یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا کُتِبَ عَلَیۡکُمُ الصِّیَامُ کَمَا کُتِبَ عَلَی الَّذِیۡنَ مِنۡ قَبۡلِکُمۡ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تَتَّقُوۡنَ ﴿۱۸۴﴾ۙ
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيۡكُمُ ٱلصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبۡلِكُمۡ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَتَّقُونَ
206. Fasting, as a religious institution, in whatever form or detail, is to be found in all Faiths. "By the greater number of religions, in the lower, middle and higher cultures alike, fasting is largely prescribed; and when it is not required it is nevertheless practised to some extent by individuals in response to the promptings of nature" (Enc. Brit.). It is the common experience of saints and seers that a certain degree of severance from physical relations or worldly connections is essential for spiritual advancement and has a powerful purifying effect on the mind. Islam, however, has introduced a new orientation and a new spiritual significance in this institution. According to it fasting constitutes a symbol of complete sacrifice. One who fasts not only abstains from food and drink which are the chief means of sustenance and without which one cannot live, but also from going in unto one’s wife which is the means of assuring one’s progeny. Thus he who fasts really evinces his readiness, if need be, to sacrifice his all for the sake of his Lord and Creator. (close)
190. Important Words:
الصیام (Fasting) is derived from صام meaning, he kept back or refrained from doing something; or he refrained from eating or drinking or talking or walking, etc. The Arabs say صامت الریح i.e. the wind became calm or motionless. فرس صائمmeans, a horse from which food has been withheld, or a horse which is confined to its manger and not made to walk or race. Thus صیام means: (1) keeping back or refraining from something; (2) refraining from eating and drinking, etc; and (3) formally refraining from eating, drinking, going in unto wives, etc. i.e. fasting from dawn till sunset as ordained by Islam. صائم is one who so refrains from food, etc. i.e. one who keeps a fast (Aqrab & Mufradat). An interesting feature of the Arabic language is revealed when we notice that the word صمات though derived from a different root, yet, owing to its having two root letters common with صیام gives a somewhat similar meaning, for, whereas صیام means, refraining from food, drink or speech, صمات means: (1) refraining from speech; and (2) intensity of thirst, the latter state being the direct result of refraining from drink (Aqrab).
As the preceding verses contain a reference to patience in trials and sacrifices as well as refraining from disputes and temptations, the Quran here fittingly turns to the subject of fasting, which is a most effective means of self-discipline.
The command to fast, whatever its details, is to be found in most religions in one form or another. The early devotions and fasting of Buddha (see Lalitavistara & Buddhacharita), the fasting of Moses, prior to his receiving the Ten Commandments (Exod. 34:28; Deut. 9:9), the fasts of Jesus before his receiving the heavenly call (Matt. 4:2), all testify to the importance of this institution. In fact, fasting is a form of devotion and self-discipline which has a natural appeal to man. "By the greater number of religions," says the Encyclopaedia Britannica, "in the lower, middle and higher cultures alike, fasting is largely prescribed: and when it is not required, it is nevertheless practised to some extent by individuals in response to the promptings of nature." The verse under comment, however, does not mean that fasting has been prescribed for the Muslims in the same form in which it was prescribed for the people of earlier faiths. Islam has greatly spiritualised this institution by attaching to it a number of highly useful regulations and restrictions.
The clause, so that you may become righteous, explains the deep philosophy underlying the commandment relating to fasting. It is a special characteristic of the Quran that, whenever it gives an important commandment, it does not give it arbitrarily but also explains its usefulness so that the addressee may be convinced of, and satisfied about, the wisdom underlying it. The object of صیام or fasting has been stated in this verse as the attainment of تقوی i.e. righteousness.
As explained in 2:3 the word تقوی or اتقا from which the word تتقون used in the present verse is derived means, to guard oneself against (1) harm and suffering, and (2) evil and sin. Thus the verse points out that the real object of fasting is, first, to be saved from harm and suffering, and secondly, to be saved from sin and evil.
The first object is attained through fasting in two ways: (1) When a man commits evil deeds and becomes deserving of God’s punishment on account of those deeds, but later feels ashamed of them and turns to God in repentance, then fasting serves as an atonement for his sins. (2) Fasting not only makes a man fit and able to bear hardships but also makes him realize the sufferings of his brethren in distress and feel sympathy for them. Thus fasting goes a long way to remove and minimize the pains and sufferings of humanity.
The second object, viz., that of being saved from sin and evil, is attained through fasting because, while fasting, a person has not only to abandon eating and drinking but also, to a certain extent, to keep himself aloof from worldly connections and to abstain from indulging in his desires, with the result that his thoughts naturally tend towards spiritual things. Spiritual men of all religions unanimously testify, on the basis of personal experience, that a certain degree of severance from physical relations and worldly connections is essential for spiritual advancement and has a powerful purifying effect on the mind. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that to carry such severance too far is sure to weaken the body to such an undesirable extent as to render a person unfit not only to fulfil his social and religious obligations but also to withstand temptations which requires a certain amount of strength. Islam, therefore, follows the path of the golden mean. While it does prescribe a certain degree of abstention from material pleasures, it does not permit such a weakening of the body as should incapacitate it for performing its normal functions. This is why the Holy Prophet has forbidden continuous fasting, saying, "Your self has a claim upon you and your family has a claim upon you and your guests have a claim upon you" (Tirmidhi). On another occasion, he is reported to have said, "Verily, I am the most righteous of you all, yet sometimes I fast and sometimes I abstain from fasting, and so must you do" (Bukhari).
Fasting also stands as a symbol for complete sacrifice. One who fasts not only abstains from food and drink, which are the chief means of sustenance and without which one cannot live, but also from going in unto one’s wife which is the means of assuring one’s future race. Thus he who fasts really expresses his readiness, if need be, to sacrifice his all for the sake of truth. Fasting indeed affords a wonderful training ground for man.
It must also be noted here that this verse does not actually contain a command to fast, which follows in the verse coming after the succeeding verse. It only prepares Muslims for the coming commandment by saying that (1) the fasting which is going to be prescribed for them is not a new thing but was also prescribed for the people that had gone before, and that (2) it is a most useful thing which is sure to benefit them greatly. It will be seen that very often the Quran does not give a commandment all of a sudden but first prepares the ground for it by making some general remarks. In this connection see also 2:143-145 where a similar process has been adopted. (close)
اَیَّامًا مَّعۡدُوۡدٰتٍ ؕ فَمَنۡ کَانَ مِنۡکُمۡ مَّرِیۡضًا اَوۡ عَلٰی سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّۃٌ مِّنۡ اَیَّامٍ اُخَرَ ؕ وَ عَلَی الَّذِیۡنَ یُطِیۡقُوۡنَہٗ فِدۡیَۃٌ طَعَامُ مِسۡکِیۡنٍ ؕ فَمَنۡ تَطَوَّعَ خَیۡرًا فَہُوَ خَیۡرٌ لَّہٗ ؕ وَ اَنۡ تَصُوۡمُوۡا خَیۡرٌ لَّکُمۡ اِنۡ کُنۡتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُوۡنَ ﴿۱۸۵﴾
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
a. 2:204. (close)
207. This meaning of the Arabic expression in the text is supported by another reading of Yutiquna-hu which is Yutayyiquna-hu meaning, they can do so only with great difficulty (Jarir). The verse mentions three classes of believers to whom concession is allowed: the sick; those on a journey and those too weak to fast except with danger to their health. The expression may also mean: "Those who are unable to fast" (Lisan and Mufradat). The whole sentence has also been taken to signify: "Those, who can afford, should, besides fasting, feed a poor man as an act of piety;" the pronoun hu in Yutiquna-hu standing for "the feeding of a poor man." (close)
191. Important Words:
یطیقونه (are able to fast only with great difficulty) is derived from طاق. They say طاق الشیء or اطاق الشیء meaning, he was able or fit to do it; or he had the strength and power to do it (Aqrab). But the word طاقة is not used of strength generally but of such strength only as, so to speak, lies on the border, i.e. just the strength with which a thing may be done and no more—a strength required to do a thing only with difficulty and trouble (Mufradat & Lane). This is why the word طاقة is never used to express the power of God for which words like قدرة and قوة are used; for whereas the latter two words express the sense of vastness of power, the former expresses only that of its narrowness. The Quran uses the word طاقةonly twice and at both these places it uses it in a negative sentence, i.e. لاطاقة لنا viz. "we do not even possess the requisite strength to do that" (2:250 & 287). Thus the correct rendering of the clause علی الذین یطیقونه would be, "for those who are able to fast but can fast only with great difficulty." طوقه (Tawwaqahu) which is from the same root means, he put a collar or a neck-ring round his neck, i.e. he imposed on him a thing that was difficult, troublesome or inconvenient. طاقه also means, a single strand which after combining with others goes to make a rope (Lane), i.e. the weak part of a rope which cannot stand tension alone.
فدیة (an expiation) is derived from فدی. They say فدی الرجل meaning, the man secured his release from captivity, etc. by paying his ransom. Thus فدیة means, such payment as is made for obtaining release of a person; or such expenditure as is made in expiation of some sin or shortcoming, etc. (Aqrab).
This verse again refrains from giving the actual commandment regarding fasting but prepares further ground by pointing out that the fasting about to be prescribed is not meant for all days but only for a limited number of days. Again, the commandment to come is not meant to be observed in all circumstances; for those suffering from disease or those on a journey will be exempt from it. In fact, Islam is a practical religion. It does not give any commandment which is impossible of compliance. Hence, while referring to its injunctions about fasting, the Quran makes it clear that whosoever is ill or is on a journey should not fast but should redeem the omission by fasting an equal number of days at some other time when the sickness is gone or the journey is over.
The pronoun الذین (those) in the clause, those who are able, refers to believers in general, the words الذین یطیقونه meaning, those who are able to fast but can fast only with great difficulty. This interpretation is supported by another reading of the verse in which the word یطوقونه (yutawwaqunahu) has been substituted for یطیقونه (yutiqunahu) (Jarir), the former word meaning, those to whom fasting is like a tight collar, i.e. those who are not actually sick but whose physical condition or general health is such that they are unable to fast without running the risk of injuring their health. Such people, who include old men and raw youths and weakly persons and pregnant women and mothers giving suck to their children, may not fast but should make amends for their non-observance of each day’s fast by feeding a poor man according to their standard of food. Another reading of the word یطیقونه is یطیقون (yutayyaqunahu) (Jarir) meaning, they can do it only with great difficulty, which also bears out the above meaning. Thus the verse mentions three classes of believers to whom concession is allowed with respect to fasting: (1) the sick; (2) those on a journey; and (3) those neither on a journey nor actually sick but otherwise too weak to fast except with real risk to their health.
Some commentators do not recognize the last-mentioned class as being separate from, and independent of, the first two, but take it as being an exception from them. In this case the verse would mean that such of the sick and of those on a journey as can afford to feed poor men should also do so, besides fasting the same number of days after the sickness or the state of journey is over. (close)
شَہۡرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِیۡۤ اُنۡزِلَ فِیۡہِ الۡقُرۡاٰنُ ہُدًی لِّلنَّاسِ وَ بَیِّنٰتٍ مِّنَ الۡہُدٰی وَ الۡفُرۡقَانِ ۚ فَمَنۡ شَہِدَ مِنۡکُمُ الشَّہۡرَ فَلۡیَصُمۡہُ ؕ وَ مَنۡ کَانَ مَرِیۡضًا اَوۡ عَلٰی سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّۃٌ مِّنۡ اَیَّامٍ اُخَرَ ؕ یُرِیۡدُ اللّٰہُ بِکُمُ الۡیُسۡرَ وَ لَا یُرِیۡدُ بِکُمُ الۡعُسۡرَ ۫ وَ لِتُکۡمِلُوا الۡعِدَّۃَ وَ لِتُکَبِّرُوا اللّٰہَ عَلٰی مَا ہَدٰٮکُمۡ وَ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تَشۡکُرُوۡنَ ﴿۱۸۶﴾
شَهۡرُ رَمَضَانَ ٱلَّذِيٓ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ ٱلۡقُرۡءَانُ هُدٗى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَٰتٖ مِّنَ ٱلۡهُدَىٰ وَٱلۡفُرۡقَانِۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ ٱلشَّهۡرَ فَلۡيَصُمۡهُۖ وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوۡ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٖ فَعِدَّةٞ مِّنۡ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَۗ يُرِيدُ ٱللَّهُ بِكُمُ ٱلۡيُسۡرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ ٱلۡعُسۡرَ وَلِتُكۡمِلُواْ ٱلۡعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُواْ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَىٰكُمۡ وَلَعَلَّكُمۡ تَشۡكُرُونَ
207A. Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar year. The word is derived from Ramada. They say Ramadas-Sa’imu, i.e. the inside of the man fasting became very hot with thirst owing to fasting (Lane). The month is so named because (1) fasting in this month produces heat and burning due to thirst; (2) worship in this month burns away the traces of sin in man (‘Asakir & Mardawaih); and (3) because his devotions in this month produce in the heart of man the necessary warmth of love for his Creator and his fellow-beings. The name Ramadan is of Islamic origin, the former name of the month being Natiq (Qadir). (close)
207B. Al-Qur’an is derived from Qara’a which means, he read; he conveyed or delivered a message; he collected the thing. Thus Qur’an means: (1) a book which is meant to be read. The Qur’an is the most widely read book in the world (Enc. Brit.); (2) a book or message which is meant to be conveyed and delivered to the world. The Qur’an is the only revealed Book whose Message is absolutely unrestricted; for whereas all other revealed Books are meant for specific times and specific peoples, the Qur’an is meant for all times and all peoples (34:29); (3) a book which comprises all truths; the Qur’an is indeed a storehouse of knowledge which comprises not only all eternal truths contained in the previous revealed Books (98:4), but also all such truths as mankind may stand in need of at any time and in any circumstances (18:50). (close)
208. It was on the 24th of Ramadan that the Holy Prophet received his first revelation (Jarir); and the whole revelation was rehearsed every year to the Holy Prophet by the angel Gabriel in this month. This practice continued till the very last year of the Prophet’s life when the whole of the Qur’an was rehearsed to him twice by the Archangel Jibril in this month (Bukhari). Thus in a way even the whole of the Qur’an may be said to have been revealed in the month of Ramadan. (close)
a. 2:186; 3:4; 8:42; 21:49; 25:2. (close)
209. The sentence is not an unnecessary repetition; for whereas in the previous verse it formed part of the verse that was meant to prepare the ground for the commandment to fast, in this verse it forms part of the actual commandment. The Qur’an, however, wisely refrains from defining the terms "sickness" and "journey," leaving them to be defined by the common usage of the people and the attending circumstances. (close)
b. 2:287; 5:7; 22:79. (close)
c. 22:38. (close)
a. 2:186; 3:4; 8:42; 21:49; 25:2. (close)
b. 2:287; 5:7; 22:79. (close)
192. Important Words:
رمضان (Ramadan) is the name given to the ninth month of the lunar year. The word is derived from the verb رمض. They say رمض النھار i.e. the day became intensely hot. رمض الرجل means, the man had his feet burnt by the earth which had become intensely heated by the sun. رمض الصائم means, his inside became very hot with thirst owing to fasting. ارتمض من الحزن means, he began to burn, i.e. he was greatly distressed, with grief and sorrow. الرمض means, the first rain of autumn which finds the earth hot and burning (Aqrab & Lane). The month of رمضان is so named because (1) fasting in this month causes heat and burning due to thirst; (2) worship and devotion in this month burns away the traces of sin in man, this signification being corroborated by a saying of the Holy Prophet (‘Asakir and Merdawaih as quoted by Fathul-Qadir); and (3) its devotions produce in the heart of man the necessary warmth of love for his Creator and his fellow beings. The name رمضان is of Islamic origin, the former name of the month being ناتق (Muhit & Mawardi, as quoted by Fathul-Qadir).
القرآن (the Quran) is the name given by God Himself to the Book revealed to the Holy Prophet of Islam, containing the final Law for mankind. The word is derived from قرأ. They say قرأ الکتاب meaning: (1) he read the book, i.e. he read it to himself; or (2) he recited the book, i.e. he read it aloud so that others might hear it; قرأ also means, he conveyed or delivered a message, etc., as they say اقرأعلیه السلام meaning, convey or deliver my salam to him; (3) قرأ الشیء means, he collected or drew together the thing; (4) قرأت المراة means, the woman became pregnant and brought forth a child (Aqrab & Lane). Thus قرآن (Quran) means: (1) a book which is meant to be read. The Quran is indeed the most widely read book in the world (Enc. Brit. 11th edition, article on Koran by Nöldeke); (2) a book or message which is meant to be conveyed and delivered to other peoples. The Quran is indeed the only revealed Book whose delivery or message is absolutely unrestricted; for whereas all other Books are meant for specific times and specific peoples, the Quran is meant for all times and all peoples (34:29; also Bukhari); (3) a Book which comprises and has collected in itself all truth; the Quran is indeed a storehouse of knowledge which not only comprises all eternal truths revealed in previous Books (98:4) but also all such truths as mankind may stand in need of at any time and in any circumstances (18:50); (4) a Book which contains not only visible truth which may be seen and felt by all but, like a pregnant woman big with child, it contains truths that lie hidden from the eyes of most men and, like a newborn child, come to light only as and when time ripens (15:22). All these meanings are not only expressive of an existing state of affairs but also serve as mighty prophecies, the truth of which has been established in all ages.
The ground having been suitably prepared in the preceding two verses, this verse gives the awaited commandment about fasting. But even here the actual commandment is preceded by a suitable description of the month of Ramadan in which fasts were to be observed. The month was not chosen arbitrarily but was selected for the purpose of fasting because it was a sacred month in which the Quran was revealed. And the Quran is not an ordinary book. It is a Book full of right guidance and of bright Signs and of things that help to differentiate between truth and falsehood. This sublime foreword placed before the commandment about fasting contains an implied question to the effect: Will you not now fast when fasting is a tried thing, when it is so useful, when it is to be observed only for a few days, when even in these few days suitable facilities have been provided, and lastly when these few days correspond with a month which is full of blessings?
As hinted above, this verse mentions the reason for which the month of Ramadan was selected for the purpose of fasting. It was in this month that the Quran was revealed. The revelation of the Quran in the month of Ramadan may mean two things: (1) that the revelation of the Holy Book commenced in the month of Ramadan, for it is on record that it was on the 24th of Ramadan that the Holy Prophet received his first revelation (Musnad & Jarir); (2) that the revelation of the Quran was repeated to the Holy Prophet every year in the month of Ramadan, for it is also on record that the angel Gabriel rehearsed every year to the Holy Prophet the whole of the revealed portion of the Quran during this month and this he continued to do till the very year of the Prophet’s death (Bukhari, ch. on Manaqib). Thus in a way even the whole of the Quran may be said to have been sent down in Ramadan.
The words, clear proofs of guidance and discrimination, point out that the Quran is a Book which is not content with making mere assertions. It supports every assertion it makes with necessary reasons and arguments which are both clear and convincing, and it also adduces heavenly Signs which go to discriminate right from wrong with such clearness that they leave no room for doubt. This excellence belongs exclusively to the Quran. Indeed, other scriptures, too have been spoken of as "a light and guidance," but about none of them has it been said that they supply reasons, arguments and Signs in support of their assertions.
Although former Prophets also were given Signs that people might accept them as Divine Messengers, yet the Scriptures they brought contained nothing that might bear testimony to their truth. It is only the Quran that contains all kinds of evidence—rational, scriptural and heavenly—to demonstrate the truth of its teachings so that it might itself furnish necessary evidence of its truth, and that, unlike other scriptures, tales and stories of the past might not form its sole support.
The clause, let him fast therein, signifies that it is necessary to fast all the days of the month of Ramadan; it will not do to fast only for a few days. Thus, out of every twelve months in the year, at least one—that of Ramadan—must be so devoted to the worship of God.
The clause, whoso is sick or is on a journey, he shall fast the same number of other days, at first appears to be an unnecessary repetition of what has already been said in the preceding verse in identical words, but really it is not so; for whereas in the previous verse this clause formed part of a verse that was meant to prepare the ground for the commandment to fast, in this verse it forms part of the actual commandment. The clause signifies that if in the month of Ramadan one happens to be sick or is on a journey, one should not fast, owing to the extra hardship entailed, but should fast the same number of other days when one has recovered from sickness or when the journey is over. The Quran, however, wisely refrains from defining the terms "sickness" and "journey," leaving them to be defined by the common usage of the people.
The clause, He desires not hardship for you, points to the very important principle that divine commands are not meant to cause trouble or inconvenience but to afford ease and facility. In this connection it may well be noted that St. Paul looks upon the Law as an entanglement with "the yoke of bondage" if not as an actual curse (Gal. chs. 3 & 5). But he forgets that true freedom, and for that matter, true happiness lie only in willing obedience to a good and righteous legislation. The Islamic law, even "in meats and drinks and divers washings, and carnal ordinances," is a real help and guidance rather than a hindrance and a bondage.
The clause, so that you may complete the number, indicates that God’s purpose in prescribing a fixed number of days is that believers may be able to complete the number which, in His sight, is essential for their spiritual welfare. A fixed number was essential; for, otherwise, some people might have failed to fast even the minimum number, while others would have unduly suffered for doubt as to their having completed the necessary number even after they had long exceeded it.
The clause, that you may exalt Allah for His having guided you, points to yet another object underlying the commandment. All such expressions in which the offering of a particular praise to God is enjoined signify two things: (1) that man being God’s creation should continuously offer praise to Him, invoking the particular divine attribute that may suit the occasion; (2) that he should also try to reflect in his person the selfsame attribute of God. "Exalting God" would therefore mean not only God’s glorification but the uplift and exaltation of the devotee himself. In fact God stands in need of no praise. He is what He is whether we praise Him or not. So truly speaking, everything is for the benefit of man himself, and the benefit underlying fasting is the exaltation of man, morally and spiritually and, in a sense, physically as well.
The final clause, that you may be grateful, is also full of deep meaning. God is not cruel or unkind; He has due regard for our weaknesses and He does not put us to unnecessary trouble; and whatever seeming trouble He puts us to is for our own good. This kind and loving attitude of God towards us ought to give rise to a corresponding feeling of love for Him in our hearts and we ought to feel grateful to Him for His love and kindness.
To a superficial observer the language of the Quran as used in this verse might appear to be rather unconnected, forming independent clauses. But a closer study reveals a beautiful arrangement between them. In fact the four clauses in the concluding portion of this verse furnish reasons for the four commandments contained in the first portion of the verse, the succeeding reasons following the reversed order of the preceding commandments in a most natural manner. The first reason given by the verse is contained in the clause, Allah desires to give you facility and He desires not hardship for you. Though the apparent wording of this clause is different from the wordings of the succeeding clauses, actually it is also one of those that supply a reason, for in reality the clause stands like this, "that you be afforded facility, etc." Corresponding to this clause we have the last commandment of the verse, i.e. whoso is sick or is on a journey, etc. The second clause supplying a reason is, that you may complete the number, corresponding to which we have the commandment, whosoever of you is present at home in this month, let him fast therein, hinting that God means the Muslims to fast the whole month. The third clause supplying a reason is, that you may exalt Allah for His having guided you. Corresponding to this we have the words, a guidance for mankind, etc. Finally comes the clause, that you may be grateful, corresponding to which we have the clause, the month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was sent down, hinting that the wise God has chosen the most sacred and the most blessed part of the year for fasting so that you may be doubly benefited by it. Such figure of speech in which parts of a sentence correspond with others occurring in the same sentence in a reverse order, the first clause of the former group corresponding with the last clause of the latter, is known in Arabic rhetoric as لف و نشر معکوس (Mutawwal). (close)
وَ اِذَا سَاَلَکَ عِبَادِیۡ عَنِّیۡ فَاِنِّیۡ قَرِیۡبٌ ؕ اُجِیۡبُ دَعۡوَۃَ الدَّاعِ اِذَا دَعَانِ ۙ فَلۡیَسۡتَجِیۡبُوۡا لِیۡ وَ لۡیُؤۡمِنُوۡا بِیۡ لَعَلَّہُمۡ یَرۡشُدُوۡنَ ﴿۱۸۷﴾
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌۖ أُجِيبُ دَعۡوَةَ ٱلدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِۖ فَلۡيَسۡتَجِيبُواْ لِي وَلۡيُؤۡمِنُواْ بِي لَعَلَّهُمۡ يَرۡشُدُونَ
a. 11:62; 34:51; 50:17. (close)
210. When the Faithful come to know of the blessings of the month of Ramadan and of fasting therein they naturally become eager to derive as much spiritual benefit from it as possible. It is to this hankering of the soul of a believer to which the verse supplies an answer. (close)
b. 27:63. (close)
211. The words, believe in Me, do not refer to belief in the existence of God; for, this idea is included in the preceding clause, they should hearken to Me, it being impossible that one should hearken to God and obey His commandments without believing in His existence. The words, believe in Me, therefore, refer to the belief that God hears and accepts the prayers of His servants. (close)
a. 11:62; 34:51; 50:17. (close)
193. Important Words:
اجیب (I answer) and فلیستجیبوا (they should hearken) are both derived from the same root جاب meaning, he cut a cloth, etc. اجابه means, he answered him or answered his question. اجابت الارض means, the earth brought forth its vegetation, i.e. responded to sowing. استجابه means, he answered him or responded to him. استجاب له means, he obeyed him or complied with his wish and did what he was asked to do (Aqrab & Lane).
یرشدون (may follow the right way) is derived from رشد meaning, he was rightly guided and became steadfast in his guidance; he took or followed the right way. رشد (rushd) and رشد (rashad) and رشاد mean, true guidance; following the right way with firmness and steadfastness; rectitude; maturity of intellect. رشید and راشد mean, one who is rightly guided, one who takes or follows the right way. رشید is more intensive of the two and is also applied to God when it means, "Director to the right way; One Who follows a perfect course in His decrees" (Aqrab & Lane).
When the Faithful came to know of the blessings of the month of Ramadan and of fasting therein, they naturally became eager to derive as much benefit from it as possible and asked the Holy Prophet as to the particular attitude of God in this month, i.e. whether He came nearer to His servants in respect of grace and mercy, and whether He accepted more prayers in Ramadan and so on. The verse provides an answer to this question.
The words, My servants, do not obviously refer to all people but to only such men as believe in God and are willing to obey Him, particularly Muslims who follow His commandments regarding Prayers, Fasting, etc. In fact atheists or, for that matter, rebellious people are never spoken of as "My servants" in the Quran.
The clause, I am near, does not, and indeed cannot, refer to bodily nearness. The preceding verses told us that the command to fast was given with a view to purifying us, and that in giving it God desired our own welfare and meant no torture. The conception of such a loving God naturally creates the desire in the minds of all men to attain spiritual nearness to Him. Hence the present verse contains the glad tidings that access to God is not beyond human power nor is His nearness the monopoly of any particular people. The attainment of union with Him is within the reach of every man and woman, and the door of His mercy and grace is also open to all.
The words, I answer the prayers of the supplicant, point to the fact that it is not only the true believers and the righteous who have their prayers accepted by God but that God hears and accepts the prayers of all. As a matter of fact, the acceptance of prayer is an expression of God’s grace and mercy which encompass Muslims as well as non-Muslims. It would be unjust to think that God, Who is "the Lord of the worlds," accepts the prayers of Muslims alone. It is natural, however, that He should show greater favour to those who obey Him and hold fast to truth and act righteously. He therefore listens more to their prayers than to those of others, and He certainly rejects such prayers as are offered against His beloved ones. Nor does He accept such prayers as may lead to results that are detrimental to the cause of truth. But He is the Lord of all and listens to all.
The clause, so they should hearken to Me, means that they should believe in God (for without believing there can be no hearkening, and no response to His calls) and obey Him. God promises acceptance of prayers to "His servants" but He also expects that His creatures should believe in Him and obey His commandments. This will make their prayers all the more entitled to acceptance.
The words, and believe in Me, do not here refer to a belief in the existence of God; for this idea is included in the preceding clause, they should hearken to Me, it being impossible that one should hearken to God and obey His commandments without believing in His existence. The words, believe in Me, therefore refer here to belief in the power of God to accept prayers and belief in the fact that if appealed to, He will certainly come to our help.
The final clause, that they may follow the right way, means that if men would act upon the guidance contained in this commandment they would (1) attain God’s nearness, and (2) find God inclined to accept their prayers more and more.
But as with all other things, there are limitations and conditions attached to the acceptance of prayers also, to some of which the verse under comment refers. They may be briefly stated as follows:
(1) One should be a servant of God, accepting His dominion over him and worshipping Him, alone, as the words, My servants, indicate.
(2) One should call on God alone for help and turn to no other being or thing opposed to Him, as the words, when he prays to Me, show. There are indeed many who, while seemingly praying to God, put their real trust in other things or sometimes even turn to false deities for help. Such men cannot expect their prayers to be accepted.
(3) One should hearken to God’s call, i.e. not only believe in Him but also obey His commandments, accepting His Messengers and acting righteously in accordance with His Law, as the words, hearken to Me, point out.
(4) One should have firm belief in the fact that God not only has the power to accept one’s prayers but would actually accept them if one could only persist in asking, as the words, believe in Me, signify. There are indeed many who pray for a time and then get tired of it. These really do not believe; for if they had believed, they would willingly have waited. Says the Holy Prophet: "God would accept one’s prayer if only one did not show impatience, by saying, 'I have prayed and I have not been answered' " (Muslim).
(5) The prayers of those who are rebellious against God, rejecting His commandments and opposing His will, are not accepted, particularly such prayers in which something against His will or something likely to injure the cause of His beloved ones is solicited. Says God: "The prayer of the rebellious ones is nothing but wasted" (40:51).
A saying of the Holy Prophet very beautifully explains the philosophy of prayer. He is reported to have said: "Every Muslim who prays to God and whose prayer does not consist in anything which is a sin, i.e. anything against God’s will or against His commandments or against His way, or anything which involves an injustice or unkindness to a relative, will have his prayer accepted. But the acceptance of prayer may take three forms: (a) either God will grant to the supplicant his request in this very life; or (b) He will store the thing for him in the next; or (c) He will ward off a like evil from him" (Bukhari).
The Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement says: "God treats His servants like friends. A friend would sometimes accept the request of his friend and would sometimes expect him to accept his will. So does God. But even when God seemingly rejects the prayer of a believer, He is very often acting in his interests" (Haqiqat, p. 19). (close)
اُحِلَّ لَکُمۡ لَیۡلَۃَ الصِّیَامِ الرَّفَثُ اِلٰی نِسَآئِکُمۡ ؕ ہُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَّکُمۡ وَ اَنۡتُمۡ لِبَاسٌ لَّہُنَّ ؕ عَلِمَ اللّٰہُ اَنَّکُمۡ کُنۡتُمۡ تَخۡتَانُوۡنَ اَنۡفُسَکُمۡ فَتَابَ عَلَیۡکُمۡ وَ عَفَا عَنۡکُمۡ ۚ فَالۡـٰٔنَ بَاشِرُوۡہُنَّ وَ ابۡتَغُوۡا مَا کَتَبَ اللّٰہُ لَکُمۡ ۪ وَ کُلُوۡا وَ اشۡرَبُوۡا حَتّٰی یَتَبَیَّنَ لَکُمُ الۡخَیۡطُ الۡاَبۡیَضُ مِنَ الۡخَیۡطِ الۡاَسۡوَدِ مِنَ الۡفَجۡرِ۪ ثُمَّ اَتِمُّوا الصِّیَامَ اِلَی الَّیۡلِ ۚ وَ لَا تُبَاشِرُوۡہُنَّ وَ اَنۡتُمۡ عٰکِفُوۡنَ ۙ فِی الۡمَسٰجِدِ ؕ تِلۡکَ حُدُوۡدُ اللّٰہِ فَلَا تَقۡرَبُوۡہَا ؕ کَذٰلِکَ یُبَیِّنُ اللّٰہُ اٰیٰتِہٖ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّہُمۡ یَتَّقُوۡنَ ﴿۱۸۸﴾
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 وَلَا تُبَٰشِرُوهُنَّ وَأَنتُمۡ عَٰكِفُونَ فِي ٱلۡمَسَٰجِدِۗ تِلۡكَ حُدُودُ ٱللَّهِ فَلَا تَقۡرَبُوهَاۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ ٱللَّهُ ءَايَٰتِهِۦ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمۡ يَتَّقُونَ
212. How beautifully in these brief words the Qur’an has described the rights and status of woman and the object and significance of marriage and conjugal relations. The real object of marriage, the verse purports to say, is the comfort, protection and embellishment of the parties, for such are the uses of a garment (7:27 & 16:82). It definitely is not merely the satisfaction of sexual urge. Husband and wife also safeguard each other against evil and scandal. (close)
213. The expression ‘Afallahu ‘An-hu means, God corrected his mistake and set right his affairs; bestowed honour upon him. It also means, God afforded him relief (Muhit). (close)
214. At places where days and nights are unusually long (e.g. near the Poles) day and night should be calculated to be of twelve hours’ duration (Muslim, ch. Ashratus-Sa‘ah). (close)
215. In I‘tikaf which constitutes, as it were, the consummation of the spirit of fasting, intercourse with wives and preliminaries thereto are not allowed even at night time. (close)
194. Important Words:
رفث (going in unto) has a number of meanings: amatory talk, kissing, caressing, embracing, compressing, coition, etc.; in fact, everything that a man desires of his wife. When رفث is followed by the preposition الی it means, coition or going in unto one’s wife, and it is in this sense that the word has been used here. رفث also means, immodest, foul and lewd talk or speech (Lane).
تختانون (you have been acting unjustly) is derived from خان. They say خانه i.e. he acted unfaithfully or perfidiously towards him; he was not faithful to the trust reposed in him. اختانه is like خانه, giving the same meaning. It also means, he acted wrongfully or unjustly towards him. The Arabs say خانته رجلاه i.e. his feet or legs acted unfaithfully towards him, meaning he was unable to walk. تختانون انفسکم would, therefore, mean, you failed to give your souls (i.e. yourselves) their due either (1) by preventing them from their duty to God, or (2) by refusing them the satisfaction of their natural and lawful cravings. The former act is a sin, while the latter, though not a sin, may endanger one’s health or deprive one of just happiness. The word has been used in both these senses in the Quran. In 4:108, it has been used in the sense of "sin", while in the present verse it has been used in the sense of "depriving the soul of the gratification of its natural and just desires".
عفاعنکم (afforded you relief). The word عفا gives a number of meanings (see 2:53). The expression عفاالله عن فلان is sometimes used where there is no question of pardoning any sin or obliterating traces thereof but simply in the sense of removing one’s mistake or misunderstanding or improving one’s condition or bestowing honour on one (Aqrab). It also means, making things easy, i.e. affording relief (Muhit).
باشروھن (go in unto them) is derived from بشر from which is also derived the word بشارة or بشری meaning, glad tidings. The expression بشربه means, he became glad and happy because of that. The words بشرالجلد mean, he removed or peeled off its skin. البشرة means, outer part of skin, or what is visible of the face or body. باشرالمرأة means, he came in contact with his wife skin to skin; he went in unto her. البشری (glad tidings) is so called because it changes the colour of the listener’s face. البشر (man) is also so called because, unlike other animals, man’s skin is visible and not concealed under hair (Aqrab, Mufradat & Lane).
It was a custom among the Israelites to abstain from all kinds of food from one evening to the other on the occasion of the fast of the Atonement Day, the only fast prescribed by Moses for his people. When fasts were first prescribed for Muslims, and details had not yet been revealed, they thought that, like the Jews, they too would have to fast for 24 hours with a slight intervening breakfast. Hence, following their own judgement, they concluded that it was lawful for them to eat and drink and to go in unto their wives only as long as they did not go to bed, and that after they had gone to sleep, they were not allowed to partake of any food or drink or to go in unto their wives until the next evening. Bukhari gives the following tradition on the authority of Bara’: "When the command to fast was revealed, if anybody kept a fast and then went to sleep in the evening, he abstained from eating, drinking and sexual intercourse until the time for breaking the fast the following day" (Bukhari ch. on Saum). This tradition and others of the same import show that it was not in obedience to any command from God or the Holy Prophet that his Companions abstained from sexual intercourse after going to bed at night, but it was owing to their own imitation of similar customs among the People of the Book that they had imposed these restrictions on themselves. As, however, these restrictions were against the will of God, a revelation was soon sent down allowing the Faithful to eat and drink and approach their wives as they liked during the night; only they were forbidden to do so while fasting during the day.
Some commentators have inferred from the words, you have been acting unjustly to yourselves, that the Companions of the Holy Prophet were unable to act upon the commandment to abstain from intercourse with their wives during the nights of fasts and frequently broke it. But this is evidently wrong, for the good reason that there was no such commandment to be broken. Moreover, the words of the Quran, i.e. you may now go in, also belie this interpretation, for the use of the word "now" clearly indicates that the Companions of the Holy Prophet were erring not on the side of indulgence but on that of abstinence. The Quran could not obviously say, you may now go in, to a people who were already going in unto their wives.
The clause, they are a garment for you and you are a garment for them, very beautifully describes the object of marriage. The verse points out that the object of marriage is not the gratification of carnal passions. The real object is the comfort, protection and embellishment of the parties, for such are the uses of a garment as explained in 7:27 & 16:82. Thus in a very few words, the Quran has described the true relationship that should exist between husband and wife, a description which has hardly a parallel in any other scripture.
The clause, the white thread becomes distinct from the black thread of the dawn, does not refer to the thread made of yarn but to the streak of light that appears along the eastern horizon at the time of dawn. The verse enjoins that from dawn till sunset Muslims should abstain from food and drink and intercourse while fasting. But they are free to have recourse to these things between sunset and dawn. At places where days and nights are unusually long, i.e. nearer the poles, calculation should be made for the purpose of fasting on the basis of average conditions, i.e. in such a case day and night would each be supposed to be of twelve hours’ duration (Muslim, ch. on Ashratus-Sa‘at). The clause, while you remain in the mosques for devotion, refers to the practice of اعتکاف which is observed by remaining in the mosque, night and day, during the last ten days of Ramadan. During these days, the devotee who decides to observe اعتکاف is not to leave the mosque except from human necessity, i.e. to answer a call of nature, etc. He enters the mosque on the morning of the 20th of Ramadan
and abides therein till the end of the month, fasting from daybreak to sunset and occupying himself in prayer or recitation of the Quran or other religious study or meditation. During اعتکاف (I‘tikaf), which is, as it were, the consummation of the spirit of fasting, intercourse with wives and preliminaries thereto are not allowed even at night time. The clause, these are the limits fixed by Allah, so approach them not, points to the very important principle that a man can attain true piety only if he refrains from even "approaching" the things that have been forbidden by God. "Some acts," says the Holy Prophet "are of doubtful character, one not knowing whether they are right or wrong. It is always better to avoid these. The forbidden things are like a pasture-land which the Wise God prohibits to the people. If you make your beasts graze on the borders of such land, i.e. allow your beasts to approach near them, there is danger of their trespassing upon the prohibited area" (Bukhari, ch, on Iman). This is an extremely wise injunction which cuts at the root of all trespass. Only those can protect themselves against sin who give all unlawful things a wide berth. The final clause, that they may become secure against evil, repeats the idea contained in 2:184 in which the subject of fasting was first introduced. In both verses the underlying object of fasting has been stated to be the attainment of تقوی i.e. piety, righteousness and protection against evil, which are all different forms of divineblessings. The reader may, with advantage, compare this idea with the belief of the Christians that the Law is a curse (Gal. 3:10, 13). (close)
وَ لَا تَاۡکُلُوۡۤا اَمۡوَالَکُمۡ بَیۡنَکُمۡ بِالۡبَاطِلِ وَ تُدۡلُوۡا بِہَاۤ اِلَی الۡحُکَّامِ لِتَاۡکُلُوۡا فَرِیۡقًا مِّنۡ اَمۡوَالِ النَّاسِ بِالۡاِثۡمِ وَ اَنۡتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُوۡنَ ﴿۱۸۹﴾٪
وَلَا تَأۡكُلُوٓاْ أَمۡوَٰلَكُم بَيۡنَكُم بِٱلۡبَٰطِلِ وَتُدۡلُواْ بِهَآ إِلَى ٱلۡحُكَّامِ لِتَأۡكُلُواْ فَرِيقٗا مِّنۡ أَمۡوَٰلِ ٱلنَّاسِ بِٱلۡإِثۡمِ وَأَنتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُونَ
a. 4:30, 162; 9:34. (close)
215A. In order to emphasize communal or national unity the Qur’an often refers to other Muslims’ property as "your property." So here also other Muslims’ property is spoken of as "your property." (close)
216. The commandment relating to fasting enjoined Muslims to refrain from eating and drinking within specified periods with a view to attaining piety and righteousness. This was the most opportune time to remind them that unlawful eating, i.e. unlawful acquisition of wealth, must all the more be scrupulously avoided. Incidentally, the verse forcefully condemns the practice of giving and taking bribe. (close)
195. Important Words:
تدلوا (offer it) is derived from ادلی which again is derived from دلا. They say دلاالدلو, he let down the bucket (into the well), or he pulled it up. ادلی means, he let down the bucket (into the well.) ادلی الیه بمال means, he offered or gave him money (Aqrab).
The commandment relating to fasting enjoined Muslims to refrain from lawful eating and drinking within specified periods with a view to attaining piety and righteousness. This was thus the most opportune time to remind the people that unlawful eating, i.e. unlawful acquisition of wealth, must be all the more scrupulously avoided. Indeed, one of the greatest evils prevailing in the world is the practice of devouring other men’s property by means of falsehood, fraud and litigation. Many a sin is nothing but an offshoot of this evil. Islam condemns the practice of taking another man’s property without his knowledge or consent. Similarly, it is unlawful to appropriate another person’s possessions by means of false litigation. If a man takes possession of a property that does not belong to him by right, it will prove the ruin of him, even if a court of justice should decree the property as his. Says the Holy Prophet: "Beware! I am but a man like you and it sometimes happens that a litigant comes to me and he is more eloquent than his opponent, and I, after listening to his arguments, may give my decision in his favour. But if the property is really not his, my decision will not make it his in the sight of God; in that case it is nothing but a piece of burning fire; so let him put this fire into his belly if he likes, or let him leave it" (Bukhari).
The verse cuts at the root of the evil that has made its appearance in the present age even among those who lay claim to culture and enlightenment. People generally do not deem it worthwhile to consider what right is. All that is seen is how the judge decides. When a judge awards a property to a man, he eagerly takes possession of it without the slightest compunction, even if it happens not to belong to him by right. It never occurs to him that in the sight of God he is no less a usurper than he who forcibly seizes another man’s property.
Incidentally the verse also forcefully condemns the practice of the giving and taking of bribe which unfortunately is so rampant nowadays. In many countries justice has actually to be bought. What is still worse is that through this evil practice, the door of justice is often closed to a rightful owner. The practice is to be found even in some advanced Western countries and is said to be prevalent in certain parts of the New World. The Holy Prophet has condemned it in the strongest of terms saying: "The taker and giver of a bribe are alike, and both stand accursed" (Tirmidhi). (close)
یَسۡـَٔلُوۡنَکَ عَنِ الۡاَہِلَّۃِ ؕ قُلۡ ہِیَ مَوَاقِیۡتُ لِلنَّاسِ وَ الۡحَجِّ ؕ وَ لَیۡسَ الۡبِرُّ بِاَنۡ تَاۡتُوا الۡبُیُوۡتَ مِنۡ ظُہُوۡرِہَا وَ لٰکِنَّ الۡبِرَّ مَنِ اتَّقٰیۚ وَ اۡتُوا الۡبُیُوۡتَ مِنۡ اَبۡوَابِہَا ۪ وَ اتَّقُوا اللّٰہَ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تُفۡلِحُوۡنَ ﴿۱۹۰﴾
۞يَسۡـَٔلُونَكَ عَنِ ٱلۡأَهِلَّةِۖ قُلۡ هِيَ مَوَٰقِيتُ لِلنَّاسِ وَٱلۡحَجِّۗ وَلَيۡسَ ٱلۡبِرُّ بِأَن تَأۡتُواْ ٱلۡبُيُوتَ مِن ظُهُورِهَا وَلَٰكِنَّ ٱلۡبِرَّ مَنِ ٱتَّقَىٰۗ وَأۡتُواْ ٱلۡبُيُوتَ مِنۡ أَبۡوَٰبِهَاۚ وَٱتَّقُواْ ٱللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تُفۡلِحُونَ
a. 2:198; 9:36. (close)
217. Islam has made use of both the lunar and solar systems for measuring time. Where worship is to be performed in different parts of the day the solar system of reckoning time is used, as in the five daily Prayers or for the beginning and the breaking of the daily fast; and where worship is to be completed within a particular month or part thereof, the lunar system is used, as in selecting the month of fasting or the appointment of the time of Pilgrimage, etc. Thus Islam has made use of both the systems; so the solar system is as much Islamic as the lunar system. (close)
218. The clause points to a very important principle that the real purpose in prescribing different acts of worship is the intrinsic usefulness thereof and not that every change of time should have attached to it an act of worship. Therefore the question, arising from the over-eagerness of the Faithful, that, like fasting, there may be prescribed other acts of worship in other months also, was like approaching a house not through its door but by "the back thereof." The primary thing is worship and time is only secondary, but those who put the question wanted to make time a primary, and worship merely a secondary thing. This was like putting the cart before the horse. The reference also seems to be to a practice of the pagan Arabs that when they had once started on Pilgrimage to Mecca, if for any reason they had to come back, they would enter their houses from their backs by scaling over the walls. The verse condemns such practices, pointing out that they do not constitute virtue which is a spiritual concept, and implies that appropriate means should be adopted for the achievement of one’s objective (Bukhari, ch. on Tafsir). (close)
b. 2:178. (close)
a. 2:198; 9:36. (close)
196. Important Words:
الاھلة (new moons) is the plural of الھلال i.e. the new moon. The word is generally used about the moon of the first two or three nights. About the moon of other nights the word used is قمر (Aqrab).
مواقیت (means for measuring time) is the plural of میقات which is derived from وقت i.e. time. میقات means: (1) time; (2) time fixed or appointed for a certain thing; (3) a promise for which a time is fixed; (4) a place in which a meeting is appointed to take place at a particular time (Aqrab & Lane).
When the Companions of the Holy Prophet heard of the great blessings of the month of Ramadan, they naturally desired to know the blessings attending other months. This question on their part shows how solicitous they were to win God’s blessings and attain His nearness.
The clause, they are means for measuring time, should not give rise to the misunderstanding that Islam looks upon the moon only as a means of measuring time; for elsewhere the Quran speaks of the sun also as such (6:97 and 17:13). In fact, Islam has made use of both the lunar and solar systems for measuring time. Where worship is to be performed in different parts of the day, the solar system of reckoning time is used, as in the five daily Prayers or for the opening and the closing of a daily fast; and where worship is to be connected with a particular month or part thereof, the lunar system is used, as in selecting the month of fasting or the appointment of the time of Pilgrimage, etc. As a matter of fact, as religious commandments are meant for the general public, the system used is always such as may be easily understandable by the common people. All commandments relating to a fixed time are therefore based on the visible part of the solar or the lunar system of reckoning time, as the case may be. Changes in the position of the sun during the day are visible but the beginning of a solar month is not visible. On the other hand, the appearance of a new moon in the beginning of a lunar month is visible. Therefore Islam has made use of both; and the solar system is as much Islamic as the lunar system.
The clause, and it is not righteousness that you come into houses by the backs thereof, points to a very important principle that the real purpose in appointing different acts of worship is the intrinsic usefulness thereof and not that to each change of time there should be attached an act of worship. Therefore the question, resulting from the over-eagerness of the Faithful, that, like fasting, there may be prescribed other acts of worship relating to other months also, was like approaching a house not through its door but by "the back thereof". The primary thing was worship and time was only secondary, but those who put the question wanted to make time primary and worship merely secondary. This was like putting the cart before the horse.
The clause also means that one should adopt the right course to attain an object. Every end can be attained by having recourse to certain means. Similarly, certain ways have been prescribed by God for winning His pleasure and attaining His nearness. People should faithfully stick to these and not devise ways of their own. By doing so, they will only suffer trouble, and gain nothing.
It is also on record that it was the practice among the idolaters of Arabia that when they left their homes and started on Pilgrimage to Mecca, then if for some purpose or object they had to come back to their houses, they did not enter them by their doors, but climbed into them by their back walls (Bukhari, ch. on Tafsir). Islam does not approve of such meaningless practices. (close)
وَ قَاتِلُوۡا فِیۡ سَبِیۡلِ اللّٰہِ الَّذِیۡنَ یُقَاتِلُوۡنَکُمۡ وَ لَا تَعۡتَدُوۡا ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ لَا یُحِبُّ الۡمُعۡتَدِیۡنَ ﴿۱۹۱﴾
وَقَٰتِلُواْ فِي سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلَّذِينَ يُقَٰتِلُونَكُمۡ وَلَا تَعۡتَدُوٓاْۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلۡمُعۡتَدِينَ
a. 4:76; 8:40; 9:13; 22:40; 60:9, 10. (close)
219. This is one of the earliest verses in which permission to fight was given to Muslims, the very first verse revealed in this connection being 22:40. The verse under comment contains the gist of the conditions which should govern a religious war: (a) Such a war should be undertaken with the object of removing obstacles placed in the way of Allah, i.e. for the establishment of the freedom of religious belief and practice. (b) It is to be waged only against those who first take up arms against Muslims. (c) The Muslims should lay down arms as soon as the enemy desists from fighting. (close)
a. 4:76; 8:40; 9:13; 22:40; 60:9, 10. (close)
197. Important Words:
سبیل الله (the cause of Allah) literally means, "the way of Allah". Anything done to remove the obstacles hindering people from approaching God or accepting His religion is termed فی سبیل الله i.e. in the cause of Allah; also anything done to further the cause of Allah or any act performed in compliance with God’s commandment. Thus holy wars, missionary campaigns, Pilgrimage, search of knowledge, etc. in fact anything done to further the cause of goodness and virtue as commanded by God is فی سبیل الله.
The subject relating to the attainment of virtue and piety and the incidental mention of Pilgrimage naturally diverts one’s attention to the obstacles that were being placed in the way of Muslims by disbelievers who were making them victims of all sorts of wrongs and even prevented them from approaching their Qiblah in Mecca. The Quran, therefore, fittingly turns here to the subject of religious wars.
The verse contains the gist of the conditions which should regulate a religious war and which were made binding on Muslims. The conditions mentioned in this verse are four in number:
(1) Such a war should truly be فی سبیل الله i.e. undertaken with the object of removing obstacles placed in the way of God and His religion. Any war that is not فی سبیل الله is not a lawful, religious war.
(2) Such war is allowed only against those who first take up arms against Muslims as the words. الذین یقاتلونکم (those who fight against you), indicate.
(3) Great care should be taken that women, children and old men of the belligerent nation who do not take actual part in the war against Islam are spared, for religious war is allowed only against those who fight against you. If, however, an old man or a woman takes actual part in the fighting, the responsibility lies on him or her and in such a case he or she loses the concession. Says the Holy Prophet: "Do not kill an old man or a child or a woman, and always try to improve things and reform matters and act kindly towards others, for Allah loves those who act kindly" (Dawud).
(4) Muslims should bring the war to an end as soon as the enemy desists from fighting, for in this case further fighting is not permissible, as the words لاتعتدوا i.e. do not transgress; surely Allah loves not the transgressors, clearly prove. What a just and noble teaching and how tersely and beautifully expressed! (close)
وَ اقۡتُلُوۡہُمۡ حَیۡثُ ثَقِفۡتُمُوۡہُمۡ وَ اَخۡرِجُوۡہُمۡ مِّنۡ حَیۡثُ اَخۡرَجُوۡکُمۡ وَ الۡفِتۡنَۃُ اَشَدُّ مِنَ الۡقَتۡلِ ۚ وَ لَا تُقٰتِلُوۡہُمۡ عِنۡدَ الۡمَسۡجِدِ الۡحَرَامِ حَتّٰی یُقٰتِلُوۡکُمۡ فِیۡہِ ۚ فَاِنۡ قٰتَلُوۡکُمۡ فَاقۡتُلُوۡہُمۡ ؕ کَذٰلِکَ جَزَآءُ الۡکٰفِرِیۡنَ ﴿۱۹۲﴾
وَٱقۡتُلُوهُمۡ حَيۡثُ ثَقِفۡتُمُوهُمۡ وَأَخۡرِجُوهُم مِّنۡ حَيۡثُ أَخۡرَجُوكُمۡۚ وَٱلۡفِتۡنَةُ أَشَدُّ مِنَ ٱلۡقَتۡلِۚ وَلَا تُقَٰتِلُوهُمۡ عِندَ ٱلۡمَسۡجِدِ ٱلۡحَرَامِ حَتَّىٰ يُقَٰتِلُوكُمۡ فِيهِۖ فَإِن قَٰتَلُوكُمۡ فَٱقۡتُلُوهُمۡۗ كَذَٰلِكَ جَزَآءُ ٱلۡكَٰفِرِينَ
220. This verse relates to conditions when war has actually broken out. Obviously, it enjoins Muslims to fight against only such disbelievers as are the first to take up arms against them. (close)
221. The words signify that Mecca being the centre and the most sacred place of Islam, no non-Muslim should be allowed to remain in it. (close)
b. 2:218. (close)
a. 2:218. (close)
198. Important Words:
ثقفتموھم (you met them) is derived from ثقف. They say ثقفه i.e. (1) he faced him or he met him; (2) he caught hold of him; (3) he got the better of him (Aqrab).
فتنة (persecution) is derived from فتن. They say فتن فلانا i.e. he led him astray; he tried or tested him. The expression فتن فلاناعن رأیه means, he prevented him from holding his views. The words فتن الصائغ الذھب mean, the goldsmith melted the gold in the crucible to ascertain its genuineness. فتنه means, he put him in a state of trial or persecution. Thus فتنة means: (1) trial; (2) torture and persecution; (3) divergence of views among men and the disputes and fighting that take place as a result thereof (Aqrab). See also 2:103.
The verse relates to conditions when a war has actually broken out. Obviously it does not apply to all disbelievers, for it only says, "kill them" and not "kill the disbelievers". The pronoun "them" clearly refers to, those who fight against you, as mentioned in the previous verse. The verse calls upon Muslims to fight against only such disbelievers as take up arms against them. It does not call upon them to slay each and every disbeliever that may happen to come in their way. Indeed this verse affords a remarkable instance of the way in which the plain words of the Quran are generally distorted by the opponents of Islam.
The clause, and drive them out from where they have driven you out, refers to the time when the enemies of Islam compelled the Holy Prophet and his Companions to flee from Mecca. It enjoins Muslims to bear in mind that they have eventually to conquer Mecca which being the centre and the most sacred place of Islam, no non-Muslim would be allowed to remain in it.
The clause, persecution is worse than killing, provides an argument in support of defensive war. The disbelievers were persecuting Muslims in diverse ways with a view to turning them away from their faith and they were also creating disorder in the land. It was certainly better to put a stop to this state of affairs by fighting against the aggressors than to allow it to continue. There are circumstances when, to every right-thinking man, war becomes necessary.
The words فتنة (persecution) and قتل (killing) may be interpreted in another way also. فتنة means, "persecution or war waged against a people with a view to turning them from their faith", and قتل means, "an ordinary secular war". Now the verse points out that a war of religious persecution is worse than an ordinary war; for, firstly, worldly interests are nothing as compared with matters of faith; and secondly, wars caused by religious differences are more bitter and cruel, and seldom come to an end.
The clause, and fight them not in and near the Sacred Mosque until they fight you therein, contains a very important principle. Even after the declaration of war, there are restrictions to be observed, and Muslims should never be the first to break them. The sanctity of the holy precincts of the Ka‘bah must be safeguarded even in time of war. If, however, the other party violates its sanctity, Muslims may retaliate so that the attacking party may thereby be brought to its senses. (close)
فَاِنِ انۡتَہَوۡا فَاِنَّ اللّٰہَ غَفُوۡرٌ رَّحِیۡمٌ ﴿۱۹۳﴾
فَإِنِ ٱنتَهَوۡاْ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ غَفُورٞ رَّحِيمٞ
c. 8:40. (close)
a. 8:40. (close)
The verse speaks of the great clemency of Islamic teaching. Even after the disbelievers have inflicted diverse torments on Muslims, turning them out of their homes and making their lives miserable and creating chaos and disorder in the land, they are to be forgiven and treated mercifully if they desist from fighting. Nay, God even promises them His forgiveness and mercy if they so desist. (close)