‘Fasting has been prescribed…’ A Tafsir of al-Baqara verses 183-185


Allah states in the Qur’an: {O believers! Fasting has been mad obligatory for you just as it was made obligatory for those before you so that you may attain taqwa [Q. 2:183-187]}

Notes of Shaykh `Ata’s tafsir of the noble verse:

The verse establishes the obligation to fast but not the number of days or what month.[1]
{ya ayyuha’lladhin amanu: ‘o believers’; grammatically it is the vocative address, referring to the Muslim umma as a whole.[2]

The evidence for the obligation of fasting from the verse:

Shaykh `Ata’ writes:
“As for why the verse establishes the obligatory nature of fasting, it is because of the following: [1] {Fasting has been written/prescribed (kutiba `alaykum) for you [Q. 2:183]}. This is an informative statement that denotes a request (talab), i.e. ‘fast!’ [2] the need to make up for the fast later (qada’) when one does not have to fast such as in the case of the sick and the traveller is an indication (qarina) of the decisive nature of the request (al-jazim fi ’l-talab). If it was not a decisive request (talaban jaziman) then there would be no reason to make up the fast later. {a fixed number of days; but whoever is sick or a traveller amongst you then the same number of days will be made up another time [Q. 2:184]}. For that reason the request to fast is decisive and therefore an obligation. [3] Likewise, in the part of the verse {whoever of you sights [the crescent on the first night of] the month of Ramadan, he must observe the fasts that month [Q.2:185]}. This is a request from the one present and not travelling to fast in the month. The statement of Allah after it that goes {and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number of days which one did not observe fasts must be made up from other days} is an indication for the decisive value of this request of the obligation on the sick and the traveller to make up the fast later if they are unable to. This indicates that the request is decisive and therefore an obligation.”[3]

{la`allakum tattaqun}: perhaps you can attain God-consciousness or so that you can attain taqwa (= defined as: “awe and fear of Allah, utter obedience to Him and preparation for meeting Him Most glorified is He”[4]; thus the wisdom (hikma) behind fasting is to realise God-consciousness.

{ayyam al-ma`dudat}: fixed days; here refers to a little number because the word “ma`duda” is used by Arabs to denote ‘a little’;[5] these little days refer to the month of Ramadan that can be 29 or 30 days as mentioned by the Holy Prophet (saw): ‘this month that is either twenty nine days or thirty days’ (Bukhari, Sahih [#1780]).[6] Moreover, the aim and emphasis of the verse is not the number of the days but the duty to fast hence the grammatical type of the word ‘days’ is indefinite.[7]

{aw `ala safarin}: or travelling; here refers to what the Shari`a defines as a traveller and in modern measurements approximates to the one who exceeds 90km in distance.[8]

{yutiqunahu fidyatun ta`amu miskin – and for those who are unable to fast except with extreme difficulty, then they should feed the poor persons [Q. 2:185]}: here referring to old persons, the infirm, the chronically ill, etc; they have the choice to pay a monetary compensation (fidya) for not being able to fast;[9] the word fidya is a grammatical substitute (badal) for ta`am miskin (feeding the poor) in the verse.

{shahr Ramadan alladhi unzila fihi ’l-qur’an}: the Qur’an was revealed in the month of Ramadan; the verse begins with the mention of the month of Ramadan before the descent of the Qur’an in order to distinguish it and honour it.[10]

{hudan li ’l-nas}: a guidance for the people; grammatically circumstantial accusative (hal mansub).

{wa bayyinat min al-huda}: a clear guidance that is inimitable, miraculous and evident that it is from Allah (swt); grammatically a circumstantial conjunctive (hal ma`tuf).

{al-furqan}: the criterion; that which differentiates between Truth and falsehood; Right and wrong; righteous actions and unrighteous actions.

Shaykh `Ata’ writes regarding verse 185: {Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you. He wants that you must complete the same number of days, and that you must magnify Allah on seeing the crescent of the months of Ramadan and Shawwal for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him}:

“He glorified is He mentions in this verse the wisdom (hikma) from the fast. He glorified is He wants ease for us in following this obligation to fast and does not want difficulty – which is hardship and harm/destruction – so that we can complete the fast as easily as possible. If we are unable to fast in the prescribed time then we can make up for it later; if we are unable to do this we are permitted to pay the fidya; but if we are able to complete the fast in its prescribed time – i.e. the month of Ramadan – then we should magnify Allah on the day of `Id upon having completed the fast and be grateful for all the bounty He has given and for allowing us to fulfil this great obligation.”[11]

Shaykh Ata’ writes regarding the verse: {And when My slaves ask you [O Muhammad] concerning Me, then answer them, I am indeed near. I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls on Me. So let them obey Me and believe in Me, so that they may be led aright Q. 2:186]}:

“Ibn Abi Hatim mentions that a Bedouin asked the Messenger of Allah (saw): ‘Is our Lord close so that we may converse with Him or is He far that we have to call upon Him?’ The Messenger of Allah (saw) was silent and then Allah revealed the noble verse. Allah glorified is He informs in this verse that He is close and responds to the caller’s supplication when he makes it to Allah who hears it as nothing is kept hidden from him and He responds to it never letting it amount to nothing. He is close and near to His servant listening to him and seeing him in the manner He described it to Musa and Harun (as): {I am with you both, listening and watching [Q. 20:46]}”[12]

And with Allah is all success.

Peace and blessings be upon our Beloved,

The Messenger of Allah,

Upon his family and companions,

And upon all those who follow them.


[1] `Ata’ ibn Khalil, Taysir Fi Usul al-Tafsir, p.212. Cf. also “Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah 183-185” in Khilafah Magazine, (12), Sep. 2010, pp.14-15.

[2] Ibid, p.212.

[3] Ibid, p.212.

[4] Ibid, p.213.

[5] Ibid, p.212.

[6] Ibid, p.212.

[7] Ibid, p.216.

[8] Ibid, p.213.

[9] Ibid, p.215.

[10] Ibid, p.216.

[11] Ibid, p.217.

[12] Ibid, p.218.


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