The Wisdom & Beauty of Sadaqat al-Fitr
By Imam Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Bukhari al-Hanafi (d. 546 AH)
From the beauty of the Sacred Law in the Book of Fasting is that sadaqat al-fitr is legislated after Ramadan — a charity that compensates for any deficiency found in the fast and expiates for any sin which occurred during the blessed month. The Holy Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Sadaqat al-Fitr is purification for the faster.”
So this charity is like the two prostrations of forgetfulness in the Book of Prayer. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “The two prostrations for every addition or deficiency are a humiliation for the devil.” Thus, every deficiency which became firmly rooted in the fast is lifted by giving two kilograms* of grains in charity; and every deficiency which settles in the prayer is lifted by two prostrations of forgetfulness.
The worship of the fast is in abstention from intercourse, food and drink, so the manner of rectifying the defect was stipulated as feeding another. The Lawgiver didn’t make the manner of fixing the defect found in the fast the legislation of another fast because a single resolve does not extend to two fasts. As for the prayer, a single opening utterance of the takbir is able to subsume multiple prostrations within it [t: the prayer].
Beneath the surface of all of this, Allah Most High has a favour and secret with this Muhammadan community: as for the secret, He has specified the manner of rectifying deficiencies of forgetfulness in the prayer and that of the fast. So we recognise what the deficiency is and what fixes it up, and if He has specified that two prostrations fix up the prayer, after some reflection, we come to the realisation that a single prostration equates to seven hundred thousand years of worship. This is because the devil was ordered to prostrate himself to the Prophet Adam (peace be upon him) and he didn’t, so his worship of seven hundred thousand years went entirely to waste.
Knowing this, we realise that two prostrations equate to one million and four hundred thousand years of worship. This is for a defect found in the prayer. In the same way, and by analogy, two kilograms* of wheat equates to feeding one million and four hundred thousand hungry persons. If you understand the worth and value of the matter stipulated to fix up the deficiency, you will come to realise the gravity of the defect found therein.
If this is the deficiency of forgetting for a single moment, who on earth is able to know the very essence of the fast or the prayer save Allah Most High?
Whoever misses this act of worship doesn’t realise what he is missing.
*This, of course, is my substituted word for the Arabic “man,” an ancient measure of volume.
The author was an accomplished master faqih, usuli and mutakallim. He was also one of the teachers of Imam Marghinani. It is reported that he had written a one thousand volume exegesis of the Holy Qur’an. May Allah Most High have mercy upon him. This extract is from his beautiful work, Mahasin al-Islam.