Tuesday 21 March 2023

Saum (Fast in Ramadan): Specific Divine Commandments in Qur'an

The long-awaited month of Ramdan - a month of fasting, is just a couple days from now.  This is a special month in the lives of the believers in which Muslims willingly abstain from all otherwise Halal things for the sake of Allah.

We have already shared a lot of information about Fasting (Saum), the third pillar of Islam which can be read from our special reference page: Ramadan - A month of fasting and Blessings

Herein under, we are sharing four specific verses from Qur'an (Surah 2. Al Baqarah - The Cow) in which Allah has enjoined Fasting on Muslims, as was enjoined upon those who were before us. Which means that fasting has been enjoined on all those following the Divine religions. It is another thing that none of the followers of the other Divine religions observe fast as religiously as Muslims do. Even they have amended the rules of fasting and the abstain partially from eating and drinking during the day for their ease, and not to abstain totally to please their Lord as Muslims do.

يٰٓـاَيُّهَا الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا كُتِبَ عَلَيۡکُمُ الصِّيَامُ کَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِيۡنَ مِنۡ قَبۡلِکُمۡ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَتَّقُوۡنَۙ‏ 
(2:183) Believers! Fasting is enjoined upon you, as it was enjoined upon those before you, that you become God-fearing.
Islam proceeded step by step and by degrees in the imposition of its obligatory duties. The same was done in the case of Fast. At first the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) advised the Muslims to observe fasts only for three days in a month but this was not obligatory. Then in the second year of the Hijrah, this Command (v. 183) about fasting in the month of Ramadan was revealed. This, however, left an option for those who were able to fast but did not. They were required to feed one poor man as an expiation of one day's fast (v. 184). Then, later, the final commandment contained in the next verse (185) modified this, and the concession for able-bodied people was withdrawn, but retained for a sick person or wayfarer and by analogy for a pregnant or a suckling woman and for those old people who were not able to fast.

اَيَّامًا مَّعۡدُوۡدٰتٍؕ فَمَنۡ كَانَ مِنۡكُمۡ مَّرِيۡضًا اَوۡ عَلٰى سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنۡ اَيَّامٍ اُخَرَ​ؕ وَعَلَى الَّذِيۡنَ يُطِيۡقُوۡنَهٗ فِدۡيَةٌ طَعَامُ مِسۡكِيۡنٍؕ فَمَنۡ تَطَوَّعَ خَيۡرًا فَهُوَ خَيۡرٌ لَّهٗ ؕ وَاَنۡ تَصُوۡمُوۡا خَيۡرٌ لَّـکُمۡ اِنۡ كُنۡتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُوۡنَ‏ 
(2:184) Fasting is for a fixed number of days, and if one of you be sick, or if one of you be on a journey, you will fast the same number of other days later on. For those who are capable of fasting (but still do not fast) there is a redemption: feeding a needy man for each day missed. Whoever voluntarily does better than is required will find it better for him; and that you should fast is better for you, if you only know.

شَهۡرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِىۡٓ اُنۡزِلَ فِيۡهِ الۡقُرۡاٰنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَ بَيِّنٰتٍ مِّنَ الۡهُدٰى وَالۡفُرۡقَانِۚ فَمَنۡ شَهِدَ مِنۡكُمُ الشَّهۡرَ فَلۡيَـصُمۡهُ ؕ وَمَنۡ کَانَ مَرِيۡضًا اَوۡ عَلٰى سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنۡ اَيَّامٍ اُخَرَؕ يُرِيۡدُ اللّٰهُ بِکُمُ الۡيُسۡرَ وَلَا يُرِيۡدُ بِکُمُ الۡعُسۡرَ وَلِتُکۡمِلُوا الۡعِدَّةَ وَلِتُکَبِّرُوا اللّٰهَ عَلٰى مَا هَدٰٮكُمۡ وَلَعَلَّکُمۡ تَشۡكُرُوۡنَ‏ 
(2:185) During the month of Ramadan the Qur'an was sent down as a guidance to the people with Clear Signs of the true guidance and as the Criterion (between right and wrong). So those of you who live to see that month should fast it, and whoever is sick or on a journey should fast the same number of other days instead. Allah wants ease and not hardship for you so that you may complete the number of days required,186 magnify Allah for what He has guided you to, and give thanks to Him.
It has been left to the option of the individual to observe or not to observe fasts during a journey. Some of the Companions of the Holy Prophet observed fasts and some did not when they were on a journey with him and neither raised any objection against the other. The Holy Prophet himself sometimes observed fasts on a journey and sometimes did not. Once he saw people gathered round a man who had fallen to the ground and asked what was the matter with him. He was told that he had become too weak to stand on account of observing fasts; he remarked that it was no virtue to observe fasts in such a condition.

During war time, he used to issue orders for postponing the fasts. Hadrat 'Umar has related that they did not observe fasts twice during the month of Ramadan when they went to war under the command of the Holy Prophet: on the occasion of the battle of Badr and at the conquest of Makkah. Ibn 'Umar says that on the eve of the conquest of Makkah, the Holy Prophet declared, "As we are going to fight our enemy you should postpone your fasts so that you may conserve your strength to fight." 'There is no clear injunction from the Holy Prophet for the prescription of a minimum standard of distance for postponing the fasts. His Companions also differed in practice with regard to the standard. But it is obvious that the fast may be postponed for that distance which is commonly understood to be a journey and in which one begins to feel like one is on a journey.

There is a difference of opinion as to whether the people of a city, which is attacked by an enemy, can postpone the fast for the sake of Jihad, in spite of being the residents. Some scholars do not allow this. But Imam Ibn Taimiyyah has maintained with strong arguments that postponement of the fast under such circumstances is permissible.  

Allah is so bountiful that He does not want to deprive His servants of the blessings of fasting. Therefore, He has not confined it to the month of Ramadan but has opened another way for its completion for those who fail to complete it during this month for genuine reasons. They should make up the deficiency by observing fast on other days in order to show their gratitude for the revelation of the Qur'an during the month of Ramadan.

It is clear from this verse that fasting in Ramadan has been prescribed not only as a form of worship and a training for piety, but also to show gratitude for the great blessing of the Revelation of the Qur'an during the month of Ramadan. And the best way to show gratitude for a favour is to fulfil the object for which it was bestowed and to prepare oneself for its completion as best as one can. The object for which Allah has bestowed the Qur'an upon us is to reveal His Will so that we may fulfil it ourselves and persuade others to do the same. Fasting provides the best training for the fulfilment of this object and is both a devotion and a sign of gratitude for the favour shown in the form of the Qur'an.

اُحِلَّ لَـکُمۡ لَيۡلَةَ الصِّيَامِ الرَّفَثُ اِلٰى نِسَآئِكُمۡ​ؕ هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَّـكُمۡ وَاَنۡـتُمۡ لِبَاسٌ لَّهُنَّ ؕ عَلِمَ اللّٰهُ اَنَّکُمۡ كُنۡتُمۡ تَخۡتَانُوۡنَ اَنۡفُسَکُمۡ فَتَابَ عَلَيۡكُمۡ وَعَفَا عَنۡكُمۡۚ فَالۡـٰٔنَ بَاشِرُوۡهُنَّ وَابۡتَغُوۡا مَا کَتَبَ اللّٰهُ لَـكُمۡ وَكُلُوۡا وَاشۡرَبُوۡا حَتّٰى يَتَبَيَّنَ لَـكُمُ الۡخَـيۡطُ الۡاَبۡيَضُ مِنَ الۡخَـيۡطِ الۡاَسۡوَدِ مِنَ الۡفَجۡرِ​ؕ ثُمَّ اَتِمُّوا الصِّيَامَ اِلَى الَّيۡلِ​ۚ وَلَا تُبَاشِرُوۡهُنَّ وَاَنۡـتُمۡ عٰكِفُوۡنَ فِى الۡمَسٰجِدِؕ تِلۡكَ حُدُوۡدُ اللّٰهِ فَلَا تَقۡرَبُوۡهَا ؕ كَذٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللّٰهُ اٰيٰتِهٖ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمۡ يَتَّقُوۡنَ‏ 
(2:187) It has been made lawful for you to go in to your wives during the night of the fast. They are your garment, and you are theirs. Allah knows that you used to betray yourselves and He mercifully relented and pardoned you. So, you may now associate intimately with your wives and benefit from the enjoyment Allah has made lawful for you, and eat and drink at night until you can discern the white streak of dawn against the blackness of the night; then (give up all that and) complete your fasting until night sets in.
There was also a misunderstanding about the timings of eating and drinking during Ramadan. Some people were of the opinion that eating and drinking was prohibited after the `Isha' (night) Prayer up to sunset of the next day. Others thought that one was permitted to eat and drink as long as one kept awake after the 'Isha' Prayer, but could not do so after one had fallen asleep; they were often put to great inconvenience on account of these notions of their own creation. In this verse their misunderstandings were removed and the duration of the period of fasting was fixed from the dawn of the morning to the sunset, and eating and drinking and intercourse with wives were permitted from sunset to dawn. Besides, the Holy Prophet instructed that a meal should be taken before dawn (of morning) as preparation for fasting.  

Islam has set a standard of time for its practices which can be applied universally by people at every stage of civilization and in every part of the globe. That is why it does not fix the boundary lines of its religious practices by watches and clocks but by clear signs in the sky. This is a standard which can suit the people of every age and country, and can be set by watches between these prescribed bounds to suit their circumstances and convenience. But those people who do not understand its philosophy raise foolish objections. For example, they say that this standard cannot work near the Poles, because there the duration of the day and the night is of many months. They forget that even in the polar regions, the signs of morning and evening and midnight appear as regularly as in other places and the inhabitants regulate the tunings of work, play, sleep, etc. in accordance with the appearance of these signs. When there were no watches and clocks, the inhabitants of the Arctic Circle fixed their timings by these signs. Thus, when these signs can help them to fix the timings in other matters of life, they can also serve them to fix the timings of the Prayer and of the commencement and end of the Fast.  

The aforesaid verses not only lay down the parameters of fasting, but also answer some of the queries that were raised when the Saum was made obligatory for the Muslims. May Allah help us to understand the simple and most practical religion of all - Islam and allow us to take advantage of the month of Ramadan and concessions given to us in fasting when traveling or being sick. Aameen.

We may now share an informative lecture by eminent Muslim scholar of present times, Nouman Ali Khan, who deliberates on the subject of How to have a right mindset in Ramadan:
May Allāh (سبحانه و تعالى‎) help us understand Qur'ān and follow the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, which is embodiment of commandments of Allah contained in the Qur'ān. May Allah help us to be like the ones He loves and let our lives be lived helping others and not making others' lives miserable or unlivable. May all our wrong doings, whether intentional or unintentional, be forgiven before the angel of death knocks on our door. 
وَمَا عَلَيۡنَاۤ اِلَّا الۡبَلٰغُ الۡمُبِيۡنُ‏ 
(36:17) and our duty is no more than to clearly convey the Message.”
That is Our duty is only to convey to you the message that Allah has entrusted us with. Then it is for you to accept it or reject it. We have not been made responsible for making you accept it forcibly, and if you do not accept it, we shall not be seized in consequence of your disbelief, you will yourselves be answerable for your actions on Day of Resurrection.

Reading the Qur'ān should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully. It will also help the Muslims to have grasp over social issues and their answers discussed in the Qur'an and other matter related to inter faith so that they are able to discuss issues with non-Muslims with authority based on refences from Qur'an.

May Allah forgive me if my posts ever imply a piety far greater than I possess. I am most in need of guidance.

Note: When we mention God in our posts, we mean One True God, we call Allah in Islam, with no associates. Allah is the Sole Creator of all things, and that Allah is all-powerful and all-knowing. Allah has no offspring, no race, no gender, no body, and is unaffected by the characteristics of human life.

To know more about fasting and importance of month of Ramadan, please consult our reference page: Ramadan - A month of fasting and Blessings. You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Qur'ān.

May Allah show us the right path so that we do not go astray due to what man has interpreted verses of religious scriptures to suit their own religions and faith. Aameen.

Photo | Reference: Surah ii Al Baqarah
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