“Eat and drink, but be not excessive”
Sheikh Muhammad al-Hamad
Allah says: “O children of Adam, take your adornment to every mosque. Eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He does not like those who commit excess.” [Sûrah al-A`râf: 31]
There are a number of etiquettes related to fasting. One of these is for the fasting person to be moderate in his eating and drinking during the nights of the fast.
Alas, we see that some people – indeed most people – turn the month of Ramadan into an annual season for exuberant table spreads filled with copious amounts of exotic foods. They go out of bounds, exhibiting every possible manner of excess. You see them going out to the markets to spend dearly on culinary delights that they would almost never think to purchase at any other time of the year.
The result of this behavior is that a lot of money gets wasted and a lot of people fall ill on account of overeating. Even worse, people find themselves too sluggish and tired after gorging themselves to engage in worship. We should also think about the valuable time in Ramadan that gets wasted shopping in the markets and preparing all that fancy food, much of which ends up in the trash bin.
The exhaustive culinary preparations for Ramadan that most Muslims engage in are contrary to Allah’s orders and contradict the true spirit of Ramadan. They are also unhealthy and uneconomical.
If these people would only conduct themselves appropriately, in accordance with the manners taught by Islam, and eat the foods that they usually eat, they could spend the extra money in charity, as they are supposed to do in Ramadan. They could feed the poor, the needy, and the orphan. They could give those who find themselves in restricted means a chance to break their fasts on something nice as well.
Almost every affluent person who spends lavishly on his Ramadan menu has some poor neighbors. These neighbors have the greatest right to his charity. If some affluent person has no poor neighbors, then there are still many other avenues open to him.
If the squanderers on fancy food and drink would do this instead, they would add to their fasts another noble way of drawing closer to Allah, which is to do good to those who are in need. This would have a great affect on society. It would bring the hearts of the people closer together in this blessed month. Everyone would feel that this is indeed the month of goodness, mercy, and brotherhood.
We should also consider the consequences of indulging all of our appetites. It leads only to misery and sickness. Sometimes a doctor imposes upon his patient a specific dietary regimen to allow the body to rest, to cleanse and reinvigorate itself, and to restore its inner balance. It is a regimen for health.
This, in fact, is one of the obvious wisdoms of our fasting. How can we turn this upon its head and make Ramadan into an occasion for eating more and more?
Allah says: “Eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He does not like those who commit excess.” [Sûrah al-A`râf: 31]
Some scholars have commented on this verse, saying: “Allah has gathered together all of medicine in this verse.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The child of Adam fills no vessel worse than his stomach. Sufficient for the child of Adam are a few morsels to keep his back straight. If he must eat more, then a third should be for his food, a third for his drink, and a third left for air.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhî (2380) and Musnad Ahmad (17186) and authenticated by al-Albânî in Sahîh al-Jâmi`]
No sensible person can be heedless of the negative consequences that overindulgence in food and drink has for our religious and worldly lives. These consequences go far above and beyond what we have already mentioned. Overeating dulls the intellect and impairs our thought processes. It leads to indolence. It hardens our hearts and inspires our basest passions and desires, giving Satan a chance to take over.
Ibn Taymiyah writes: It is established that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Indeed, Satan runs in the son of Adam in the way that blood circulates.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî]
There is no doubt that blood is born of what we eat and drink Therefore, when we eat and drink, we broaden the avenues for Satan. This is why it has been said: “Constrict his avenues with hunger.”
When Satan’s paths are hindered, the heart is inspired to do the good deeds that open the doors of Paradise. It finds it easy to abandon the sins that open the doors of Hell.
In Ramadan, the devils are chained and their strength and power is diminished. They cannot achieve in Ramadan what they are capable of achieving at other times of the year. However, we cannot say that the devils have died or have been slain. They have merely been chained. A chained devil can still get up to some mischief, but not as much as usual. The power of these devils is diminished according to how completely we observe our fasts. A person whose fasts are observed in the best, most complete possible manner repels the power of Satan far more than a person whose fasts are deficient.
There is a clear correlation between abstinence from food and drink and this other ruling that is founded on it.
Luqmân said to his son: “O my son! If the stomach is full, one’s mental processes go to sleep, one’s wisdom is dulled, and one’s limbs refrain from worship.”
`Umar observed: “Whoever eats a lot finds no pleasure in the remembrance of Allah.”
`Umar also said: “If you have a paunch, then consider yourself chronically ill.”
Ibn al-Qayyim writes: Overeating leads to all sorts of evil consequences. It quickens the limbs towards disobedience while making them lazy to work righteousness. These two consequences are sufficient to show just how bad it is. How many are the sins that have come about as a result of satiation and overeating. How many are the good deeds that have failed to materialize on account of it. Whoever safeguards himself from the evil of his stomach has indeed saved himself from a great evil. Satan has his greatest influence over a person with a full stomach…
If the only consequence of a full stomach were that it leads to neglecting Allah’s remembrance, then know that the heart’s heedlessness of Allah’s remembrance for but an hour is opportunity enough for Satan to beset it with promises, false desires, cravings, and every manner of discontent. When a soul is satiated, it becomes restless and goes about seeking opportunities for indulgence. When it is hungry, it becomes tranquil and shows humility and submissiveness.
Those who go to great lengths in seeking their culinary pleasures actually find food less delicious than those who restrain themselves.
Ibn Taymiyah writes: Those who show moderation in eating find greater pleasure in their food than those who overindulge. When they become addicted and habituated to their indulgence, they find no great pleasure in it anymore, though they might suffer for want of it when they do not have it and endure ill health because of it.
I address my esteemed brothers and sisters who are fasting and say: With the situation being as we have described it, why do we not make this month of ours an opportunity to moderate our eating habits? Our inner selves are always probing, never content with a mere modicum of pleasure. If we exert our efforts to get our inner selves under control, then they can learn self-restraint and we can rein in their passions and their incessant pursuit of pleasure. Otherwise, if we choose to go forward in this pursuit and give in to our every whim and fancy, it will lead us to our ruin.