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On the Secrets of Fasting | Ibn 'Arabi

Selected from al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya | Translated by Aisha Bewley

O you who laugh in the form of the weeper!
By us you are the complaint and the complainer.

Is the fast abstention without elevation, or elevation without restraint?

They are both together for the one who affirms tawhid (oneness) by association.
Intellects are trapped and prevented from their freedom of action without nets or snares.

Intellects are impaired from their freedom of action, severely cut off by the Shari'a.

They surrender to what their proof refutes and they believe without perception.

The star of guidance carries them along, swimming between the angels of the spheres.

My self, had it not been for you, I would not have been
as if I were Him, were it not for you! Were it not for you!

Fast from phenomenal being and do not break your fast!
The God of creation will bring you close, taking charge of you by that.

Inasmuch as it is a fast, intend that. By nature it is your nourishment.

If you reflect on it, there is a meaning in the fast whenever a creature alights at your abode.

"There is nothing like the fast." The Lawgiver said that to me, so reflect on that!

This is because it is non-action. Where is that which you have done and where is your claim?

The matter has returned to its root. My Lord has seized control of you by that.

If you reflect on the principle of the fast and the basis of its meaning by your meaning,

Someone with news came from Him about your prescribed fast which will divest you.

The fast belongs to Allah, so do not be ignorant.
You are merely the place of its manifestation.

The fast belongs to Allah, and yet you are the one dying of hunger, so know that!

The Merciful made you feminine because of what appears from you when
He fashioned you (the self).

Glory be to the One who fashioned you! Welcome to Him!
He only gave that to you!

You, like the earth, are a bed for it
and your source-spring (eye) is described as weeping.

You see the source of the handiwork of Allah
between the two of you, so where is your manifestation?

When you called on Allah out of abasement to Him, the Great,
He said, "At your service" to you.

The highest pen in His Tablet wrote your pure description from Him.

You are the source of all, not His source.
He brought you near from one aspect and put your far from another.

Beware of being content with what pleases you for the sake of what He makes pleasing to you.

Remain with your root in all He desires. Do not forget so as to be forgotten.

This is the knowledge which came to me from one who does not lie.

He brought it down at the command of the One who has the most
knowledge of what is between the ascetics and devout.

Praise be to Allah who bestowed on me knowledge of lights and darkness.
He gave me a form whose perfection is only by your shelter.

Fasting is abstention and elevation

May Allah support you! Know that fasting (sawm) is both abstention and elevation. One says "the day has reached its full height (sama)" when it has reached its highest point. (The poet) Imru'l-Qays said:

When the day reached its height (sama) and its heat was intense

i.e. the day reached its fullest extent. It is because the fast has a higher degree than all other acts of worship that it is called "fast" (sawm). Allah elevated it by denying that it is like any other act of worship as we will discuss. He denied its ownership to His servants although they worship Him by it and ascribed the fast to Himself. Part of its affirmation is that He rewards the one who is described by it by His hand even though He connected it to Himself when He stated that it is not like anything else.

Fasting in reality is non-action, not action

In reality, fasting is non-action, not action. The negation of likeness is a negative attribute. Therefore the relationship between it and Allah is strengthened. Allah Almighty says about Himself, "There is nothing like Him." (42:11) He denied that there is anything like Him and so there is nothing like Him by logical proofs and by the Shari'a. An-Nasa'i related that Abu Umama said, "I came to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and said, 'Give me something that I can take from you.' He said, 'You must fast. There is nothing like it.'" He denied that it was like any of the acts of worship which are prescribed for the servants of Allah.

Anyone who recognises that it is a negative attribute – since it consists of abandoning things which break it – knows absolutely that there is nothing like it since it has no source which is described by understood existence. This is why Allah said, "The fast is Mine." In reality, it is neither worship or action. It is permissible to apply the name 'action' to it, as the application of the expression 'existent''can be applied to Allah. We understand that it is allowed although the ascription of existence to He whose existence is the same as His Essence is not like the ascription of existence to us. "There is nothing like Him." (42:11)

Every action of the son of Adam is His except fasting. It belongs to Allah.

Quotation of a Divine Prophetic hadith:

Muslim transmitted in the Sahih that Abu Hurayra reported from the Messenger of Allah that Allah said, "Every action of the son of Adam belongs to him except the fast. It is Mine, and I repay him for it. Fasting is a protection. When one of you has a day of fasting, he should then speak neither obscenely nor too loudly; and if someone seeks to curse him or fight with him, let him say, 'I am fasting.' By Him in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, the smell of the mouth of the one who fasts is more delectable to Allah than the scent of musk. The one who fasts has two joys in which to delight: when he breaks his fast, he rejoices; and when he meets his Lord, he rejoices in his fast." (Muslim: 13:163)

The delight of the faster lies in his attachment to the degree of the negation of likeness

Know that since the Prophet denied that there is anything like the fast, as is established in the hadith of an-Nasa'i, and "Allah has nothing like Him," the faster meets his Lord described as "having nothing like him". He sees Him by it, and He is the Seer-Seen. This is why the Prophet said, "he rejoices in his fast" and not "He rejoices in meeting his Lord." Joy does not rejoice in itself; he is made to rejoice by it. Whoever has Allah as his sight when he sees and contemplates Him, only sees himself by seeing Him.

The faster rejoices at having the rank of negation of likeness. He rejoices in breaking the fast in this world since that gives the animal self its due since intrinsically seeks food. When the gnostic sees that his animal self needs food and sees that it exists by the nourishment which he gives it, then he fulfillsgma its due which Allah has made obligatory for him and put in the position of being described as a right. He gives by the hand of Allah as He sees Allah in the encounter by the eye of Allah. This is why he rejoices at breaking the fast as he rejoices in his fast when he meets his Lord.

Fasting is a samadiyya attribute and the Real repays it

Clarification of what this tradition contains:

The slave is described as having a fast and being entitled to the name 'faster' by this attribute. After affirming his fast, then Allah strips it from him and ascribes it to Himself. He said, "Fasting is Mine," meaning the attribute of timeless self-reliance (samadiyya). It is disconnection from food. "It is only Mine, even if I have described you with it. I described you with a certain limited qualification of disconnection, not by the disconnection (tanzih) which My majesty deserves. I said, 'I repay him for it.'" Allah repays the fast of the faster when it is transferred to his Lord and he meets Him with an attribute unlike any other: which is the fast, since "the One who has nothing like Him" is only seen by the one who has nothing like him. This is like the text from Abu Talib al-Makki, one of the masters of the people of tasting. "Whoever finds in his journey, that is his repayment." It is what is obliged by this in this state.

The difference between negation of likeness from Allah and from fasting

Then He said, "Fasting is a protection," and it is a safeguard as He said, "Fear Allah," (2:194) i.e. take Him as a safeguard and also be a safeguard for Him. He put the fast in His position in acting as a safeguard. "There is nothing like Him," and fasting has no like among the acts of worship. One does not say that there is nothing like the fast. The thing is a matter of permanence or existence. Fasting is non-action. It is a non-existent intelligible and negative attribute. It has no like. It is not that there is nothing like it. This is the difference between the attribute of Allah in the negation of likeness and the way that the fast is described by it.

The faster being forbidden obscenity, shouting and strife

Then the Lawgiver placed prohibitions on the faster. The prohibition is non-action and a negative attribute. He said, "he should then speak neither obscenely nor shout." He did not command him to an action, but forbade that he be described by certain actions. Fasting is non-action, so the relationship between fasting and what he forbade the faster is valid. Then he commanded that he say to the one who curses him or fights with him, "I am fasting," i.e. I am leaving this action which you are doing, fighter or curser, to me. By the command of his Lord, he disconnects himself from this action. He reports that he is not acting, i.e. he does not have the attribute of cursing or fighting for the one who curses and fights him.

The Gate of Quenching by which fasters enter the Garden

By way of the meaning, the Shari'a has described fasting with the perfection above which there is no perfection. This is because Allah gave it a special door with a special name which demands perfection. It is called the Door of the Quenched. The fasters enter it. Quenching is a degree of perfection in drinking. After being quenched, the drinker does not accept any more to drink to all. Whenever he accepts, then he was not quenched, whether it is a land or not a land among the lands of the animals.

Muslim related from the hadith of Sahl ibn Sa'd that the Messenger of Allah said, "There is a door in the Garden called the Quenching. The fasters will enter it on the Day of Rising. None except them will enter it. It will be said, 'Where are the fasters?' and they will enter it. When the last of them has gone in it, it will be locked and no one else will enter it." That is not said about any of the commanded or forbidden acts of worship except for the fast. By "the Quenching," He made it clear that they obtain the attribute of perfection in action since they are described by that which has no like as we already said. In reality, the one who has no like is the perfect. The fasters among the gnostics enter it here, and there they will enter it with the knowledge of all creatures.




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Technology of the Heart: On the Secrets of Fasting | Ibn 'Arabi
On the Secrets of Fasting | Ibn 'Arabi
Technology of the Heart
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