Abû Hurayrah relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Allah says: ‘Every deed of the child of Adam is for himself, except for fasting. It is for Me and I shall reward it.’ Fasting is a shield, so if it is a day of fasting for any one of you, then he should engage in no obscenity or shouting. If anyone belittles him or fights with him, he should just say ‘I am a person who is fasting’. I swear by Him in whose hand is Muhammad’s soul, the smell of the fasting person’s breath is sweeter to Allah on the Day of Judgment than that of musk. The fasting person has two occasions for joy, one when he breaks his fast because of his breaking it and the other when he meets his Lord because of the reward for his fast.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (7492) and Sahîh Muslim (1151) with the wording being that of Muslim]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) says in this hadith: “The fasting person has two occasions for joy…” This does not mean that the fasting person experiences no other joys aside from these two. It is just that these two particular occasions of joy are exclusive to a fasting person and are experienced by no one else.
The fasting person experiences the first occasion of joy when he eats and drinks after a full day of self-restraint, patience, and obedience seeking Allah’s reward.
He experiences the second occasion of joy when he meets his Lord after a full lifetime of fasting and seeking Allah’s reward every time the month of Ramadan called upon him as an honored guest.
The first of these two joys comes every night in Ramadan when the Sun sets and the fasting person stretches out his hand to eat a sweet date or take a sip of cool, refreshing water to relieve his hunger and thirst.
And why should he not feel joy at this moment? He had expended every effort throughout the day only for his Lord’s pleasure and forbade himself his share of food and drink, seeking Allah’s eternal and everlasting reward.
It is the joy of having control over the demands of one’s own body and ascendancy over the everyday habits of life. It is, in this way, a spiritual joy, an exuberance that comes with the appearance of every Ramadan and with the exercise of goodly patience.
The happiness of a fasting person when he breaks his fast is not merely because he assuages his hunger and thirst, for even the lowliest of animals share in such pleasures. Instead, it is the joy of triumph over Satan and over one’s own passions and basest desires.
It is also the joy of having successfully carried out the command of our Lord. When He asked us to abandon our food, we abandoned it. When He called upon us to abstain from quenching our thirsts, we abstained from it.
We had hearkened to Allah’s words: “The month of Ramadan in which the Qur’ân was revealed as a guidance for humanity, clear proofs of guidance, and a criterion. So whoever among you witnesses the month, let him fast it.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 185]
As for the second occasion of joy, it is an experience like no other, reminiscent of the joy felt when meeting someone who is most beloved. It is the meeting of the fasting person with his Lord who had helped him to carry out his fast and had blessed him with success in doing so, and who had promised him for his fast the best of rewards that He has kept in store for him.
This is an experience of joy by which all the pains and sorrows of life are forever forgotten. It is an overwhelming joy. On that day, the person who had fasted during his worldly life will be entitled to rejoice in it. However, this will be the case only as long as he had restrained his hands from sinful deeds and his tongue from evil words and thereby safeguarded his fasts from becoming bereft of blessings.
Those who are barred from the blessings of their fasts are indeed doubly deprived. Their fasts deprived them of their food and drink, and then their conduct deprived them of the blessings and rewards. This is because they had violated the sanctity of the month of Ramadan with the ignominy of their words and the wickedness of their deeds.
Therefore, every fasting person needs to be aware of what the fast really means. He needs to fully appreciate its great and noble purposes. He must prepare himself mentally to safeguard his fast from every evil word and deed, so he can be sure to experience both of the joys that are unique to the fast. He should, likewise, let all the goodness that Allah has prepared for those who fast with sincerity be a means for him to restrain his eyes from casting their gaze upon that which is unlawful.
If, instead, a person opts not to lower his gaze from the foul images on the television screen and the forbidden sights of the street; if he chooses to indulge his ears in listening to provocative music and indecent songs; if, above all that, he allows his tongue to speak falsely and injuriously, then he should know that the only pleasure he shall experience when he breaks his fast is that felt by the cattle when they are set out to pasture or by the lion when it catches its prey.
Of joy, he will have nothing else.