Jul 8, 2013

The Wisdom of As-Sahoor

By Bint Mohib


Many of us would have heard of the virtues and benefits of fasting as a whole, but very rarely is sahoor singled out as a topic of its own. We all know that sahoor is the “breakfast” we have before Fajr so that we don’t feel too hungry throughout the fasting day, but what else do we know?

The definition
What does sahoor mean?
In Arabic, sahoor is derived from the word sahr, which means “the later part of the night.” Sahoor is a meal which is taken just before the break of dawn, which is why it is translated as “predawn meal”. The act of taking sahoor, however, is called suhoor.

Previous ummahs - been there, done that
As we know from the Qur’an, Islam is just a new and improved, updated version of the original Judaism and Christianity. We are prescribed many of the same things the People of the Book were, including fasting:

“O you who have believed, prescribed for you is fasting as it was prescribed for those before you, 
that you may become righteous...” [Al-Baqarah 2: 183] 

As the last ummah and the ummah of Muhammad sall Allahu ’alayhi wa sallam, we have been given a lot of ease and laxity in our Deen compared to the previous ummahs. This is a special mercy of Allah subhanahu wa ta’aala, because He has lifted the difficulties from us that the people before us used to bear. 

One such difficulty was having to fast without suhoor. The Prophet sall Allahu ’alayhi wa sallam said:

“The thing that differentiates between our fasting and the fasting of the People of the Book is eating suhoor.” [Sahih Muslim] 

A fast of 24 hours!
Yes! Till the time Allah did not send clear and direct instructions in the Qur’an, the fasting tradition that had earlier been practiced by the People of the Book was still followed by all, even the early Muslims - which was to fast without suhoor. 

They would have to have iftaar immediately after sunset - but, once they slept, their fast had begun, whether they liked it or not: they would not be allowed to have anything until after the next day’s sunset.

Historical significance of Suhoor
Let’s have a look at a Sahaabah’s story, which brought about Allah’s merciful command, the aayah that changed the face of fasting once and for all!

Abu Ishaq reported that Al-Bara bin Azib said:

"When the Companions of Allah's Messenger observed fast but would sleep before breaking their fast, they would continue fasting until the following night. Qays bin Sirmah Al-Ansari was fasting one day and was working in his land. When the time to break the fast came, he went to his wife and said, 
‘Do you have food?’ 

She said, ‘No. But I could try to get you some.’ 

His eyes then were overcome by sleep and when his wife came back, she found him asleep. 
She said, ‘Woe unto you! Did you sleep?’ 

In the middle of the next day, he lost consciousness and mentioned what had happened to the Prophet. 

Then, this aayah was revealed: 

‘It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your wives [for sexual relations]..... And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread [of night]...’ [Al-Baqarah 2: 187] 

Consequently, they were very delighted.”

Get one concession, get another free 
SubhanAllah! Not only was eating made permissible into the night, but also sexual relations (which, too, had been forbidden previously). It is well-known that satiating one’s hungry stomach, in turn, whets the sexual appetite. Some Sahaabah had become guilty of this, but how understanding is Allah!:

’Ali bin Abu Talhah narrated that Ibn ’Abbas said:

“During the month of Ramadaan, after Muslims would pray ’Ishaa, they would not touch their women and food until the next night. Then, some Muslims, including ’Umar bin Al-Khattaab, touched (had sex with) their wives and had some food during Ramadaan after ’Ishaa. They complained to Allah's Messenger. 

Then Allah sent down: 

‘... Allah knows that you used to deceive yourselves, so He turned to you (accepted your repentance) and forgave you. So now have sexual relations with them...’” [Al-Baqarah 2: 187] 

The virtues of taking sahoor
First of all, we must appreciate the fact that Allah has specially given us Muslims this rukhsah (concession) - or else, imagine having to go without food or drink for 24 hours! Our ummah has it so easy compared to the previous ummahs, and yet we are ungrateful!

Many of us have memories of our mothers repeatedly trying to wake us up, urging us to get up to eat so that we don’t go hungry throughout the day - but, according to the Sunnah, there is more to it than just the threat of going hungry. There is blessing in suhoor: 

The Prophet (sall Allahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said:
“Eat suhoor, for in suhoor there is barakah (blessing).”  
[Sahih Bukhaari, Book 15, Hadith no. 146] 

The Messenger of Allah (sall Allahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said:
“Blessings are found in three things: the jamaa'ah (congregation), Ath-thareed (a type of food) 
and as-sahoor (the predawn meal)."  
[Silsilah As-Saheehah, Vol.3, Hadith no.1045]

The Messenger of Allah (sall Allahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said:
“Blessings are in two things: the suhoor, and in just measurement.” 
[Silsilah As-Saheehah, Vol.3, Hadith no.1291] 

Having sahoor is highly encouraged
Many youngsters prefer having a heavy dinner late at night and skipping the suhoor altogether because of laziness in getting up. What they don’t realize is that they’re missing out; missing out on the reward of following the Sunnah, and missing out on Allah’s blessings - and, of course, an easier fast.

It doesn’t mean you have to wake up a full hour early and have a full meal. Islam is easy. Look at the following hadeeth and imagine Rasoolullah sall Allahu ’alayhi wa sallam advising you directly, earnestly:

Allah's Messenger (sall Allahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said:
“Sahoor is a blessed meal. Hence, do not abandon it, even if one just takes a sip of water. Indeed, Allah and His angels send salaah (blessings) upon those who eat sahoor.”  
[Musnad Ahmad, Book 6, Hadith no. 10969] 

SubhanAllaah, Allah and His angels specially send blessings upon us, simply for eating? That, my friends, is something that should be more worthy to us than winning the lottery.

No harm in getting up at the last moment
Sahoor can be had any time between midnight and the break of dawn, when there is redness in the sky and the adhaan for Fajr is called. According to ahaadeeth, we must stop eating as soon as we hear the adhaan being proclaimed - but, if there is a bite or a morsel of food or a sip of drink left, one can finish that quickly.

And yet, we are encouraged to eat and drink right till the break of dawn:

Allah's Messenger (sall Allahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said:
“My ummah will always retain goodness as long as they hasten in breaking the fast and delay the suhoor.” [Musnad Ahmad, Book 6, Hadith no. 20530] 

Embrace Allah’s grace
So really, suhoor is a ni’mah (blessing) of Allah. A mother’s love and mercy when forcing us to eat before leaving for school or college comes to mind; she does not want us feeling overburdened throughout our working day, and wants us to have full functionality and achieve our optimum best.

Allah’s love is seventy times more; not only does He ensure our ease while worshipping Him, but He also bestows His blessings upon us.

Yes, having sahoor is a form of worship, as following anything that the Prophet sall Allahu ’alayhi wa sallam encouraged is worship. It is a rukhsah (leave) that the people before us could not enjoy - embrace it, and be thankful, and anticipate Allah’s promised blessings.

Actions are rewarded according to intentions
Let’s make a new intention for this Ramadaan. Let’s make an intention to have sahoor solely to seek the blessings of Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala, rather than only due to the fear of starving. And if we’re one of those people whose sleep is more important at that time, let’s make an intention to get up and at least have a sip of water, because that is the earnest advice of our beloved Prophet sall Allahu ’alayhi wa sallam.

In sha Allah, we will be rewarded for the intention.
In sha Allah, we will be blessed for the action.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section :)


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