Masters of Truth and Sincerity have said, “Bodily strength depends on food and drink, whereas spiritual strength depends on going hungry and thirsty. In God’s domain, hunger is a divine food.”
It has been related that one of the qualities of the Almighty is this, ‘wa Huwa yutAAimu wa la yutAAamu’, “He feed others but is not Himself fed.” (Quran 6:14
) If a servant becomes distinguished in this practice, then according to the consensus of the wise, he progresses on the carpet of proximity to God. He becomes far removed from the human conditioning. When somebody fasts in accordance with the order, “Make your actions like those of God,” then he too, is able to feed others. In this manner, he will approximate the qualities of the Beloved. He will dissociate himself from human qualities and become honored and greatly enriched in Him, just as the Lord of the world has said, “The man who fasts experience a two fold joy: the breaking of the fast and seeing God.”
It has been written in Kashf ul-Mahjubthat hunger afflicts the body, purifies the heart, inflames the soul with love, and leads the mind to meet God. The Prophet also hints at this when he says, “Every work of man will receive a reward that gradually increases, till it is seventyfold. But a fast that is undertaken for the sake of God will be rewarded by Him.” The one who fasts is promised, “You are Mine!” and “I am your reward!” And again, “Your reward is to see My face!” Those slain by love are promised: “Whoever My love kills is ransomed by a vision of Me!”
We raise up in degree whomsoever We Will.
– The Quran 6:83
The practice of fasting is highly esteemed by the Sufis. Whenever they wish to hear the word of God in their hearts, they go hungry for forty days. Assuredly, the Lord will speak to them in their hearts, because whatever may be revealed openly to the Prophets can only be hinted at secretly to the saints. A Sheikh has said, “A disciple needs three qualities: Unless he is overcome by drowsiness, he should not sleep; unless urged by necessity, he should refrain from speaking; unless he is starving, he should not eat.” For some, two days and nights are enough; for still others, a week; and some may need a full forty days.
The cycle of eating requires preoccupations with the self, and anyone who is preoccupied with himself becomes hidden from the Beloved. Refraining from eating while sitting on the carpet of the Lord is better than eating in a palace with Him absent or hidden. Someone else has said, “Make a fast from this world, and break it with death!”
.. some there are to whom God spoke, and some He raised in rank.
– The Quran, 2:253
In the story of Moses we read about forty days having been set aside in order to cut oneself off more effectively from the world and all its concerns. The command runs like this, “We commanded Moses to set aside thirty days and nights; then We added another ten days, so that the appointed time of His Lord was a full forty nights.” (Quran 7:142
). It should be realized that the fast of Moses did not mean simply that he refrained from eating during the day, but also did not eat during the night. No, he passed forty whole days and nights without eating anything at all.
According to this example, keeping one’s stomach empty of food is an extremely important element of the retreat. Moses attributed his talking to God Almighty to the fact that he had devoted forty days, in all sincerity, to Him, and had cut off from his worldy affairs, thus enabling him to take care of his soul, while his stomach remained light. God, the Exalted and Praised, showers much heavenly illumination upon such a person!