The limitless reward of fasting
The Prophet (S.A.W) was keen to point out the moral value of fasting. He states, for example; “The smell of the mouth of a fasting person is preferable, in Allah’s measure, to the smell of musk.”
Fasting earns great reward. Here I quote the Hadith-e-Qudsi in which Allah says: “All actions a human being does are his, with the exception of fasting, which belong to Me. I reward it accordingly”. (Related by Al-Bukhari). This is indeed a great promise. When Allah rewards an action as purely His, then the reward is limitless. It is given by the one whose generosity is not measured by percentage, multiplication or any other measure. It is commensurate only with His glory. It is sufficient to remember here that people normally weigh their actions according to their positions. People always think- it is unbecoming of a person in my position to do this or to do that’. If the reward is given according to Allah’s positions, then we do not have to think about its extent. We have only to remember that Allah’s generosity knows no boundaries. It is useful to mention here that another version of the same Hadith-e-Qudsi may be translated as follows: “Fasting belongs to Me and it is Me who rewards it.”
One may ask here why fasting has been singled out as belonging to Allah when all acts of worship are dedicated to Him. Moreover, any good action a believer does is normally done for Allah’s sake. All scholars agree that this is because fasting cannot be done in order to gain favour with people, or for boastfulness, show-off or deception. This is due to the nature of fasting which is done by abstention rather than by any positive action. It is not possible for anyone to identify a fasting person by his or her appearance. All other acts of worship can be seen by people. Hence, they may be done for purposes other than to please Allah and gain His reward. Not such fasting which can be known only if the person who fasts tells other people of his fasting. If a person goes around and tells other people of his voluntary fasting, then he may be seeking to win favour from them. But this is achieved through the act of telling them, not through fasting itself. Hence, when a person fasts for the sake of Allah alone, and does not tell people of the fact, his action is said to be dedicated purely to Allah. It is this fact which earns the person concerned that limitless reward. The Prophet (S.A.W) also teaches us that there is another side to the reward which fasting earns. He tells us that certain actions like prayers and charity (sadaqah) or Zakah ensure the forgiveness of past sins. Fasting is top on the list of these actions. There are numerous Hadiths which confirm this fact. We are told by the Prophet (S.A.W) that proper fasting, done with sincerity and dedication, ensures the forgiveness of all sins committed in the preceding year, with the exception of cardinal sins. The Prophet (S.A.W) says: “He who fasts in Ramadan motivated by his faith and with dedication will have all his past sins forgiven.” (Related by Al-Bukhari).
It is for this reason that Muslims are keen to achieve the degree of dedication which ensures the maximum reward from Allah. After all, we always commit mistakes, and we always face the temptation to fall in sin. It is only natural that we should be keen to have our sins and mistakes forgiven. When we have such clear statements from the Prophet (S.A.W) that fasting ensures such forgiveness, then we find the difficulty of fasting very easy indeed. Hunger and thirst are no longer hard to bear.