Ayat Reflection : ‘fasting has been prescribed for you… كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ’

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
 

O you who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard (against evil). TMQ [2:183]

Fasting is difficult and it requires patience

The verse of fasting is located near number of verses which entails difficulty and patience.

Before it Allah (SWT) said:

وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِي الْبَأْسَاء والضَّرَّاء وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ أُولَئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَأُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ

 

and the patient in distress and affliction and in time of conflicts– these are they who are true (to themselves) and these are they who guard (against evil). TMQ [2:177]

Allah (SWT) said:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْقِصَاصُ فِي الْقَتْلَى

 

O you who believe! retaliation is prescribed for you in the matter of the slain. TMQ [2.178]

Allah (SWT) said:

كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذَا حَضَرَ أَحَدَكُمُ الْمَوْتُ إِن تَرَكَ خَيْرًا الْوَصِيَّةُ لِلْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالأقْرَبِينَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ حَقًّا عَلَى الْمُتَّقِينَ

 

Bequest is prescribed for you when death approaches one of you, if he leaves behind wealth for parents and near relatives, according to usage, a duty (incumbent) upon those who guard (against evil). TMQ [2:180]

All these verses have commands which are difficult and requires patience and perseverance for their implementation.

And there are verses  after the verses of fasting which are related to fighting which are difficult and also requires patience.

Allah (SWT) said:

وَقَاتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ الَّذِينَ يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ وَلَا تَعْتَدُوا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ

 

And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits, surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits. TMQ [2:190]

Allah (SWT) said:

وَاقْتُلُوهُمْ حَيْثُ ثَقِفْتُمُوهُمْ وَأَخْرِجُوهُم مِّنْ حَيْثُ أَخْرَجُوكُمْ ۚ وَالْفِتْنَةُ أَشَدُّ مِنَ الْقَتْلِ ۚ وَلَا تُقَاتِلُوهُمْ عِندَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ حَتَّىٰ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِيهِ ۖ فَإِن قَاتَلُوكُمْ فَاقْتُلُوهُمْ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ جَزَاءُ الْكَافِرِينَ

 

And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers. TMQ [2:191]

Allah (SWT) said:

وَقَاتِلُوهُمْ حَتَّىٰ لَا تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ وَيَكُونَ الدِّينُ لِلَّـهِ ۖ فَإِنِ انتَهَوْا فَلَا عُدْوَانَ إِلَّا عَلَى الظَّالِمِينَ

 

And fight with them until there is no persecution, and religion should be only for Allah, but if they desist, then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors. TMQ [2:193]

Fighting and striving in the way of Allah (swt) requires patience and there are many verses which has linked the requirement of patience with fighting in the cause of Allah (swt).

Allah (SWT) said:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اصْبِرُوا وَصَابِرُوا وَرَابِطُوا وَاتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

 

O you who believe! be patient and excel in patience and remain steadfast, and be careful of (your duty to) Allah, that you may be successful.  TMQ[3:200]

Fasting is also a difficulty duty and requires patience that is why the Prophet (peace be upon on him said: وَالصَّوْمُ نِصْفُ الصَّبْرِ – and fasting is half of patience. [Jami` at-Tirmidhi]

Therefore the position of the verse of fasting is located between verses which entail general difficulty and requires patience.

Usage of passive verb كُتِبَ

The verb كُتِبَ (to prescribe)  is a passive verb and it came with the prepositional phrase (عليكم ) mentioning what has been prescribed i.e fasting, similar to His (swt) saying:

إلاَّ كُتِبَ لَهُم بِهِ عَمَلٌ صَالِحٌ

 

But a good work is written down to them on account of it. TMQ [9:120]

Note that Allah (swt) said:   يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا  – O you who believe! , He (SWT)  addressed the believers  himself directly and did not address the Prophet (Peace be upon on him) nor did He (swt) say to him – ‘Say- قل ’, rather He (SWT)  addressed the believers  directly to underscore the importance of the duty of this great ancient act of worship which was prescribed upon those before us.

The usage of the verb كُتِبَ entails difficulty, hardship and generally in matters which are detested and the meaning of كتب  is obligation and duty, for example:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْقِصَاصُ فِي الْقَتْلَى

 

O you who believe! retaliation is prescribed for you in the matter of the slain. TMQ [2.178]

كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْقِتَالُ وَهُوَ كُرْهٌ لَّكُمْ

 

Fighting is enjoined on you, and it is an object of dislike to you; TMQ [2:216]

وَلَوْلَا أَن كَتَبَ اللَّـهُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْجَلَاءَ لَعَذَّبَهُمْ فِي الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَلَهُمْ فِي الْآخِرَةِ عَذَابُ النَّارِ

 

And had it not been that Allah had decreed for them the exile, He would certainly have punished them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have chastisement of the fire. TMQ [59:3]

In all the above verses there is difficulty involved.

As for the usage of the (كتب له ) with the prepositional particle Laam then it is used for matters which are good, for example His (swt) sayings:

إلاَّ كُتِبَ لَهُم بِهِ عَمَلٌ صَالِحٌ

 

But a good work is written down to them on account of it. TMQ [9:120]

وَيَسْتَفْتُونَكَ فِي النِّسَاءِ ۖ قُلِ اللَّـهُ يُفْتِيكُمْ فِيهِنَّ وَمَا يُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الْكِتَابِ فِي يَتَامَى النِّسَاءِ اللَّاتِي لَا تُؤْتُونَهُنَّ مَا كُتِبَ لَهُنَّ

 

And they ask you a decision about women. Say: Allah makes known to you His decision concerning them, and that which is recited to you in the Book concerning female orphans whom you do not give what is appointed for them…TMQ [4:127]

وَلَا يَقْطَعُونَ وَادِيًا إِلَّا كُتِبَ لَهُمْ لِيَجْزِيَهُمُ اللَّـهُ أَحْسَنَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

 

…nor do they traverse a valley, but it is written down to their credit, that Allah may reward them with the best of what they have done. TMQ [9:121]

وَابْتَغُوا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ

 

…and seek what Allah has ordained for you..TMQ[2:187]

Therefore the usage of كُتِب عليكم  is used for matters which are difficult, hard and mandatory. Therefore, the act of fasting is  mandatory and also difficult because it means leaving food, drink and any actions which nullifies the fasting from the time of dawn to sunset. Due to that He (SWT) said : كتب عليكم  and He (SWT) did not say : كتب لكم .

Sometimes the usage of the verb كتب  comes without the preposition على  or ل.  In any case the usage of the verb  كُتب عليكم entails difficulty, hardship and obligation.

The use  of active and passive verbs with respect to Allah (SWT) has rhetorical significance.

In matters of censure, reproach and  whatever entails difficulty where the actions is attributed to Allah (swt), then in this case the passive verb is used,  so as to not think of Allah (swt) in unfavourable terms. And generally the active verb is used when the situation is one of blessing and favours of Allah (swt).

For example:

وَلَـٰكِنَّ اللَّـهَ حَبَّبَ إِلَيْكُمُ الْإِيمَانَ وَزَيَّنَهُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ

 

But Allah has endeared the faith to you and has made it seemly in your hearts. TMQ [49:7]

زُيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ حُبُّ الشَّهَوَاتِ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ وَالْبَنِينَ وَالْقَنَاطِيرِ الْمُقَنطَرَةِ مِنَ الذَّهَبِ وَالْفِضَّةِ وَالْخَيْلِ الْمُسَوَّمَةِ وَالْأَنْعَامِ وَالْحَرْثِ ۗ ذَٰلِكَ مَتَاعُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَاللَّـهُ عِندَهُ حُسْنُ الْمَآبِ

 

The love of desires, of women and sons and hoarded treasures of gold and silver and well bred horses and cattle and tilth, is made to seem fair to men; this is the provision of the life of this world; and Allah is He with Whom is the good goal (of life). TMQ [3:14]

Another example where giving of ‘The Book’ is mentioned, if it is in a positive context then He (swt) would say – آتيناهم الكتاب  – we gave the Book- and when it is a negative context then He (SWT) would say – أوتوا الكتاب  – and they were given the Book.

So in this case of fasting the passive was used because it involved difficulty and hardship so He (swt) said   كُتب   and did not say: كتبنا.

In matters which there is  apparent good,  He (swt) attributes that action to himself. Following are some examples of the usage of the active verb كَتَبَ.

Allah (SWT) said:

يَا قَوْمِ ادْخُلُوا الْأَرْضَ الْمُقَدَّسَةَ الَّتِي كَتَبَ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ وَلَا تَرْتَدُّوا عَلَىٰ أَدْبَارِكُمْ فَتَنقَلِبُوا خَاسِرِينَ

O my people! enter the holy land which Allah has prescribed for you and turn not on your backs for then you will turn back losers.  TMQ [5:21]

Allah (SWT) said:

أُولَـٰئِكَ كَتَبَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمُ الْإِيمَانَ

…these are they into whose hearts He has impressed faith, TMQ [58:22]

Allah (SWT) said:

كَتَبَ عَلَىٰ نَفْسِهِ الرَّحْمَةَ

He has ordained mercy on Himself; ‘TMQ [6:12]

Allah (SWT) said:

وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ ۚ فَسَأَكْتُبُهَا لِلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَالَّذِينَ هُم بِآيَاتِنَا يُؤْمِنُونَ

 

and My mercy encompasses all things; so I will ordain it (specially) for those who guard (against evil) and pay the poor-rate, and those who believe in Our communications.  TMQ [7:156]

The change of prepositional particle often give the opposite meaning for example : رغب فيه  – he desired it, meaning he loved it and ورغب عنه – He was averse to it, meaning he disliked it, and وضعه عليه – he was burdened by it and ووضعه عنه  – he brought it down.

Significance of using the word الصيام  and not الصوم

Sawm and Siyam are verbal nouns that literally means to desist from something; to leave or abandon a thing. Thus the phrase sama al-farasu sawman which means : the horse has not eater fodder’.  Nabigha, the famous poet said:

خَيْلٌ صِيَامٌ ، وخَيْلٌ غَيْرُ صَائِمَةٍ تَحْتَ الْعَجَاجِ ، وأُخْرَى تَعْلُكُ اللُّجُمَا

 

Many hungry horses (khayl sa’im) and well-fed horses stood in the midst of dust clouds in the battlefield, while others chewed on their bridles.

It was said that the Arabs used to prepare and train their horses and camels to withstand hunger and thirst so that they could perform well even under the harshest conditions. They also trained them to withstand storms and winds to prepare them for tempestuous journeys and wars. This was mentioned in a couplet:

We stood our grounds in the face of strong scorching winds as if we were standing alongside a fasting horse (faras sa’im) fighting stormy winds.

The verbal noun (الصيام ) is used specifically in the Quran for worship and fasting only.

As for الصوم  it is only used for silence as in : نَذَرْتُ لِلرَّحْمَـٰنِ صَوْمًا فَلَنْ أُكَلِّمَ الْيَوْمَ إِنسِيًّا – Surely I have vowed a fast to the Beneficent Allah, so I shall not speak to any man today-TMQ [19:26] .

He (swt) said:  فَمَن لَّمْ يَجِدْ فَصِيَامُ ثَلَاثَةِ أَيَّامٍ فِي الْحَجِّ -but he who cannot find (any offering) should fast for three days during the pilgrimage TMQ [2:196]. He (swt) did not use الصوم  for worship in the Quran. Some words are singled out for specific signification just like the mentioning of الرياح والريح  for wind الغيث والمطر  and specific usage of وصى وأوصى  to enjoin something and such is the special case of using الصوم والصيام .

In the noble Hadith both الصوم والصيام  has been used for worship such as the Hadith – الصوم لي وأنا أجزي به  – The fasting for me, and I reward accordingly – and – الصوم نصف الصبر – Fasting is half of patience.  However in in the Quranic usage it is only الصيام  used for worship.

..so that you may guard (against evil) – لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

He (SWT) mentions that this worship of fasting is nothing new, it was a worship that was prescribed upon those before when He (SWT) said :  كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ – as it was prescribed for those before you. Then He (swt) finally concludes by stating the wisdom for legislating this worship, which is to attain Taqwa (piety).

The word   تَتَّقُونَ – to guard – has been used, and He (SWT) did not mention any specific thing which we should be conscious and fearful of, such be fearful of the fire, fearing Allah (SWT). By omitting what the object to be feared of, it created  a general meaning i.e. be fearful of all the forbidden things and be aware of all sins. That is because fasting breaks the desires and controls it, as mentioned in the hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him):

‏” يَا مَعْشَرَ الشَّبَابِ مَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ مِنْكُمُ الْبَاءَةَ فَلْيَنْكِحْ فَإِنَّهُ أَغَضُّ لِلْبَصَرِ وَأَحْصَنُ لِلْفَرْجِ وَمَنْ لاَ فَلْيَصُمْ فَإِنَّ الصَّوْمَ لَهُ وِجَاءٌ ‏”‏

 

It was narrated that ‘Abdullah said: “The Messenger of Allah said to us: ‘O young men, whoever among you can afford it, let him get married, for it is more effective in lowering the gaze and guarding chastity, and whoever cannot then he should fast, for it will be a restraint (wija’) for him.’” Sunan an-Nasa’i

Fasting from this aspect it helps the young men control their desires.

So the meaning of  ( لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ ) is that perhaps will reach position of being pious, also it suitable to mention التقوى  (piety)  because the notion of piety in Sura Al Baqara is widespread.

Allah (SWT) said:

وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِي الْبَأْسَاء والضَّرَّاء وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ أُولَئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَأُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ

 

and the patient in distress and affliction and in time of conflicts– these are they who are true (to themselves) and these are they who guard (against evil). TMQ [2:177]

Allah (SWT) said:

وَلَكُمْ فِي الْقِصَاصِ حَيَاةٌ يَا أُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

 

And there is life for you in (the law of) retaliation, O men of understanding, that you may guard yourselves.  TMQ [2.178]

Allah (SWT) said:

كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذَا حَضَرَ أَحَدَكُمُ الْمَوْتُ إِن تَرَكَ خَيْرًا الْوَصِيَّةُ لِلْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالأقْرَبِينَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ حَقًّا عَلَى الْمُتَّقِينَ

 

Bequest is prescribed for you when death approaches one of you, if he leaves behind wealth for parents and near relatives, according to usage, a duty (incumbent) upon those who guard (against evil). TMQ [2:180]

(أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ لَيْلَةَ الصِّيَامِ الرَّفَثُ إِلَى نِسَآئِكُمْ هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَّكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ لِبَاسٌ لَّهُنَّ عَلِمَ اللّهُ أَنَّكُمْ كُنتُمْ تَخْتانُونَ أَنفُسَكُمْ فَتَابَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَعَفَا عَنكُمْ فَالآنَ بَاشِرُوهُنَّ وَابْتَغُواْ مَا كَتَبَ اللّهُ لَكُمْ وَكُلُواْ وَاشْرَبُواْ حَتَّى يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ ثُمَّ أَتِمُّواْ الصِّيَامَ إِلَى الَّليْلِ وَلاَ تُبَاشِرُوهُنَّ وَأَنتُمْ عَاكِفُونَ فِي الْمَسَاجِدِ تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللّهِ فَلاَ تَقْرَبُوهَا كَذَلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللّهُ آيَاتِهِ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ

 

It is made lawful to you to go into your wives on the night of the fast; they are an apparel for you and you are an apparel for them; Allah knew that you acted unfaithfully to yourselves, so He has turned to you (mercifully) and removed from you (this burden); so now be in contact with them and seek what Allah has ordained for you, and eat and drink until the whiteness of the day becomes distinct from the blackness of the night at dawn, then complete the fast till night, and have not contact with them while you keep to the mosques; these are the limits of Allah, so do not go near them. Thus does Allah make clear His communications for men that they may guard (against evil). TMQ [2:187]

(الشَّهْرُ الْحَرَامُ بِالشَّهْرِ الْحَرَامِ وَالْحُرُمَاتُ قِصَاصٌ فَمَنِ اعْتَدَى عَلَيْكُمْ فَاعْتَدُواْ عَلَيْهِ بِمِثْلِ مَا اعْتَدَى عَلَيْكُمْ وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ وَاعْلَمُواْ أَنَّ اللّهَ مَعَ الْمُتَّقِينَ

 

The Sacred month for the sacred month and all sacred things are (under the law of) retaliation; whoever then acts aggressively against you, inflict injury on him according to the injury he has inflicted on you and be careful (of your duty) to Allah and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil). TMQ [2:194]

It also suitable with beginning of the chapter of Al-Baqara  where Allah (swt) says:  ذَلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لاَ رَيْبَ فِيهِ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ – This Book, there is no doubt in it, is a guide to those who guard (against evil). TMQ [2:2:2]. And the chapter has mentioned التقوى  and its derivatives at least thirty six times.

The real essence of  التقوى  is means to guard oneself and to be cautious. More generally it means to be observant of the orders and prohibitions of Islam pertaining to all aspects of the aspects of society including the political matters.

To conclude, it is apt to quote Shaeed Syyed Qutb from his Fi Dhilal Al Qur’an (In the Shade of the Quran)  about the purpose of fasting.

“For the Muslim community, or ummah, duty-bound to undertake a campaign of struggle, i.e. jihad, as a means of establishing Allah’s universal order, to assume the leadership of mankind, and to stand witness against the rest of mankind, it is only natural that fasting should he made obligatory.

Fasting is a means of testing man’s determination and will-power, and an important aspect of man’s relationship with Allah (SWT). It is a discipline that teaches man how to rise above his physical needs and overcome the pressure of temptation in order to earn Allah’s blessings and reward. These are essential ingredients for the discipline and training of the believers so that they may carry God’s message forward despite the temptations, the obstacles and hardships they are bound to encounter. Although I am not in favour of justifying religious obligations and practices, especially in matters of worship, on the grounds of their immediate material benefits, which become apparent with experience or through scientific discovery, I would not deny that fasting has several obvious health benefits. But in my view, the whole purpose underlying religious obligations is far greater and more comprehensive than any physical advantages gained from them.

The overall aim is to adequately equip man for the fulfilment of his role in this world and for the perfection he is intended to achieve in the life to come. It is obvious that all religious practices and obligations are ordained by Allah (SWT) with full consideration of man’s physical needs and capabilities, but we should not justify them solely on the basis of what our knowledge, limited as it is, may discover. The scope of human knowledge remains limited and incapable of comprehending the divine wisdom behind the order and the system Allah has chosen for the discipline of man and the administration of the universe as a whole.”

We ask Allah (swt) to accept our fasts in the blessed month of Ramadhan. Ameen.

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