Fasting the Day of Arafat

Three books make a reference to such fast: Bihar al-Anwar (p. 123, Vol. 94), ‘Uyun Akhbar al-Rida (p. 36, Vol. 2), and ‘Ilal al-Sharai’ (p. 73, Vol. 2). These books cite a tradition narrated by Abu Abdullah Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (as) in which the Imam (as) says, "The Messenger of Allah (S) appointed only (Imam) Ali (as) as his successor, while (Imam) Ali (as) assigned Imamate to both (his sons) al-Hassan and al-Husayn (as). When al-Hassan (as) was the Imam, a man entered on the day of Arafat and saw al-Hassan (as) eating his lunch while al-Husayn (as) was fasting.

The same man came to see al-Husayn (as) when he became the Imam following the death of (Imam) al-Hassan (as), also on the Arafat day, and he saw him eating while his son (Imam) Ali son of al-Husayn (Zainul-’Abidin [as]) was fasting. The man (apparently quite confused) asked (Imam) al-Husayn (as), ‘Why is it that I visited al-Hassan (as) and found him eating while you yourself were fasting, and now I visit you and find you not fasting (while your son is)?!'

(Imam) al-Husayn (as) said, ‘Al-Hassan was then the Imam; he did not fast for fear his fast would be regarded as a Sunnah followed by people. When he died and I became the Imam, I did not want my fast to be regarded as a Sunnah so people would follow my example.'" What Imam al-Husayn (as) meant was that to fast on the day of Arafat was very highly recommended but not obligatory. Had he (as) and his older brother al-Hassan (as) fasted it, people would have regarded its fast as an obligation rather than a highly recommended act of worship.

Bihar al-Anwar and ‘Ilal al-Sharai’ cite al-Mutawakkil's son quoting al-Sa’d-Abadi quoting his father quoting Ibn Abu ‘Umayr saying that Abu Abdullah (Imam al-Sadiq [as]) said, "Fasting the 8th of Thul-Hijjah suffices to wipe out the sins committed in an entire year, and fasting the day of Arafat (the next day) suffices to atone for the sins committed in two years."

The best among Allah's creation, our master Muhammad (S), has described fast as the cure for the souls and the bodies, saying, "Fast so you may heal." He has also revealed the fact that everything in this life has a purification (zakat), and that "Fast is the purification (zakat) of bodies," as we are told on p. 59 of al-Saduq's Amali.

A Muslim understands the fast to be the setting on equal footing between the poor and the rich before the Almighty, for if the rich desire something, they have the means to get it; therefore, the Almighty wished to establish equality among His servants and to let the rich taste the pain of hunger so that their hearts may be softened, and to thus make them compassionate towards the weak and the hungry.

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