In every act of worship, people are at different levels.
Allah (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) says in the Qur’ān,
فَمِنْهُمْ ظَالِمٌ لِّنَفْسِهِ وَمِنْهُم مُّقْتَصِدٌ وَمِنْهُمْ سَابِقٌ بِالْخَيْرَاتِ
“…among them is he who wrongs himself, and among them is he who takes a middle course, and among them is he who is foremost in good deeds, by the permission of Allah.” 
People in the month of Ramadan are no exception; we are identical in that we are all fasting, yet we are different in that the outcome of each one of our fasts, in Allah’s Eyes, is miles apart.
Indeed, al-Ghazāli mentions that fasting is of three levels; one should measure oneself according to them.
- Sawm al-‘Umūm (the fasting of the masses)
- Sawm al-Khusūs (the fasting of the elite)
- Sawm Khusūs al-Khusūs (the fasting of the elite of the elite).
Level 1 | Fasting of the Masses
As for the first, the fasting of the majority of people, this is an entry-level fasting of the most basic order. It is merely to refrain from food, drink, and sexual desires.
However, they may give their tongues free rein to back-stab, swear, lie, engage in gossip, and may give their eyes free rein to stare at the prohibited, and their ears to listen freely to all that is impermissible.
This kind of fasting is, to say the least, lacking and weak.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said,
مَنْ لَمْ يَدَعْ قَوْلَ الزُّورِ وَالعَمَلَ بِهِ وَالجَهْلَ، فَلَيْسَ لِلَّهِ حَاجَةٌ أَنْ يَدَعَ طَعَامَهُ وَشَرَابَهُ
“Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it, and ignorance, Allah has no need of him giving up his food and drink.” 
He (ﷺ) also said,
رب صائم حظه من صيامه الجوع والعطش، ورب قائم حظه من قيامه السهر
“There may be a fasting person who gets nothing from it but hunger and thirst, and there may be one who prays at night and gets nothing from it but a sleepless night.” 
Maymūm ibn Mahrān said,
إن أهون الصوم ترك الطعام والشراب
“The easiest type of fasting is abstaining from food and drink.” 
What is the point of this type of fasting, where one abstains from what is usually permissible – food, drink, marital relations – only to then act upon what is always impermissible throughout the fasting hours and post-Iftar?
This is like one who builds a house whilst destroying his city. It is nothing short of the Devil’s deception, and it is a highly lacking type of fasting and a wasted opportunity.
Level 2 | Fasting of the Elite
As for this level, it refers to a fast that involves not only abstinence from the physical nullifiers of fasting, but also a restraint on the hearing, sight, tongue, hands, feet, and other physical faculties from committing sin.
This was the understanding of fasting, according to the companions.
Jābir ibn ‘Abdullāh said,
إذَا صُمْتَ فَلْيَصُمْ سَمْعُك وَبَصَرُك وَلِسَانُك عَنِ الْكَذِبِ وَالْمَآثِمِ، وَدَعْ أَذَى الْخَادِمِ، ولْيَكُنْ عَلَيْك وَقَارٌ وَسَكِينَةٌ يَوْمَ صِيَامِكَ، وَلاَ تَجْعَلْ يَوْمَ فِطْرِكَ وَيَوْمَ صِيَامِكَ سَوَاءً
“When you fast, then let your ears, eyes, and your tongue fast from false statement and sins.
“Refrain from harming those who serve you, and be defined by elegance and composure on the day of your fasting. Do not make the day of fasting and the day you aren’t the same.” 
Those who achieve this level, i.e. restrain themselves from not only what will break their fast but also from what will blemish it, are the elite.
As the Prophet (ﷺ) said,
ليس الصيامُ من الأكلِ و الشربِ ، إنما الصيامُ من اللَّغوِ و الرفَثِ
“The true fasting is not about avoidance of food and drink; it’s about the avoidance of improper talk and behaviour.” 
Their conversations are tamed, ears guarded, glances restrained, extramarital relationships permanently ended, iftars not exaggerated, food not wasted, her hijāb perfected, their relationships mended, and the endless scrolling of social media adjusted, as they understand that doing all of this is integral to the quality of their fast.
And they understand that,
الصِّيام جُنَّة ما لم يخرقها
“Fasting is a shield, so long as you do not damage it.” 
As the companion, Abu ‘Ubayda ibn al-Jarrāh, said, fasting is a shield that will guard your body from the fire of Hell, according to how well you preserve it. Sins are essentially chinks within such armour.
Level 3 | Fasting of the Elite of the Elite
The third level of fasting involves freeing oneself from worldly thoughts and lowly concerns, where one’s mind is consumed by Allah, to such an extent that it evicts all other thoughts!
This is the level of the prophets, Siddīqūn, and the nearest to Allah, and it is the most sublime of levels.
Worship is perfected when the heart – the king of the limbs – is entirely focused on Allah and not distracted from Him. Whoever fasts in this true sense, involving both his heart and his physical faculties, has seized the highest offerings of fasting in this life and the next.
These levels are real, because people do vary immensely in their fasting.
Hearts out of shape?
Setting aside that which has been said, it’s been around two-and-a-half weeks since Ramadan started, yet many complain of hearts that are still out of gear.
Despite the physical dimensions of fasting that they have acted upon, their hearts remains indifferent and disengaged. So what’s going on?
Imam Ibn Taymiyyah identifies one possible reason for such coldness, saying,
إذا لم تجد للعمل حلاوة في قلبك وانشراحا فاتهمه
“If you fail to experience the sweetness of worship and sense of inner expanse during it, then you must point the finger of blame to yourself.
فإن الرب تعالى شكور يعني أنه لابد أن يثيب العامل على عمله في الدنيا من حلاوة يجدها في قلبه وقوةٍ انشراحٍ وقرة عين
“This is because Allah is grateful, meaning that He will certainly reward a person in this world for his actions via peace of heart, a sense of sweetness, and incredible joy.
فحيث لم يجد ذلك فعمله مدخول
“So, since these feelings are absent, it means that the act of worship itself is tarnished by something.” 
In other words, there is a barrier that is blocking our hearts from tasting the joy of worship, and that barrier is sins.
Try to pinpoint that barrier with brutal honesty. Question yourself with some of the following:
“Is it my insincerity? Is it self-admiration? Is it how I appear in public, both online and offline? Is it my fallout with such-and-such? Is it my finances that are hampering me? Is it envy that’s eating me up inside? Is it the deplorable relationship with my parents? Is it my secret sinful habits? Is it my arrogant feeling that I don’t have many sins?”
It will be there somewhere! It just needs tracking down and overcoming.
Wuhayb ibn al-Ward was asked,
“Can a person who (insists on) sin experience the sweetness of worship?”
لا، ولا من همَ
“No, not even a person who merely intends to sin.” 
Just as a sick body may struggle to enjoy the goodness of food, a heart ill with sins will struggle to enjoy the sweetness of worship.
Tracing those sins is hard. Tackling them can be even harder. But it is a must, and the good news is that it will only be a matter of time before your soul surrenders to your wishes and your īmān recovers.
Ibn Rajab said,
واعلم أن نفسك بمنزلة دابتك: إن عرفت منك الجد جدت ، وإن عرفت منك الكسل طمعت فيك وطلبت منك حظوظها وشهوتها
“The self is like the animal you mount; if it sees determination in you, it, too, will be determined. But if it perceives laziness, it will urge you to be lazier and will start demanding its rights and appetites.” 
The self needs to be kept tamed, busy in a state of growth, discipline, repentance, and noble pursuit.
Abu Zayd said,
ما زلت أسوق نفسي إلى الله وهي تبكي ، حتى سقتها وهي تضحك
“I continued dragging my nafs (ego) by force to Allah whilst it cried, until it finally surrendered and I was able to take it to Him whilst it was smiling.” 
What better time in the year to address all of this and to find permanent solutions, than in the month of Ramadan? Let us make the most of these remaining few days.
 al-Qur’ān, 35:32
 al-Bukhārī, on the authority of Abu Hurayrah
 Ahmad, on the authority of Abu Hurayrah
 Ibn Abi Shaybah
 Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah
 al-Hākim, on the authority of Abu Hurayrah
 Madārij al-Sālikīn
 Hilyat al-Awliyā
 Majmū’ Rasā’il Ibn Rajab
 Badā’i al-Fawāid, Ibn al-Qayyim