Chapter on Fasting in the Qur’an – part 1: Imam al-Sa’di

Chapter on Fasting in the Qur’an – part 1: Imam al-Sa’di

In his book of thematic tafsir, Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di devoted a series of chapters to the acts of worship and interactions, as they are described throughout the Qur’an. These chapters would take representative ayaat discussing these acts and explain them in a holistic manner, including their benefits, underlying rationale, and fiqh. Imam al-Sa’di wrote the following section as the first part of his discussion on fasting:

فصل في الصيام وتوابعه

قال الله تعالى: {يا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ} [البقرة: 183] إلى قوله: {وَلِتُكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلَى مَا هَدَاكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ} [البقرة: 185] ـ

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ * أَيَّامًا مَّعْدُودَاتٍ ۚ فَمَن كَانَ مِنكُم مَّرِ‌يضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ‌ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ‌ ۚ وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ فِدْيَةٌ طَعَامُ مِسْكِينٍ ۖ فَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيْرً‌ا فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ‌ لَّهُ ۚ وَأَن تَصُومُوا خَيْرٌ‌ لَّكُمْ ۖ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ * شَهْرُ‌ رَ‌مَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْ‌آنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْ‌قَانِ ۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ‌ فَلْيَصُمْهُ ۖ وَمَن كَانَ مَرِ‌يضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ‌ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ‌ ۗ يُرِ‌يدُ اللَّـهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ‌ وَلَا يُرِ‌يدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ‌ وَلِتُكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُ‌وا اللَّـهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَاكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُ‌ونَ

O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may exercise al-taqwa – * [Fasting for] a limited number of days. So whoever among you is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of days [are to be made up]. And upon those who are able [to fast, but with hardship] – a ransom [as substitute] of feeding a poor person [each day]. And whoever volunteers excess – it is better for him. But to fast is best for you, if you only knew. * The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful. [2:183-185]

يخبر تعالى بمنته على عباده المؤمنين بفرضه عليهم الصيام كما فرضه على الأمم السابقة، لأنه من الشرائع الكبار التي هي مصلحة للخلق في كل زمان، وفي هذا حث للأمة أن ينافسوا الأمم في المسارعة إليه وتكميله، وبيان عموم مصلحته، وثمراته التي لا تستغني عنها جميع الأمم . ـ

Allah informs us of His blessing upon His believing slaves by mandating the fast upon them, just as He mandated it upon the previous nations, for it is one of the major legislated matters which is a source of rectification for the creation in every era. And this contains an incitement for this nation to compete with the previous nations in hastening to do this action and to enact it completely. And it also contains a clarification of the expansiveness of its rectifying effects, and of its benefits which no nation can do without.

ثم ذكر حكمته بقوله: {لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ} [البقرة: 183] فإن الصيام من أكبر أسباب التقوى؛ لأن فيه امتثال أمر الله واجتناب نهيه. فالصيام هو الطريق الأعظم للوصول إلى هذه الغاية التي فيها سعادة العبد في دينه ودنياه وآخرته، فالصائم يتقرب إلى الله بترك المشتهيات؛ تقديما لمحبة ربه على محبة نفسه، ولهذا اختصه الله من بين الأعمال حيث أضافه إلى نفسه في الحديث الصحيح، وهو من أعظم أصول التقوى، فإن الإسلام والإيمان لا يتم بدونه. ـ

Then, Allah mentioned the underlying wisdom behind it with His statement:

لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

… in order that you might exercise al-taqwa [2:183]

For fasting is one of the greatest causes of al-taqwa, for it contains compliance with the orders of Allah and avoiding His prohibitions. So fasting is the greatest path leading to this goal, which contains joy for the slave in terms of his deen, his worldly life and his hereafter. The fasting person draws closer to Allah by leaving off his desires, giving the love of his Lord priority over self-love. It is for this reason that Allah specified fasting – out of all the various deeds – when He placed it in connection to Himself, as comes in the authentic hadeeth. And fasting is one of the greatest foundation of al-taqwa, for al-Islaam and al-Eemaan are not completed without it.

وفيه من حصول زيادة الإيمان، والتمرن على الصبر والمشقات المقربة إلى رب العالمين، وأنه سبب لكثرة الطاعات من صلاة وقراءة وذكر وصدقة وغيرها ما يحقق التقوى، وفيه من ردع النفس عن الأمور المحرمة من أقوال وأفعال ما هو من أصول التقوى. ـ

Fasting results in an increase of eemaan, as well as training oneself upon steadfast patience and the hardships which bring one closer to the Lord of all creation. And fasting is a cause for increasing in acts of obedience, such as prayer, reciting the Qur’an, dhikr, charity, etc. by which al-taqwa is actualized. And fasting contains a deterrent for one’s lower-self against the forbidden affairs, whether that be in terms of speech or in terms of actions, and this itself is one of the foundations of al-taqwa.

ومنها: أن في الصيام من مراقبة الله بترك ما تهوى نفسه مع قدرته عليه – لعلمه باطلاع ربه عليه – ما ليس في غيره، ولا ريب أن هذا من أعظم عون على التقوى. ـ

And among the means by which fasting engenders al-taqwa is that fasting contains a constant reminder of Allah – the likes of which is not found in anything else – such that one leaves off what his lower-self desires despite having the power to enact those desires due to his knowledge that Allah is completely aware of what he is doing. And there is no doubt that this is one of the greatest aids in having al-taqwa.

ومنها: أن الصيام يضيق مجاري الشيطان «فإنه يجري من ابن آدم مجرى الدم» ، فبالصيام يضعف نفوذه، وتقل معاصي العبد. ـ

And among the means by which fasting engenders al-taqwa is that fasting weakens the flow of the shaytaan, “for he flows through man like his blood flows”. Thus, by means of fasting, the influence of the shaytaan is weakened, and slave’s acts of disobedience are lessened.

ومنها: أن الغني إذا ذاق ألم الجوع أوجب له ذلك، وحمله على مواساة الفقراء المعدمين، وهذا كله من خصال التقوى. ـ

And among the means by which fasting engenders al-taqwa is that one is content if he tastes the pain of hunger which fasting necessarily brings about, and this prompts sympathy for the poor and destitute. All of these things are part of the qualities of al-taqwa.

ولما ذكر أنه فرض عليهم الصيام أخبر أنها {أَيَّامًا مَعْدُودَاتٍ} [البقرة: 184] أي: قليلة سهلة، ومن سهولتها أنها في شهر معين يشترك فيه جميع المسلمين؛ ولا ريب أن الاشتراك هذا من المهونات المسهلات، ومن ألطاف المولى ومعونته للصائمين، ثم سهل تسهيلا آخر فقال: {فَمَنْ كَانَ مِنْكُمْ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَى سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ} [البقرة: 184] وذلك للمشقة – غالبا – رخص الله لهما في الفطر. ولما كان لا بد من تحصيل العبد لمصلحة الصيام أمرهما أن يقضياه في أيام أخر، إذا زال المرض، وانقضى السفر، وحصلت الراحة. ـ

And when He mentioned that He made fasting an obligation upon them, he informed them that it is:

أَيَّامًا مَّعْدُودَاتٍ

a limited number of days [2:184]

meaning: few and easy. And part of its ease is that it is a specific month which all the Muslims share in its observance. And there is no doubt that observing it together is one of the things which makes it easier and less strenuous, and that this is from the kindness of our Lord and His assistance to those who fast. And He furthermore facilitated it with another form of ease, for He said:

فَمَن كَانَ مِنكُم مَّرِ‌يضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ‌ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ‌

So whoever among you is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of days (are to be made up) [2:184]

And it is primarily due to the difficulty of that that Allah granted these two categories of people a concession to not fast. But since the slave still has to obtain the benefit of the fasting, Allah ordered these two categories of people to make them up on other days – when the illness has ceased, or when the journey has come to a close and they have reached a resting place.

وفي قوله: {فَعِدَّةٌ مِنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ} [البقرة: 184] دليل على أنه يقضي عدد أيام رمضان كاملا كان أو ناقصا، وعلى أنه يجوز أن يقضي أياما قصيرة باردة عن أيام طويلة حارة كالعكس. ـ

And in His statement:

فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ‌

then an equal number of days [2:184]

This contains a proof that one must make up the same number of days as Ramadan, whether he broke the fast for an entire day or for only part of it. And it also contains a proof that it is permissible to make up a long hot day with a short cold day, and vice-versa.

وبهذا أجبنا عن سؤال ورد علينا: أنه يوجد مسلمون في بعض البلاد التي يكون في بعض الأوقات ليلها نحو أربع ساعات أو تنقص، فيوافق ذلك رمضان، فهل لهم رخصة في الإطعام إذا كانوا يعجزون عن تتميمها؟ ـ

And with this I will respond to a question which was conveyed to me: there are Muslims present in some countries whose nights are at times only about four hours long or less, and that corresponds with the timing of Ramadan. So is there any concession for them in regards to eating if they are not able to complete fasting during that time of year?

فأجبنا: إن العاجز منهم في هذا الوقت يؤخره إلى وقت آخر، يقصر فيه النهار، ويتمكن فيه من الصيام كما أمر الله بذلك المريض، بل هذا أولى، وأن الذي يقدر على الصيام في هذه الأيام الطوال يلزمه ولا يحل له تأخيره إذا كان صحيحا مقيما، هذا حاصل الجواب. ـ

My response is: Those of them who are unable to fast during this time of year may postpone the fasting until a later time when the day is shorter and they will be able to to fast, just as Allah commanded the sick person to do. And in fact this situation is even more entitled to that concession. But those who are able to fast during these long days must do so and it is not permissible for them to postpone their fasting, so long as they are healthy and not traveling. This was the essence of my response.

وقوله: {وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ فِدْيَةٌ طَعَامُ مِسْكِينٍ} [البقرة: 184] قيل: هذا في أول الأمر وفي ابتداء فرض الصيام لما كانوا غير معتادين للصيام، وكان ابتداء فرضه حتما فيه مشقة عليهم، درجهم الرب الحكيم بأسهل ما يكون، وخير المطيق للصوم بين أن يصوم، وهو الأفضل الأكمل، أو يطعم ويجزيه، ثم لما تمرنوا على الصيام، وكان ضروريا على المطيقين فرضه عليهم حتما. ـ

And Allah’s statement:

وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ فِدْيَةٌ طَعَامُ مِسْكِينٍ

And upon those who are able – a ransom of feeding a poor person. [2:184]

It is said that this the initial situation when the fasting was first made obligatory and when the people were not used to fasting. And when the fasting was first made as a binding obligatory, it was a difficulty for them, so al-Rabb al-Hakeem moved them gradually closer to the goal in the most easy of ways. So those who were able to fast had a choice either to fast – which was the most virtuous and complete option – or to feed someone and have that suffice for fasting. Then later, when the people had become accustomed to fasting, then it became required upon those able to fast and it was a binding obligation upon them.

وقيل إن قوله: {وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ} [البقرة: 184] أي: يتكلفون الصيام، ويشق عليهم مشقة لا تحتمل كالكبير والمريض الميئوس من برئه، فدية طعام مسكين عن كل يوم يفطره. ـ

And it is also said that His statement:

وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ

And upon those who are able [2:184]

refers to: those who fall into the categories of those legally responsible and charged with fasting, however the fasting creates a burden upon them which they cannot bear – such as the elderly, the sick, those without hope of recovery from their condition – then a ransom for him is feeding a poor person every day to break his fast.

وقوله: {شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنْزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ} [البقرة: 185] أي: الصوم المفروض عليكم هو شهر رمضان، الشهر العظيم الذي حصل لكم من الله فيه الفضل العظيم، وهو إنزال القرآن الذي فيه هدايتكم لجميع مصالحكم الدينية والدنيوية . ـ

And His statement:

شَهْرُ‌ رَ‌مَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْ‌آنُ

The month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was revealed [2:185]

meaning: the fasting which is obligatory upon you all is the month of Ramadan, the tremendous month in which a great blessing from Allah was conveyed to you, which was the revelation of the Qur’an, which contains guidance for you for all matters beneficial for you in terms of both your religion and your worldly life.

وفيه بيان الحق وتوضيحه، والفرقان بين الحق والباطل، والهدى والضلال، وأهل السعادة من أهل الشقاوة، فحقيق بشهر هذا فضله، وهذا إحسان الله العظيم فيه عليكم أن يكون معظما محترما، موسما للعباد مفروضا فيه الصيام. ـ

And the Qur’an contains a proclamation and clarification of the truth. And it contains a criterion between the truth and falsehood, and between guidance and misguidance, and between the people of ultimate joy and the people of ultimate misery. So it is befitting that the month of this blessing and this  tremendous goodness from Allah towards you should be magnified and sanctified, a season in which fasting is obligated for the slaves.

فلما قرر فرضيته، وبين حكمته في ذلك وفي تخصيصه قال: {فَمَنْ شَهِدَ مِنْكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ} [البقرة: 185] أي: من حضر الشهر وهو قادر تحتم عليه صيامه . ـ

So after He emphasized its obligatory nature and clarified the rationale behind that and behind its being designated as such, He said:

فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ‌ فَلْيَصُمْهُ

So whoever witnesses the month, let him fast it [2:185]

i.e. whoever is present during the month and he is able to fast, then fasting is required of him.

ـ {وَمَنْ كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَى سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ} [البقرة: 185] أعاد ذلك تأكيدا له، ولئلا يظن أنه أيضا منسوخ مع ما نسخ من التخيير للقادر. ـ

وَمَن كَانَ مَرِ‌يضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ‌ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ‌

and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days [2:185]

Allah repeated this point as a reaffirmation of it, lest anyone think that this was also abrogated along with what was abrogated of the able-bodied person being given a choice in fasting.

ـ {يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ} [البقرة: 185] أي: يريد الله أن ييسر ويسهل عليكم الطرق الموصلة إلى رضوانه أعظم تيسير ليسهل سلوكها، ويعين عليها بكل وسيلة؛ ليرغب فيها العباد . ـ

يُرِ‌يدُ اللَّـهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ‌

Allah intends for you ease  [2:185]‌

meaning: Allah wants to facilitate and ease the pathways to His pleasure for you with the utmost of facilitation in order to make it easy to traverse them, and to assist you in doing so with easy means. This is in order to encourage the slaves in taking these means.

وهذا أصل عظيم من أصول الشريعة، بل كلها تدور على هذا الأصل، فإن جميع الأوامر لا تشق على المكلفين، وإذا حصل بعض المشاق والعجز خفف الشارع من الواجبات بحسب ما يناسب ذلك، فيدخل في هذا جميع التخفيفات في جواز الفطر، وتخفيفات السفر، والأعذار لترك الجمعة والجماعة. ـ

And this is a tremendous issue from the foundations of the Sharee’ah. In fact, the entire Sharee’ah revolves around this point. For indeed none of the commandments are overly burdensome on those legally responsible for performing them, and if some of them entail hardship or cannot be carried out, then the Divine Legislator lightens something from the obligatory matters in accordance with what is appropriate for that situation. So all of the extenuating circumstances which grant permission to not fast, or extenuating circumstances while traveling, or allowances for leaving off praying in congregation or the Friday prayers fall into this category.

وقوله: {وَلِتُكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ} [البقرة: 185] وذلك لئلا يتوهم متوهم أن صيام رمضان يحصل المقصود ببعضه دفع هذا الوهم بقوله: {وَلِتُكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ} [البقرة: 185] وأمر بشكره على إتمامه؛ لأن من أكبر منن الله على عبده توفيقه لإتمامه وتكميله وتبيين أحكامه للعبيد . ـ

And His statement:

وَلِتُكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ

and (He wants) for you to complete the period [2:185]

and He mentioned this lest anyone suppose that the objective of fasting Ramadan is fulfilled by only fasting part of it. So he rebutted this false impression by saying:

وَلِتُكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ

and (He wants) for you to complete the period [2:185]

and He commanded them to express gratitude to Him upon its completion, for Allah’s granting His slaves the accord to finish and complete it is one of the greatest blessings of Allah, as is His making its rulings clear to His slaves.

ـ {وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلَى مَا هَدَاكُمْ} [البقرة: 185] هداية التعليم وهداية التوفيق والإرشاد. ـ

وَلِتُكَبِّرُ‌وا اللَّـهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَاكُمْ

and to glorify Allah for that to which He has guided you [2:185]

that is, both guidance of teaching and guidance of granting His slaves the accord to the correct path.

[Taysir al-Lateef al-Manaan pg. 145-149]

To read more translations related to Ramadan, click here.

To read more excerpts from sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di’s thematic tafsir, click here.

See also: Chapter on Fasting in the Qur’an – part 2: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: Chapter on Fasting in the Qur’an – part 3: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: The Fiqh of Oaths – Imam al-Sa’di

9 thoughts on “Chapter on Fasting in the Qur’an – part 1: Imam al-Sa’di”

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 Levels of Explanation Needed for the Qur’an: al-Zarkashi | Tulayhah

Principles and Examples of Analyzing the Themes of a Surah: al-Shatibi | Tulayhah