former on the nourishment and construction of the soul. The ideal of the former is to fill the belly and the latter's aim is God.
The former lives to eat and the latter eats to live.
Is there no difference between the two?
The Sufi shaikhs have said: "Hunger is the feast of the saints, the exercise of the murids and the defeat of Satan."
Letting alone the question of predestination and free will, the cause of Adam's fall and separation from God was just a morsel of food.
He who fasts and feels disturbed does not really fast for God.
Because he who is troubled by hunger is like the one who does not fast for God.
The real seeker is he who is not afflicted by hunger.
He who is afflicted by hunger is a glutton and a slave to his nafs (animal self) and a person in the hands of the Satan.
Says Kattani: "The real seeker is he who sleeps when overpowered; speaks when he must and eats when he starves."
What is starvation? According to some Sufi shaikhs the extent of starvation is to abstain from eating for two days and two nights. Others say it is one week and there are some who say it is forty days, for according to the specialists (muhaqqiqin) real appetite is felt only once in forty days which is to preserve life. All else is greed and vanity.
Know that Divine Secrets run through the veins and blood of the Gnostics (arifin). Their hearts are illuminated by visions of the Almighty. At the door of the heart are stationed two guards: reason and passion (hawa). The former is helped by the spirit (rooh) and the latter by nafs (lower self). So the more the seeker cats, the stronger is his nafs and the greater is his passion. In this way, the whole body is overpowered by the nafs and the heart is veiled. But when the seeker eats less, his nafs grows weak, his reason becomes strong, and the whole body is illuminated by Divine Light. When the nafs is eventually overpowered, falsehood vanishes and truth prevails and the seeker reaches his goal.
Abul Abbas Qassab says: "My fate depends on two loafs of bread. When I take them I am overpowered by greed when I leave them I am overpowered by love for worship.' But when hunger fails to result in vision (mushahidah), it is no better than eating, because mushahidah is the battlefield of men while mujahidah is the playfield of Children. Therefore it is said: 'Eating accompanied by mushahidah is better than hunger without mushahidah." God knows best.
The Kashaful Mahjoob "Unveiling the Veiled"
The Earliest Persian Treatise on Sufism, pp. 339-345
Translated into English by Maulana Wahid Bakhsh Rabbani
Published by A.S.Noordeen, G.P.O. 10066
50704 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
ISBN 983-065-0464