Fasting and The Shield of the Believers

Fasting and The Shield of the Believer


Imam Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (d. 911/1505)[1] mentions in al-Jami` al-Sahih (‘The Compendium of Authenticated Narrations’) a report from Imam al-Hasan al-Basri (d. 110/728)[2] that the Messenger of Allah (saw) is reported to have said:

رجب شهر الله ، وشعبان شهري ، ورمضان شهر أمتي

 “Rajab is the month of Allah; Sha`ban is my month and the month of my Ummah is the month of Ramadan.”[3]

The `ulama’ explain that the meanings of this narration could be the following: [1] Rajab is the month of Allah because it is one of the ashhur al-hurum (‘sacred months’, = Muharram, Rajab, Dhu ’l-Qa`dah and Dhu ’l-Hijjah); [2] Sha`ban is the month belonging to the Messenger of Allah (saw) because the verse {Indeed Allah and His Angels impart salutations upon the Prophet; O believers impart salutations and greetings upon him [Q. 33:56]} and [3] Ramadan is the month of this ummah[4] because it is an unparalleled month of mercy, complete forgiveness and full emancipation from the Hellfire.[5]

The Danger:

If the above is the case, and this month of Ramadan is the month of this Ummah, then we as Muslims should be thinking about the Ummah – not just locally, but globally. We as individual believers should welcome Ramadan and prepare for it as one who is cognisant, aware and conscious of the Muslim Ummah. We can become reclusive, individualistic and self-oriented during Ramadan and this is dangerous because the focus becomes ourselves to the exclusion of everyone else. In the rush to traverse the day of the fast, prepare iftar, complete tarawih and tahajjud prayers and catch the suhur (pre-dawn meal) we fail to consider and neglect our duties as a member of a global ummah. Hence, during this month we keep silent over blatant oppression; we refrain from forbidding the munkar and we depoliticise our duties to account the corruption and corrupt rulers in our lands.

Indeed, fasting has a personal dimension and a focus such as to battle the internal enemies namely our nafs (ego-soul) in order to bring it into submission to all that Allah and His Messenger has brought and no doubt fasting is that shield of protection for the believer as mentioned by the best of creation (saw): 

الصيام جنة، وهو حصن من حصون المؤمن، وكل عمل لصاحبه إلا الصيام، يقول الله : الصيام لي، وأنا أجزي به

“Fasting is a shield; one of the fortresses of the believer…”[6] 

We should seriously ask ourselves that although each of us as individuals may have our own shield (junnah), where is the collective shield of this ummah?? What is this collective shield anyway? Answer: It is the Imam, the Sultan, the Amir, the Khalifah of all the Muslims as mentioned again by the best of creation (saw):

إنما الإمام جنة. يقاتل من ورائه. ويتقى به

“Only the Imam is the shield behind whom you fight and are protected…”[7] Where is this shield today? Where is this protection for all the believers? It is entirely absent and due to this absence of our Imam/Amir/Sultan/Khalifah we have had the following outcomes:

  1. Our lands and borders are insecure – we are under occupation (Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan).
  2. We are under attack and military operations (Pakistan drone attacks, Libya, Kashmir).
  3. We are in a dire economic plight, e.g. poverty, famine, hardship (Somalia, Bangladesh) because of the mismanagement of resources by our rulers.
  4. We are suffering oppression (Syria, Bahrain) where the army turns on its open people but fail to act in liberating aggression against Muslims.

… and the list goes on. How is it that we can fast and remain oblivious (or at worse ignore) the plight of the global Ummah? This is not possible. Infact, this is unislamic. It is not allowed that we internally prioritise our personal struggles over and above and to the exclusion of the rest of our obligations as a member of this global ummah. This is the slippery road to individualism in devotion, quietist piety and depoliticised religious sensibilities.

It is behind our Imam that we will solve the above problems and more. Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni (d. 478/1085) describes one the functions of the shari`i Khalifah as follows: 

الثالث : أن يكون قَيِّما بأمر الحرب والسياسة وإقامة الحدود لا تلحقه رأفة في ذلك والذب عن الأمة

“the third: that he [s: the Imam] must be firm in the matter of upholding war when it is necessary, correctly administering the political affairs as well as establishing the hudud of Allah and not to be soft in it but to defend the ummah.”[8]

It is thus our duty to seriously work to bring this shield back that will protect the Muslims, their land, their sacred Law, their beliefs, their values and their citizens and reverse the political, social and economic problems in our lads.

Let us make this a month of remembrance of this duty.


And with Allah is true success.


[1] See the introduction to in The Perfect Guide to the Sciences of the Qur’an: al-Itqan fi `Ulum al-Qur’an, pp.xiii-xix for the political background to al-Suyuti’s life and early studies.

[2] For his life and career, see S. A. Mourad, Early Islam between Myth and History: al-Hasan al-Basri, pp.19-59.

[3] From Abu Sa`id al-Khudri (ra). See al-Saghani, Mawdu`at al-Saghani, 72. The hadith is rejected.

[4] For the concept of the term “ummah” in the Islamic and Qur’anic context, see The Qur’anic Concept of Umma and its Function in Philippine Muslim Society, ch.1-3, pp.19-298.

[5] Based upon the narration of Abu Hurayra and Salman al-Farisi (ra):

أول شهر رمضان رحمة، و أوسطه مغفرة، و آخره عتق من النار

“The first part of Ramadan is mercy, its middle part is pardon and its final part is emancipation from the fire”. See al-Diya’ al-Maqdisi, al-Sunan wa ’l-Ahkam, 3:400; al-Mundhiri, al-Targhib wa ’l-Tarhib, 2:115; al-Dimyati, al-Muttajir al-Rabih fi Thawab `Amal al-Salih, 133 and Ibn `Adi, al-Kamil fi ’l-Du`afa’, 4:325. The hadith however is very weak although the meaning of each aspect has authenticated corroborations in other narrations.

[6] From Abu Umamah al-Bahili (ra) as mentioned by al-Suyuti in al-Jami` al-Sahih (#5198) who declared it sahih (authenticated). Fasting is a ‘shield’, i.e. a protection from [1] the Hellfire and [2] from all base desires as discussed in Fath al-Bari of al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani.

[7] From Abu Hurayra in Muslim’s Sahih (#1841).

[8] See al-Juwayni, Ghiyath al-Umam, 68 and Abu Ya`la, al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyya, 20.


One thought on “Fasting and The Shield of the Believers

  1. It has been narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Prophet of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: A commander (of the Muslims) is a shield for them. They fight behind him and they are protected by (him from tyrants and aggressors). If he enjoins fear of God, the Exalted and Glorious, and dispenses justice, there will be a (great) reward for him; and if he enjoins otherwise, it redounds on him. (Book #020, Hadith #4542)

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