Iftar and Saheri
by : Haj Mirza Javad Agha Maliki Tabrizi (R.A.)
Earlier it was described that in accordance with their intentions and wishes the fast observers could be classified into few categories, here it should be added that also their fast-breaking differs and could be classified into following categories based upon their intentions and wants.
1. The one who considers fasting only as a mandatory obligation - a burden upon his shoulders - and in order to be freed from Hell's punishment or attaining Paradise, somehow tolerates it till fast-breaking, as well as during fasting limits himself to the extent of renunciation of eating, drinking, and other jurisprudential limitations whose violation would result in the fast's cancellation, inevitably his fast-breaking too would be feeling relieved from the burden of obligation assigned upon his shoulders, escaping from the pain of hunger and thirst, getting rid from the limitations of fasting, and being able to be benefited from the pleasures of eating and drinking.
2. The one who observes fast for the sake of Allah's pleasure and attaining higher, exalted spiritual stations, and not simply renouncing eating and drinking and observing other jurisprudential limitations responsible for the fast's cancellation would abstain from every forbidden and undesirable deed, after fast-breaking, would allow upon himself only a portion of things renounced during fasting like eating and drinking, but would continue to abstain from a portion of other acts and deeds. His aim from eating and drinking in addition of pleasure would be - that Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), has permitted their consumption, and because of the fact that eating and drinking increases man's strength, thus, making him better readied for worship and enlightenment, which further provides a background for obedience of divine commands.
3. The one whose fasting has been described superior than the abstinence already mentioned - is the abstinence from whatsoever prevents him from Allah's remembrance even thoughts and ideas which are perfectly legitimate and allowable. Inevitably the fast-breaking of such a person will be for the sake of Allah, in the path of Allah and with the remembrance of Allah; neither he would eat anything with the intention of enjoying its taste, nor he would eat more than his requirement, also this would not prevent him from Allah's remembrance.
Now let us take a pause and think that if our fast-breaking, eating, and drinking are done for the sake of pleasure, especially, if they are accompanied with over-eating, then this will be tantamount to an animal act, of course, if it was arranged through lawful means and lawful income, and if it consists of forbidden means and forbidden money, then in that case it will be even lower and degrading. But this same fast-breaking, eating, and drinking, if is done with the intention of obedience of divine command, for having the required physical strength in order to be able to engage in worship, thus, attaining Allah's nearness, then in that case it will tantamount to the deeds of prophets, imams, and angels.
Therefore, we must be careful and must strive that our eating and drinking should be like those of the prophets and imams and not like those of the animals and beasts, because, the prophets and imams even though enjoy eating and drinking as per the dictates of their human nature, nevertheless, pursue far deeper intentions and objectives. As their worldly lives, utilization from worldly bounties, and looking at world all indicate something very different, i.e., even though these exalted personalities live in this same world, and in accordance with their human nature, inevitably take advantage from world's bounties, but their worldly lives and utilization of worldly bounties and pleasures never make them negligent towards Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), His remembrance, seeing Him and thanking Him.
Because they do not look upon worldly bounties and material pleasures from the point of view of their being just bounties and pleasures, rather they see in them the manifestation of Allah's Glory, Affection, Providence and Mercy and indeed, see Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), Himself and recite the following verse:
"I see Your manifestation in everything."
And the following:
"When I look at the ocean, I see You in the ocean,
When I look at the desert, I see You in the desert.
Wherever I look at the plain and mountain, I see the manifestations of your elegant stature in them."
- Baba Tahir
That is the way they see the manifestation of Allah's glory in the universe, and it is because of their seeing Him, in the world and its bounties that never makes their eyes tired, instead gives them pleasure and joy. Yes! Their pleasure and joy from worldly manifestations, and their point of view regarding material phenomenon is nothing except the above-mentioned interpretation. If they are happy with the world it is because of the fact that they see this world's happiness from Him, and if they look at the world with affection - it is because of seeing their beloved's glory in the mirror of this world, as the famous mystic poet Sa'di has said:
"I am happy with the world because I see this world's happiness from Him,
I am the lover of this whole world because this whole world is from Him."
And if they sit to enjoy the beauty of the world's garden, it is because of their plucking the flowers of His glory, as has been described by the most celebrated mystic poet Hafiz-e-Shirazi (R.A.):
"What is my desire from looking at the world's garden?
It is to pluck the flowers of Your glory through the eyes."
Eating Before the Dawn (Saheri)
Eating before the dawn is a recommended deed of fasting, and it has been narrated in a tradition:
"Eat before dawn even if it be only a drink of water, because Allah sends salutations upon those who eat before dawn for fasting."
During awakening for eating before dawn, in addition to the recitals of invocations (dhikr) and special prayers, recital of Surah al-Qadr (Power) carries plenty of reward, and it has been narrated:
"Every believer who observes fast, and at dawn (sahar), and fast-breaking (iftar) recites Surah al-Qadr (Power), during the period dawn and fast-breaking is like the martyr who is wallowing in his own blood."
Of course, we should keep in mind that our aim for eating at dawn is to perform a recommended religious act, as well as it provides us required strength in order to enable us to observe the fast.
Inviting Others for Fast-breaking (Iftar) and Acceptance of Their Invitations
One of the most esteemed etiquette of this month is to invite a fast-observer for fast breaking (iftar), whose profound reward as described by the Holy Prophet [s] in the Sermon of Sha'baniyah, was mentioned earlier. Of course here too like other deeds and worships, what is more important is the sincerity of the deeds, and the one who wishes to perform this act must strive that his aim and intention should be only for Allah's pleasure as well as to follow divine etiquette and manners regarding this month. Has not Allah invited his servants for a feast in this month and Himself taken the responsibility of their reception and hospitality?
Therefore, to be host and to invite others for fast-breaking (iftar) and food at dawn (saheri) are divine acts and etiquette). Allah forbid that one should perform these acts with the intention of hypocrisy, egotism, publicity, and even for the sake of the reward in the hereafter, or should perform these things because of the influence of following local customs and prevailing etiquette of the society. And since, how to give iftar, type of food, how to treat the guests, who should be invited, etc., all are effective as far as the aim and degree of sincerity or hypocrisy of the host are concerned, therefore, while beseeching Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), for help he should be careful and pay attention towards all these details and in their selection nothing should interfere except Allah's pleasure.
Similarly whenever one accepts other's fast-breaking invitation, lest in acceptance of his invitation nothing should interfere except sincerity and Allah's pleasure, and in attainment of this sincerity, one should make his best endeavours, because, quite often it might happen, that by sincere acceptance of a believer's invitation and sincerely sharing the table with a fellow Muslim one may have access to such huge rewards and profits which cannot be achieved by worshipping of several years or deeds.
Because, what is more heavier than everything else in the acceptance of deeds is this very sincerity and cleansing and not the abundance and frequency. Was not it that Satan's thousand years of worship in acceptance of his deed was weightless but one single repentance of Adam [a] with sincerity was responsible in his attaining divine acceptance, and therefore, it is because of this reason that righteous Allah's servants strive their best for attaining sincerity and purity in their deeds, and not for their repetition and abundance.
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