Imam Al-Nawawi's Riyad-us-Saliheen
Chapter 217
The Excellence of Observing Saum (Fasts) during Ramadan

Allah, the Exalted, says:

"O you who believe! the fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious). (Fasting) for a fixed number of days, but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days. And as for those who can fast with difficulty, (e.g., an old man), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a Miskin (poor person) (for every day). But whoever does good of his own accord, it is better for him. And that you fast is better for you if only you know. The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong). So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan, i.e., is present at his home), he must fast that month, and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number (of days which one did not fast must be made up) from other days.'' (2:183-185)

1215. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Allah the Exalted and Majestic said: `Every act of the son of Adam is for him, except As-Siyam (the fasting) which is (exclusively) for Me, and I will reward him for it.' Fasting is a shield. When anyone of you is observing fast, he should neither indulge in obscene language nor should he raise his voice; and if anyone reviles him or tries to quarrel with him, he should say: `I am fasting.' By Him in Whose Hand the soul of Muhammad is, the breath of one observing Saum is sweeter to Allah than the fragrance of musk. The one who fasts, experiences two joys: he feels pleasure when he breaks the fast. He is joyful by virtue of his fast when he meets his Rubb.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

   In a narration by Al-Bukhari, the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Allah says: `(The person observing Saum) has abstained from food and drink, and sexual pleasures for My sake; fasting is for Me, and I will bestow its reward. Every good deed has ten times its reward'.''

   In a narration by Muslim, the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "The reward of every (good) deed of a person is multiplied from ten to seven hundred times. Allah (SWT) says: `The reward of observing Saum is different from the reward of other good deeds; Saum is for Me, and I Alone will give its reward. The person observing Saum abstains from food and drink only for My sake.' The fasting person has two joyous occasions, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time of meeting his Rubb. Surely, the breath of one observing Saum is better smelling to Allah than the fragrance of musk.''

Commentary:  "Khuluf'', is the smell that comes from the mouth of person who observes Saum. It results from the thirst and hunger which he has to suffer during the Saum. The Hadith not only tells us the merits of Saum but also brings into focus the true significance of it. Saum is not thus mere abstention from food, drink and sexual intercourse, but also keeping away from all evils and vices and embracing virtues.

1216. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "He who spends a pair in the way of Allah will be called from the gates of Jannah: `O slave of Allah! This gate is better for you' and one who is constant in Salat (prayer), will be called from the Gate of Salat; and whoever is eager in fighting in the Cause of Allah, will be called from the Gate of Jihad; and who is regular in observing Saum will be called from Ar-Raiyan Gate. The one who is generous in charity will be called from the Gate of Charity.'' Abu Bakr (May Allah be pleased with him) said: "O Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam)! May my mother and father be sacrificed for you! Those who are called from these gates will stand in need of nothing. Will anybody be called from all of those gates?'' He replied, "Yes, and I hope that you will be one of them.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary: "Pair'' means two; in other channels of transmission, it has been explained thus: "They asked him, `Pair of what?' He (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, `A pair of horses, cows or camels'.'' "Pair'' in this Hadith, however, can be all-inclusive; i.e., fasting two days or performing two prayers, etc. This Hadith also mentions special distinction of Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (May Allah be pleased with him) and the esteem in which he was held by the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam). It also transpires from this Hadith that one can praise such a person right on his face about whom one does not fear that it will make him proud. This Hadith has also an inducement for giving in Sadaqah two instead of a single item.

1217. Sahl bin Sa`d (May Allah be pleased with him): The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "In Jannah there is a gate which is called Ar-Raiyan through which only those who observe Saum (fasting) will enter on the Day of Resurrection. None else will enter through it. It will be called out, "Where are those who observe fasting?'' So they will stand up and proceed towards it. When the last of them will have entered, the gate will be closed and then no one will enter through that gate.''
[Muslim].

Commentary:  This Hadith tells us about the special distinction of those who observe Saum. "Only those who observe Saum'' signify the faithful who not only observe Saum during the month of Ramadan but also frequently observe voluntary fasts over and above the obligatory ones, otherwise Saum of Ramadan are compulsory for every Muslim. Similar is the case of the people of Salat, people of Sadaqah and people of Jihad, who have been mentioned in the preceding Ahadith otherwise all Muslims are on par so far as the Salat, Sadaqah, etc., are concerned.

1218. Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Every slave of Allah who observes Saum (fasting) for one day for the sake of Allah, Allah will draw his face farther from Hell-fire to the extent of a distance to be covered in seventy years.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary:  "Every slave of Allah'' includes men, women, the free and the unfree, because they are slaves of Allah. The Hadith highlights the excellence of fasting for the sake of Allah which will serve, on the Day of Resurrection, as shield against Hell-fire.

1219.  Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "He who observes fasting during the month of Ramadan with Faith while seeking its reward from Allah, will have his past sins forgiven.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary:  "Sins'' here means minor sins which relate to the Rights of Allah.

1220.  Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "When Ramadan begins, the gates of Jannah are opened, the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are chained.''

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary:  This is a special distinction of the month of Ramadan during which Muslims become more inclined towards the worship of Allah. They pay greater attention to the recitation of the Qur'an, remembrance of Allah, worship, and seeking pardon for sins.

1221. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Observe Saum (fast) on sighting the crescent and terminate it on sighting it (the new moon), but if the sky is cloudy before you, then complete the number (thirty days) of the month.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary: The words "Ghabiya'', and "Ghumma'', both have the same meanings, namely clouded sky or sky overcast with clouds, as a result of which the moon is not visible. In that case, the injunction is that thirty days of the month be completed. If the moon of Ramadan is not sighted on the 29th Sha`ban, then its thirty days be completed and Ramadan's Saum be started on the next day. Similarly, if the moon for the month of Shawwal is not sighted on the 29th of Ramadan, thirty days of Saum must be completed before celebrating `Eid-ul-Fitr. This means that the sighting of the moon is necessary for keeping the Saum of Ramadan. Counting by celestial system is not sufficient for this purpose. Moreover, the evidence of reliable witnesses for the crescent of Ramadan and the evidence of two dependable witnesses for the crescent of Shawwal are sufficient. This amount of evidence will fulfill the requirement of sighting the moon. Whether the sighting of the moon at one place is sufficient for another place is controversial and arguments of both the groups of `Ulama', who support and oppose it, are based on this Hadith. The group which contend that the sighting of the moon at one place is valid for another holds that the words "Sumu" and "Aftiru" are addressed to all the Muslims, and for this reason the sighting at one place holds good for another place. The group which holds that the sighting of the moon at one place is not enough for the Muslims of other localities contend that the words are addressed to the people who have actually sighted the moon. The Muslims of the localities of other areas who have not sighted the moon are not addressed by these words. They say that the sighting of the moon goes with each area according to which they will decide about starting of Saum and celebrating `Eid. There is a third group also, which is of the opinion that for such areas which are in close proximity and do not have much difference in the timings of sunrise and sunset, the sighting of the moon at one place holds good for the other. In any case, it is a moderate view, which can be implemented without fear of its being wrong. According to this view, at least in one country the sighting of the moon at one place holds good for all other areas.