Abstaining from Prohibited Actions
The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it and offensive speech and behaviour, Allah has no need of his giving up his food and drink.”
We benefit from the above Hadith that not only must a fasting person abstain from food, drink, and sexual intercourse; the eyes must also fast (abstain and refrain) from looking at unlawful things. The ears must fast from listening to music, and vain language. The tongue must fast from backbiting, slander, swearing and other similar types of speech. The hands must fast from striking and abusing others and the feet must fast from going to places that bring about sin and lead to transgression.
The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) taught us that if someone gets you angry to say: “I am fasting, I am fasting.” [Sahih Muslim]
Abu Hurayrah (radi Allahu anhu) said: The Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “There may be a fasting person who gets nothing more from his fast that hunger and thirst, and there may be a person who prays qiyaam and all he gets from his qiyaam is a sleepless night.” [Narrated by Ahmad - Classed as Sahih by Ibn Hibbaan and by Shaykh al-Albaani].
The majority of scholars (may Allah have mercy upon them) are of the view that committing sins whilst fasting reduces the reward for fasting, but it does not invalidate the fast, and this is the correct view.
The Sahaabah and the early generations of this ummah were keen for their fasting to be a form of purification for their souls as well as their bodies, free from disobedience and sin.
‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (radi Allahu anhu) said: “Fasting does not mean abstaining from food and drink only, rather it is also abstaining from lying, falsehood and idle speech.”
Jaabir ibn ‘Abd-Allah al-Ansaari (radi Allahu anhu) said: “When you fast, then let your hearing, sight and tongue fast from lying and sin and stop abusing servants. Be tranquil and dignified on the day of your fast, and do not let the day you do not fast and the day you fast be the same. “
Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in ‘Liqaa’aat al-Baab il-Maftoohah’:
“As for the thing from which one must abstain when fasting, perhaps you will be surprised if I tell you that the thing from which one must abstain when fasting is sin. A person must abstain from sin when fasting because this is the primary aim of fasting, because Allah, may He be blessed and exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):
“O you who believe! Observing As-Sawm (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious)” [Al-Baqarah 2: 183]
It is not so that you may become hungry, or so that you may become thirsty, or so that you may refrain from relations with your wife! No; He says “that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious).” This is the primary aim of fasting. The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) affirmed that when he said: “Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it and ignorant behaviour, Allah has no need of his giving up his food and drink.”
So if a person refrains from disobeying Allah, this is true fasting. As for outward fasting, this is abstaining from things that invalidate the fast and refraining from things that break the fast from dawn until sunset as an act of worship towards Allah, because of the verse in which Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“So now have sexual relations with them and seek that which Allah has ordained for you (offspring), and eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night), then complete your Sawm (fast) till the nightfall” [Al-Baqarah 2: 187]
We call this kind of fasting outward fasting, which is the fasting of the body only. As for the fasting of the heart, which is the primary aim of fasting, this means refraining from disobedience towards Allah, may He be glorified and exalted.
Based on this, if a person observes the fast outwardly, in the physical sense, but he does not fast in his heart, then his fast is severely deficient, but we do not say that it is invalid, rather we say that it is lacking. Similarly, we say concerning prayer that the aim of prayer is humility before Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, and prayer of the heart comes before prayer of the limbs, but if a person prays physically but not with his heart, not focusing at all, then his prayer is very deficient, but it is still valid as it appears to be, but is very deficient.
Similarly the fast is very deficient if a person does not refrain from disobeying Allah, but it is valid, because acts of worship in this world are to be judged as they appear to be.”
In conclusion, We should all remember that the real meaning of fasting is not only giving up food and drink, rather Allah, may He be exalted, has enjoined fasting in order that we may attain piety (taqwa). Hence real fasting means refraining from sin and giving it up; this is the fasting of the heart, not just the fasting of the body.
And Allah knows Best!