Written by Ustadh Kewulere Olayimika Abdul-Wasi'
A’udhubillahi mina Shaytanir Rajim, Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim.
Understanding the interpretation of Ramadhan (9th lunar month) fasting verses could be better sought in the traditions of Prophet Muhammad and explanations of his words by his companions and later predecessors of the Ummah (Muslim Community). Precisely, this is what this write-up seeks to do. May Allah grant us beneficial knowledge and make us witness the forth-coming Ramadhan.
Allah subhaanahu wata’la says in the Qur’an:
ياايها الذين امنوا كتب عليكم الصيام كما كتب على الذين من قبلكم لعلكم تتقون."”
Meaning: “O ye who believe, fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that you may learn self-restraint”. This verse indicates that fasting as a worship to Allah has been prescribed to those believers who lived before the epoch of Prophet Muhammad I.e. beginning of this Islamic faith. An example of the fast of the people of earlier generations is the fast of Prophet Dawood Alayhi Salam, about which Prophet Muhammad said: “…The best of fast is the fast of Dawood, he fasts for a day and eats for another day”.1
Meaning: “Fasting for a fixed number of days…”. This phrase indicates that Ramadhan fast is for a specific number of days. These days start with the appearance of the crescent of the new moon of Ramadhan indicating ending of Sha’ban. On the counting of this, the Prophet said: “Fast when it is sighted (crescent of Ramadhan), and stop to fast at its appearance (crescent of Shawal), but if its unclear i.e. the new crescent, then measure it”.2 On the matter of measuring Sha’ban before commencing Ramadhan scholars of Fiqh disagree. The Hanabilla (Hambali School of Thought) argue that the commandment of the Prophet on that was to make Sha’ban 29 i.e. to minimize it, and commence Ramadhan. They claim that the pharse ‘faqdiru lahu’ means to minimize its number of days to 29. The Malikiyyah (Maliki School of Thought), Shafi’iyyah (Shafi’i School of Thought) and Hanafiyyah (Hanafi School of Thought) however claim that the said phrase meant nothing other than to make the counting of Sha’ban 30, and after then commence Ramadhan. Also, whoever commences Ramadhan on the day of shakk (doubt about the appearance of Ramadhan crescent) shall have no reward for it.3 This latter group at the same time backed up their position with the Prophet’s saying: “…..and if the weather is not clear enough for you to discover the crescent, then make the counting of Sha’ban 30”. I will agree to the fact that making up Sha’ban to 30 is better, to avoid fasting on the day of shakk
فمن كان منكم مريضا او على سفر فعدة من ايام اخر..."”
Meaning: “…But if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number should be made up from days later…”. The act of fasting Ramadhan which is compulsory on the believers as it appears to be in verse 183 seems waved for some individuals, and to be caught up later after Ramadhan. I observe that Muslims however on this matter differ. While some have posited that fasting is not allowed for anyone in this category (sick or on journey), some others argue that it’s a matter of choice, as it affects the individual concerned. The point of reference for those people that claim permissibility is mostly the Hadith of Aisha, where Hamzah bn ‘Amrin al-Aslamiy (who used to fast so much) asked the Prophet about fasting while on journey and he replied saying: “If you wish fast, and if you wish fast not”.5 On this I will say it’s a thing of personal interest and capability. For it was related on the authority of Anas that he and some others travelled with the Prophet during Ramadhan, while some of them were fasting, some others were not. And neither the ones fasting nor the others abused each other”.6
وعلى الذين يطيقونه فدية طعام مسكين...."”
Meaning: “…For those who can do it with hardship, is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent…”.This could be better understood with the Prophet’s permission for the man that had sexual intercourse with his wife on the day of Ramadhan to feed the indigents as kafarah (an expiation) for the grave sin he has committed. The feeding of the indigents was not prescribed as expiation until when he has shown that he was incapacitated to fast for 60 days, and could not free a slave instead.7 This step of the Prophet equally shows that Islam does not as compulsion on anyone what he is not capable of doing in reality.
"فمن تطوع خيرا فهو خير له, وان تصوموا خير لكم ان كنتم تعلمون....."
Meaning: “….But whoever does good of his own accord, it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if you only knew…”. This indicates that fasting is better than feeding or postponing the fast to other days outside Ramadhan. The Prophet served as an example on this, as it was related on the authority of Abu Dardai that: “He and some others went out with the Prophet (on a journey) in the month of Ramadhan on a day of scorching sun, that everyone had to be putting his hand over his head as shade against the sun due to the hotness of the sun, and there was no one fasting on that day except the Prophet and Abdullah bn Rawahah”.8 With this we can state that the Prophet chose to fast because he observed fasting was better than the other option.
شهر رمضان الذى انزل فيه القران هدى للناس وبينات من الهدى والفرقان" “
Meaning: “…Ramadhan is the month in which the Qur’an was revealed as a guide to mankind, also clear signs for guidance and judgment…”. The revelation of the Qur’an as described in Suratul Qadr was during the month of Ramadhan and majorly during one of its last ten nights. As Allah said what was translated as: “Verily, We have revealed it (Al-Qur’an) in the night of majesty.9 This does not contradict the claim that the Qur’an was revealed for 23 years of the Prophet Muhammad’s messengership. It was from the Bayt al-Izzah that Allah was revealing it to him in piecemeal as responds, guidance and notice on certain issues as they occur.
...."فمن شهد منكم الشهر فليصمه ...."
Meaning: “… So every one of you who is present at his home during the month should spend it in fasting…”. This is an order binding on every believer. However, if one is fasting and forgetfully eats, drinks or has sexual intercourse with his wife, it is humanly seen as going against the principle of fasting that states that fasting starts by the dawn and end immediately the sun sets in.10 Meanwhile, the Prophet stated on the matter of eating and drinking that they are opportunities provided by Allah for him. On the matter of intercourse, the Madhahib (Schools of Thought) differ. While the Hanabilah holds that it’s a nullifier of fast, and that forgetfulness can’t lead to intercourse, the Malikiyyah, Shafi’iyyah and Hanafiyyah claim that once it is forgetfulness that leads to it, the person concerned shall not pay any kafarah.11Their argument is the Qur’anic verse that states that Allah shall not hold us responsible for that which we have done out of forgetfulness.12
"...ومن كان مريضا او على سفرفعدة من ايام اخر "
Meaning: “…But if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period should be made up by days later…”. If one is in this category and he can’t fast, its bad to do so.13 Islamic laws are not made to cause hardship for men. Ramadhan is not to cause or make problems compounded. It’s rather a soul training session. So, if due to challenges such as illness and travelling inconvenience one cannot fast Ramadhan, the affected person should carry out same religious duty in some other days after Ramadhan.
"..... يريد الله بكم اليسر ولا يريد بكم العسر "
Meaning: “… Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties…”.This phrase indicates that the sharia rulings are for easiness. Islam, the religion of peace is simple. Whatever that appears or found uneasy as act of worship could have certain innovated matters affixedto it. If it’s not simple, it’s not Islam.
"..... ولتكملوا العدة ولتكبروا اله على ما هداكم ولعلكم تشكرون...."
Meaning: “…He wants you to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance you shall be grateful”. That is the observation of the Salat al-‘Id for completion of fast. It is done before the sermon on the festive day as stated by Abdullah bn ‘Umar that: “The Prophet, Abubakr and Umar used to pray Salat of the two ‘id before sermon.14 Muslims are expected, all over the globe, to converge at their respective central praying grounds for the observation of the special festive prayers. This is to be done on the 1st day of the 10th lunar month (Shawwal) as marking of the end of Ramadhan.
- Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, Sahih Muslim, Book of Siyam, Beirut-Lebanon: Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyah, 2005, Hadith 1159
- Muhammad ibn Ismail Al-Bukhari, Sahih Bukhari, Book of Sawm, Spain: Dar Al Andalus. 1938, Hadith 1900
- Group of Scholars, Al-Fiqh al- Muyassar, Al- Siyam: King Fahd Press, 2002, p. 344
- Muhammad ibn Ismail Al-Bukhari, Sahih Bukhari… Hadith 1909
- Muhammad ibn Ismail Al-Bukhari, Sahih Bukhari… Hadith 1943
- Muhammad ibn Ismail Al-Bukhari, Sahih Bukhari… Hadith 1947
- Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, Sahih Muslim… Hadith 1111
- Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, Sahih Muslim… Hadith 1122
- Drs. Muh. Taqiud- Din al-Hilali and Muh. Muhsin Khan, Translation of the meanings of the Noble Qur’an in English Language, Suratul Qadr, Saudi: WAMY press, 1992, p.595, verse 1
- Muhammad ibn Ismail Al-Bukhari, Sahih Bukhari… Hadith 1954
- Abdullah ibn Abdir Rahman bn Salih Al Basam, Taysir al- Alam Sharh ‘Umdatil Ahkam, Bab al-Siyam, Cairo: Dar at-Tawfiq lit-Turath, 2009, p. 350
- Drs. Muh. Taqiud- Din al-Hilali and Muh. Muhsin Khan, Translation…Suratul Baqarah, verse 286
- Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, Sahih Muslim… Hadith 1115
- Muhammad ibn Ismail Al-Bukhari, Sahih Bukhari… Book of Jum’ah, Hadith 963