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The Stages of How Fasting became Obligatory
Tafseer of Ayaah 184 from al-Baqarah
Abbas Abu Yahya
Allaah Ta’ala said:
يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيۡكُمُ ٱلصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبۡلِكُمۡ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَتَّقُونَ
أَيَّامٗا مَّعۡدُودَٰتٖۚ فَمَن كَانَ مِنكُم مَّرِيضًا أَوۡ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٖ فَعِدَّةٞ مِّنۡ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَۚ وَعَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُۥ فِدۡيَةٞ طَعَامُ مِسۡكِينٖۖ فَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيۡرٗا فَهُوَ خَيۡرٞ لَّهُۥۚ وَأَن تَصُومُواْ خَيۡرٞ لَّكُمۡ إِن كُنتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُونَ
<<O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fast) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon.
[Observing Saum (fasts)] for a fixed number of days, but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days. And as for those who can fast with difficulty, (e.g. an old man, etc.), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a Miskeen (poor person) (for every day). But whoever does good of his own accord, it is better for him. And that you fast, it is better for you if only you know.>> [al-Baqarah: 183-184]
From Mu’adh bin Jabal – Radi Allaahu anhu – who said:
‘The prayer was in three stages, and Siyaam (fasting) was in three stages. As for the stages of fasting, then indeed when the Messenger of Allaah -sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam- came to Madina he began fasting three days from every month.
Yazeed mentions that the Messenger fasted seventeen months from Rabia al-Awwaal to Ramadan, three days from every month and he fasted the day of Ashoora.
Then Allaah – Azza wa Jal – obligated him to fast, so Allaah -Azza wa Jal- revealed the Ayaah: << O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you>> to this Ayaah << And as for those who can fast with difficulty, (e.g. an old man, etc.), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a Miskeen (poor person) (for every day).>>.’
Mu’adh said: ‘So whoever wanted to fast could fast, and whoever wanted to feed a poor person, then that would compensate for his fast.’
He continued saying: ‘Then, indeed Allaah revealed another Ayaah
شَهۡرُ رَمَضَانَ ٱلَّذِيٓ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ ٱلۡقُرۡءَانُ
<< The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’aan>> until the saying of Allaah:
فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ ٱلشَّهۡرَ فَلۡيَصُمۡهُۖ
<< So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan i.e. is present at his home), he must observe Saum (fasts) that month>> so Allaah affirmed that a healthy resident person must fast, and permitted the sick person and the traveller not to. Allaah established that the elderly person who was incapable of fasting was allowed to feed someone instead. So these were two stages.
He said: ‘The people would eat, drink and have relations with their wives, as long as they did not sleep, but if they slept then they would keep away from eating, drinking and relations with their wives.
He said: ‘Then there was a man from the Ansaar who was called Sarma, he had continued working while he was fasting until the evening had come in, so he came to his family, prayed the Isha prayer, then slept, and he did not eat anything to the morning. So he was fasting, Mu’adh said: The Messenger of Allaah -sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam- saw him and he appeared extremely exhausted.
So he -sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam- said to him: ‘Why is it that I see you extremely exhausted?’
He replied: ‘O Messenger of Allaah indeed I worked yesterday, and I came home late, I lay myself down and fell asleep, so in the morning I was fasting.’ Mu’adh said regarding Umar, that he had relations with some of his wives whether from the slave girls or the free women, but this was after he had slept, so he came to the Prophet -sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam- and he mentioned that to him, so Allah Azza wa Jal revealed:
أُحِلَّ لَكُمۡ لَيۡلَةَ ٱلصِّيَامِ ٱلرَّفَثُ إِلَىٰ نِسَآئِكُمۡۚ هُنَّ لِبَاسٞ لَّكُمۡ وَأَنتُمۡ لِبَاسٞ لَّهُنَّۗ عَلِمَ ٱللَّهُ أَنَّكُمۡ كُنتُمۡ تَخۡتَانُونَ أَنفُسَكُمۡ فَتَابَ عَلَيۡكُمۡ وَعَفَا عَنكُمۡۖ فَٱلۡـَٰٔنَ
بَٰشِرُوهُنَّ وَٱبۡتَغُواْ مَا كَتَبَ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمۡۚ وَكُلُواْ وَٱشۡرَبُواْ حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ ٱلۡخَيۡطُ ٱلۡأَبۡيَضُ مِنَ ٱلۡخَيۡطِ ٱلۡأَسۡوَدِ مِنَ ٱلۡفَجۡرِۖ ثُمَّ أَتِمُّواْ ٱلصِّيَامَ إِلَى ٱلَّيۡلِۚ
<< It is made lawful for you to have intimate relations with your wives on the night of As-Saum (the fasts).>> till His saying << then complete your Saum(fast) till the nightfall.>>.
Yazeed added: ‘The Messenger fasted nineteen months from Rabia al Awwaal till Ramadan.’
[Collected by Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Saheeh Sunnan Abu Dawood 479]
[Taken from: ‘Jamia at-Tafseer min Kutb al-Ahadeeth’ 1/169-170]