Sawm: The Esoterics (Bāṭin) of Fasting – Ismaili Gnosis Com Article

Shahru ramaḍāna alladhī unzila fīhi’l-qur’ānu hudan lilnasi wabayyinātin mina’l-hudā wa’l-furqāni fa-man shahida minkumu’l-shahra falyaṣumhu

“The Month of Ramaḍān in which was sent down the Qur’ān a guidance for mankind, and manifest proofs of the guidance and the criterion (between truth and falsehood).  So whomever among you witnesses the Month, let him fast it.” (Holy Qur’ān 2:185)

Fasting (ṣawm) is among the seven pillars (arkān) of classical Shī‘ī Ismā‘īlī Islām and the five pillars of classical Sunnī Islām.  For Ismā‘īlī gnosis as taught by the Ismā‘īlī Muslim theosophers , each pillar (rukn) of Islām has an exoteric form (ẓāhir), an esoteric meaning (bāṭin), and a spiritual reality which is the esoteric beyond the esoteric (bāṭin al-bāṭin).

The level of exoteric form is sharī‘ah (religious law), the level of esoteric meaning is ṭarīqah (spiritual path), and the level of spiritual reality is ḥaqīqah (spiritual truth).  Other Muslim theologians recognize these three levels as submission (islām), faith (imān), and beauty (iḥsan).  Corresponding to these three levels in the human being are the physical body (jism), the rational soul (nafs al-nātiqah), and the heart (qalb) or spiritual intellect (‘aql).

The word ṣawm literally means ‘to abstain’ from something.  Accordingly, in Ismā‘īlī gnosis, there are three levels of fasting (ṣawm):
1) Exoteric Fasting (ẓāhirī ṣawm)
2) Esoteric Fasting (bāṭinī ṣawm)
3) Real Fasting (ḥaqīqī ṣawm)

1. Exoteric Fasting (ẓāhirī sawm)


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