Verses 2:183 to 187 in Surah Al-Baqarah has always been referred to as the basis of fasting in the month of Ramadhan. Fasting is said to be Muslims’ way to show solidarity with the poor, to experience the hardship of hunger, but the breaking of the fast is far from the real situation experienced by the poor. This state of affairs has remained unresolved through this annual ritual and has raised a pertinent question on its objective results, whether this is what was ordained by the Quran, and if that has a measurable outcome in the long run.
A Special Month?
Fasting in the month of Ramadhan is an annual ritual as we know it, to be in solidarity with the poor. While the month becomes a spiritual period, practising abstinence and patience, one would ask, why can’t this conduct be made permanent throughout the year. This belief that doing good deeds and charity in the month of Ramadhan brings greater rewards will raise the question whether the Lord of the Universe subscribes to a particular Arabic month, while other months matter less. Does feeding the poor in other months, matter less to Allah? Of course, to the poor people, their suffering remains real throughout the year. Similarly, performing Umra’ in the month of Ramadhan is highly sought after by Muslims. Seeking forgiveness during the month of Ramadhan has become an exclusivity to those who can afford such luxury, while being poor will remain deprived of such means of approaching God.
The Lost Month of Ramadhan
In understanding the Quranic term Ramadhan, one cannot ignore the glaring issue of the Hijra calendar where the months no longer follow the seasons they were named after. Ramadhan was named after the intense end of summer heat, just like Rabiul Awal (Early Spring) was named to signify the arrival of spring. Some scholars have begun to realize that the present calendar is not the same as the calendar used by the Prophet. Al-Biruni and Al-Mas’udi had concluded that the calendar being used by the Prophet was lunisolar that is connected with seasonal activities. The present Hijra calendar was started by Khalifa Umar years after the Prophet’s death. It is unclear when the lunisolar was turned into purely lunar, but the answer will still not address whether the Lord of the Universe subscribes to the Arabic calendar, lunar, or lunisolar.
More on the enigmatic calendar in our previous article, and in the video below.
In the following parts, we will explore in detail the verses to uncover the actual quranic message, whether they have any relevance to fasting in the month of Ramadhan, or something deeper.
Traditional Translation (Shakir)
O you who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard (against evil)
In Sura Al-Baqarah, verse 2:183, we were told that with Al-Siyam, we will be mindful (tattaquna). But Muslims in general is not concerned with this profound assertion of the Quran on being mindful (muttaqin) . Although the effects of being hungry is far from the issue being addressed in the verses.
In verse 2:183, apart from Al-Siyam, and Tattaqun, pay attention to the word kutiba;
Kitab : something written / scriptures
Kutiba : scripted / embedded
2:183 O you who had attained Emaan (āmanū) !
was scripted (kutiba) upon you Al-Siyamu,
as was scripted (kutiba) over those from before you,
perhaps, you may be ….
MINDFUL (tattaquna >>MUTTAQIN)
So the verse says with Al-Siyam,
one will become muttaqin, not hungry.
Al-Siyam is the SCRIPTED ACT of the mindful ( Muttaqin)
Before we explore further, it is important that we understand the description of muttaqeen according to the Quran.
root wāw qāf yā
Mindful, conscious, aware, protective, oversee
Based on Quranic explanation of Muttaqin, these are their characteristics:
- THOSE WHO DO NOT TRANSGRESS.
- THOSE WHO POSSESS RIGHTEOUSNESS & BEING UPRIGHT.
- THOSE WHO ARE DUTIFUL.
- GOOD DOER.
- OBSERVANT OF THE OUTCOME (CAUSE & EFFECT).
- THOSE WHO RECEIVED THE BEST OUTCOME.
- WARN THOSE WHO CONCEALS ( KAFIRIN ) OF THE IMPLICATIONS.
- THOSE WHO FIGHT THE KUFAR ( CONCEALERS).
- THOSE WHO BROUGHT TRUTH & TRUTHFUL.
- THE OUTCOME WILL BE GIVEN THE GARDEN.
- THE MINDFUL ARE ALWAYS REMINDED.
- Refer to related verses at the end of this article for the Quranic description of Muttaqin
This characteristic of behaviour is inherent and embedded inside those who are mindful (Muttaqin)
Siyam / Saum
The next word to note is Saum / Siyam, from the root word Sad Waw Mim
The basic meaning is to abstain, to stop, to refrain.
It does not specifically imply stopping eating or drinking. In Surah Maryam verse 26, Maryam had vowed a sauman (abstention) that she shall stop talking to others, but continue to consume (fa-kuli wa-ish’rabī) and be happy (wa-qarrī). It is clear from this verse that saum is not about fasting.
Now, if we observe the characteristics of the Muttaqin, we will notice that the Muttaqin were those who speak and act against transgression and injustice, and upheld righteousness.
This act of not participating/abstaining in these wrongful acts and at the same time taking action to stop transgressions, falsehoods, or injustices against mankind, is what Al-Siyam is all about.
This is only natural and already embedded inside us to stop or refrain from doing wrongful things. And verse 2:183 is stating just that – such aptitude for this is already embedded or scripted inside us and those before us.
Traditional Translation (Shakir)
For a certain number of days; but whoever among you is sick or on a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days; and those who are not able to do it may effect a redemption by feeding a poor man; so whoever does good spontaneously it is better for him; and that you fast is better for you if you know.
From this verse, it is unclear why would anyone who is sick or on a journey would want to alternate his or her fasting. There is nothing practical about this. If we read the Quran in its literal sense, we will find it difficult to make any correlations with our life experience or journey. However, in dealing in ideological and abstract concepts, allegory and metaphors plays a crucial role to form a narrative in explaining these ideas. (refer to 2:26 & 17:89)
In this verse, we shall delve into the following words.
- – Ayyāman had been simplified as days, but the true sense of the word refers to time, an event, or incident.
- – Ma’dūdātin from the word ʿiddata – He numbered, counted, reckoned, or computed, it:
- – Marīdan – A sick person should not fast, and sickness cannot be controlled to appear on alternate days, so you can fast alternatively. This quranic terminology is pointing to those in the state of anguish, living under a particular doctrine.
- – Safarin – if the Quran expound universal values, fasting on a journey in the modern world cannot be made as an exception, as it can be a pleasant experience at 30,000 feet above sea level on a flat bed. The Quranic term safarin is addressing those who are exploring their inner quest or journey or ideological path.
- – Mis’kīnin in Quranic terminology is not being poor in material sense, but those who are pitiful and incapable and unaware in their state of mind (68:9). They are not to be wasted (17:26) and must be nourished with knowledge and information (30:37-38). They are without measured determination (68:24-25) and in misery (90:16)
So in verse 2:184, the Quran is asking us to make reckonings from our life episodes, whether we are in such state of anguish or still in the journey to find a particular path.
And for those who can afford, hence must educate. He or she must offer him or herself to nourish the state of the mind of those who are incapable to do so.
Because this will be better for them.
And to be able to stop the state they were in, is good for those who knows.
Verse 2:185 / 186
Traditional Translation (Shakir)
The month of Ramazan is that in which the Quran was revealed, a guidance to men and clear proofs of the guidance and the distinction; therefore whoever of you is present in the month, he shall fast therein, and whoever is sick or upon a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days; Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty, and (He desires) that you should complete the number and that you should exalt the greatness of Allah for His having guided you and that you may give thanks
It is meaningless to say that during the Jahiliya month of Ramadhan, the Quran was revealed. Quranic revelations is from the Lord of the Universe. Not a revelation from a particular month of the Jahiliya calendar, which was later turned into an Islamic one.
Grammatically, it is in THE READING that revelations will be revealed.
In 2:185, In IT > The READING ( Al-QUR’ĀNU), will reveal what
is apparent / obvious (Shahru):
intense pain (Ramadhan).
The month cannot reveal The Reading (Al-QUR’ĀNU).
It is THE READINGS that will reveal something obvious to guide us.
Something obvious that will explain ( bayyinatin )
So whoever Witnesses (shahada)
this obviousness (Al-Shahra),
he should stop it (falyasum’hu)
So whoever is still in the pain (maridan) ( from the intensity / Ramadhan)
or in the journey (of searching the truth),
so make reckoning (Fa’iddatun) from the previous events ( ayyamin ukhara).
This is when we have to make our conclusion of the past events that we have experienced.
Allah intends for you ease and not intends for you hardship.
So you may complete The Reckoning (Al-‘Idata)
And that you magnify Allah for what he guided you,
So you may be grateful
Subsequently, In 2:186, Allah is reminding us that He is very near, and will respond to our call for guidance.
Traditional Translation (Shakir)
It is made lawful to you to go into your wives on the night of the fast; they are an apparel for you and you are an apparel for them; Allah knew that you acted unfaithfully to yourselves, so He has turned to you (mercifully) and removed from you (this burden); so now be in contact with them and seek what Allah has ordained for you, and eat and drink until the whiteness of the day becomes distinct from the blackness of the night at dawn, then complete the fast till night, and have not contact with them while you keep to the mosques; these are the limits of Allah, so do not go near them. Thus does Allah make clear His communications for men that they may guard (against evil)
If one is fasting during the day, one does not need to be told that he is permitted to have sexual contact during the night.
In 2:187, one is empowered to stop the coercion of the weaker section of the society. An-Nisa does not refer specifically to women, but the weaker minorities, and those that fall under one’s responsibility (ma malakat aymanukum). Coercion and exploitation of their weaker minds must stop (2:188).
The Quran is reminding us of what is already scripted inside us. When we see something wrong, we know we have to object to it or stop it from happening. We have to make reckonings, resolutions, and determinations from the events around us, and be aware of the different state of consciousness of those around us. It is our duty to educate them, that had not, or incapable to reaching higher state of consciousness. God has given us this great faculty of reading, to decipher the events around us, to guide us and make reckonings. If we see the intense injustice that has become so apparent to us, then it is our task to take the necessary steps, as muttaqin, to protect;
– the weak (An-Nisa),
– and those who suffered from false doctrine (marīdan),
– to assist those seeking a path (safarin)
– to educate those who are incapable (mis’kīnin),
This will be good for them.
And good for us if we are able to put an end to the situation.
root word : wāw qāf yā
Mindful, conscious, aware, protective, oversee
Traditional translation commonly translated Muttaqin those who are fearful or righteous, but the same root word also used to mean to protect.
16:81 And Allah has made for you, from that which He has created, shadows and has made for you from the mountains, shelters and has made for you garments which protect you (taqīkumu ) from the heat and garments which protect you (taqīkum) from your [enemy in] battle. Thus does He complete His favor upon you that you might submit [to Him].
76:11 So Allah will protect them (fawaqāhumu) from the evil of that Day and give them radiance and happiness
Characteristics of Muttaqin according to the Quran
1. THOSE WHO DO NOT TRANGRESS
2:65 And you had already known about those who transgressed among you concerning the sabbath, and We said to them, “Be apes, despised.”
2:66 And We made it a deterrent punishment for those who were present and those who succeeded [them] and a lesson for those who are mindful of Allah
2. THOSE WHO POSSESS RIGHTEOUSNESS & BEING UPRIGHT:
2:177 Greatness ( Al-Birra) is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but Greatness ( Al-Birra) is [in] one who trust in Allah , the Akhiri, the malaikah, the Scripture, and the Nabiyina and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes salat and gives zakah; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the Muttaqin
9:7 How can there be for the polytheists a treaty in the sight of Allah and with His Messenger, except for those with whom you made a treaty at al-Masjid al-haram? So as long as they are upright toward you, be upright toward them. Indeed, Allah loves the mindful.
3. THOSE WHO ARE DUTIFUL:
2:180 Prescribed for you when death approaches [any] one of you if he leaves wealth [is that he should make] a bequest for the parents and near relatives according to what is acceptable – a duty upon the mindful.
4. GOOD DOER
3:115 And whatever good they do – never will it be concealed (yuk’faruhu) from
them. And Allah is Knowing of the mindful.
5. OBSERVANT OF THE OUTCOME (CAUSE & EFFECT)
3:137 Similar situations have passed on before you, so proceed throughout the earth and observe how was the end of those who denied.
3:138 This is a clear statement to the people and a guidance and instruction for those mindful of Allah
6. THOSE WHO RECEIVED THE BEST OUTCOME
7:128 Said Moses to his people, “Seek help through Allah and be patient. Indeed, the earth belongs to Allah. He causes to inherit it whom He wills of His servants. And the [best] outcome is for the mindful.”
11:49 That is from the news of the unseen which We reveal to you. You knew it not, neither you nor your people, before this. So be patient; indeed, the [best] outcome (l-Aqibata) is for the mindful.
7. WARN THOSE WHO CONCEALS ( KAFIRIN ) OF THE IMPLICATIONS.
9:3 And an announcement from Allah and His Messenger to the people on the day of Great Challenge that Allah is disassociated from those who conceal, and His Messenger. So if you repent, that is best for you; but if you turn away – then know that you will not cause failure to Allah . And give tidings to those who conceal of a painful punishment.
9:4 Excepted are those with whom you made a treaty among the polytheists and then they have not been deficient toward you in anything or supported anyone against you; so complete for them their treaty until their term [has ended]. Indeed, Allah loves the mindful.
8. THOSE WHO FIGHT THE KUFAR ( CONCEALERS )
9:123 O you who have been entrusted, fight those adjacent to you of the concealers
and let them find in you fierceness. And know that Allah is with the mindful.
9. THOSE WHO BROUGHT TRUTH & TRUTHFUL
39:33 And the one who has brought the truth and truthful in it – those are the mindful.
10. THE OUTCOME WILL BE GIVEN THE GARDEN.
13:35 The example of the Garden, which the mindful have been promised, is beneath it rivers flow. Its fruit is lasting, and its shade. That is the consequence for the mindful, and the consequence for the concealers (Kafirin) is the Fire.
15:45 Indeed, the mindful will be within gardens and springs.
16:30 And it will be said to those who are mindful ( ittaqaw ) of Allah , “What did your Lord send down?” They will say, ” goodness.” For those who do good in this world is good; and the home of the akhirat is better. And how excellent is the home of the mindful.
16:31 Gardens of abode, which they will enter, beneath which rivers flow. They will have therein whatever they wish. Thus does Allah reward the mindful
26:90 And The Garden will be brought near to the mindful.
44:51 Indeed, the mindful will be in a secure place;
47:15 The Example (Mithalan) of the Garden, which the mindful are promised, wherein are rivers of water unaltered, rivers of milk the taste of which never changes, rivers of wine delicious to those who drink, and rivers of purified honey, in which they will have from all [kinds of] fruits and forgiveness from their Lord, like [that of] those who abide eternally in the Fire and are given to drink scalding water that will sever their intestines?
50:13 And Paradise will be brought near to the mindful, not far,
51:15 Indeed, the mindful will be among gardens and springs,
52:17 Indeed, the mindful will be in gardens and pleasure,
54:54 Indeed, the mindful will be among gardens and rivers,
68:34 Indeed, for the mindful with their Lord are the Gardens of Pleasure. 77:41 Indeed, the mindful will be among shades and springs
11. THE MINDFUL ARE ALWAYS REMINDED –
69:48 And indeed, the Qur’an is a reminder for the mindful.