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Exegesis of the Verses of Fasting in the Qur'an

MIT
5/28/2015
701 views

Allah says (as translated to be): "The month of Ramadan, in which the Quran was brought down, a guidance for the people, and clarification of the guidance and the criterion. Therefore, those of you who witness the month shall fast it. And those who are ill or travelling, then an equal number of other days. God wants ease for you, and He does not want hardship for you, and so that you may complete the count, and to exalt God for guiding you, and that you may be thankful." (Al-Baqarah:185)

The fourth "pillar" or foundation of Islam is the fasting of the month of Ramadan. And as the verse clearly stated, it was in this holy month that the Qur'an was sent down in full to the lowest heaven to serve as a guidance   to the people. This shows that the revelation of the Qur'an was in two forms: Complete and piece-meal. The full complete one-time revelation is what is mentioned herein, while the piece meal started with the first five verses of surah Alaq and lasted for years after until the death of the prophet.

Another issue is the compulsion of fasting this month. All Muslims, sane, mature and at home (i.e. not traveling) are to fast it. While those on journey or ill are exempted from fasting until they are back home from journey or get back their health. Such people have to pay back what they missed. This is part of the mercy of Allah upon this ummah compared to those before us.

Nonetheless, this is the verse that directly put forth its being obligatory. All other related issues are found in one verse or the other inside the Qur'an, whilst the prophet (PBUH) exemplified them in practice for us to emulate.

1- Fasting Hours:

The Quran outlines the fasting hours in the following verse:

"You may eat and drink until the white thread becomes distinguishable to you from the dark thread at dawn. Then you shall maintain the fast until the night." (Al-Baqarah:187)

2- First Ordinance of Fasting.

According to the Quran, fasting is very old and was decreed to the people of Israel long before the Quran was revealed:

"O you who believe, fasting is decreed upon you, as it was decreed upon those before you, so that you may be reverent." (Al-Baqarah:183)

3- Fasting (i.e. Siyaam) as in the Quran.

The word "Siyaam" is used in the Quran to mean abstention. Abstention could be from a number things. For example, the word "Sawm" as used in 19:26 is used to indicate an abstention from talking:

"So eat and drink, and be happy then if you see any human say, `I have vowed a Saym (fast) for the Almighty and so I will not speak today to any person.' " 19:26

 

Then we have the word "Siyaam" as used in 2:187, which refers to the abstention from eating and drinking:

"... you may eat and drink until the white thread becomes distinguishable to you from the dark thread at dawn. Then you shall maintain the Siyaam (fast) until the night." 2:187

"O you who believe, Siyaam (fasting) is decreed upon you, as it was decreed upon those before you, so that you may be reverent." 2:183

During the fasting hours (explained in 2:187), all sexual contact between married couples is also prohibited:

" .... you may eat and drink until the white thread becomes distinguishable to you from the dark thread at dawn. Then you shall maintain the fast until the night, and do not approach them while you are confined to the masjid. These are God's limitations so do not go near them. God thus clarifies His revelations for the people, so that they may be reverent." 2:187

Prior to the revelation of the Qur'an, sexual intercourse was prohibited throughout the fasting period. This rule has been alleviated with the revelation of the Quran (2:187) to allow intercourse between married couples during the nights of Ramadan.

4- Those to Fast and Those Exempted.

Fasting in Ramadan is obligatory on those who can physically withstand it. Sick people and travellers on long or arduous travels are exempted from the fast but must make it up by fasting other days when they are no longer sick or travelling.

"... those who are ill or travelling, then an equal number of other days. God wants ease for you, and He does not want hardship for you." 2:185

5- The importance and benifits of fasting

Fasting and the month of Ramadan are given great importance in the Quran. Ramadan is a Holy month because it is the month during which the Quran was revealed. As a result, this month is meant to be a time for inner reflection, devotion to God, and self-control. In many ways, the month of Ramadan serves as a kind of tune-up for the soul.

The benefits of fasting are numerous. Undoubtedly, the greatest of these is the fact that in fasting is a great expression of worshipping God aimed at imbibing in the individual the fear of God. Moreover, the act of fasting is a great exercise in self-control and the development of will power. The intention is that the lack of preoccupation with the physical satisfactions of the body during the daylight hours of fasting, the human being is able to attain a measure of spiritual ascendancy. This leads to attaining closeness to God. Ramadan is also a time for reflection, reading the Quran, giving charity, purifying one's behaviour, and doing good deeds. For Muslims, Ramadan is an opportunity to gain by giving up, to prosper by going without and to grow stronger by conquering weakness.

As a secondary goal, and through experiencing hunger, fasting is a means for developing compassion for the poor and less fortunate, and consequently learning to be more charitable and more thankful and appreciative of God's bounties. Fasting is also beneficial to the health and provides a break in the cycle of rigid habits and over indulgence.

Muslims believe that the last ten nights of Ramadan are of great importance, and they refer to 89:2 for their understanding. They also believe that the night on which the Quran was revealed, which is called the Night of Destiny “Laylat Al-Qadr” is a very special night. As a result of this, many Muslims spend the entire nights of the last ten days in prayer. As much as this is encouraged, it is good to keep the same spirit all other nights within or outside Ramadan.






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