The Decree of Fasting – Surah Baqarah Verse 184

بِسْمِ اللّٰهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ

اَيَّامًا مَّعۡدُوۡدٰتٍؕ فَمَنۡ كَانَ مِنۡكُمۡ مَّرِيۡضًا اَوۡ عَلٰى سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنۡ اَيَّامٍ اُخَرَ‌ؕ وَعَلَى الَّذِيۡنَ يُطِيۡقُوۡنَهٗ فِدۡيَةٌ طَعَامُ مِسۡكِيۡنٍؕ فَمَنۡ تَطَوَّعَ خَيۡرًا فَهُوَ خَيۡرٌ لَّهٗ ؕ وَاَنۡ تَصُوۡمُوۡا خَيۡرٌ لَّـکُمۡ اِنۡ كُنۡتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُوۡنَ

Translation: “Days (of fasting are) few in number. However, should anyone of you be sick or on a journey, then a number from other days. And those who have the strength, on them there is a ransom: the feeding of a poor person. Then whoever does good voluntarily, that is better for him. And that you fast is better for you, if you know.”

Surah Baqarah: Verse 184

Tafseer

Fasting When Sick

Verse 184 gives concession in the matter of fasting to a ‘sick’ person and to a person on journey’. The word ‘sick’ used here refers to a person who cannot fast without an unbearable hardship or has strong apprehension that his illness will be aggravated. The words “and (Allah) does not want hardship for you” occuring in the following verse (185) have a clear indication to this effect. This position is also accepted by the consensus of the Muslim jurists.

Fasting when on Travel

It will be noticed that while giving concession to a traveller, the Qur’anic text elects to use the phrase أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ‌ (or on a journey) rather than the word, musafir مسا افر or ‘traveller’. This is to point out that leaving home and going out is not enough to claim the exemption. The duration of the travel should be somewhat longer since the expression, ` ala safarin عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ‌ means that one should have ’embarked’ on a journey which does not mean going five or ten miles away from home. But, the precise duration of this journey has not been mentioned in the words of the Holy Qur’an. Guided by the statement of Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam and the subsequent practice of his blessed Companions Radiallahu Anhum, the great Imam, Abu Hanifah Rahmatullahi Alayhi and many jurists have fixed this distance to be what can be covered in three days by walking in three daily stages. The later-day jurists have put it as 48 miles (78km).

The other ruling that comes out from the same phrase, ` ala safarin عَلَىٰ سَفَر is that a traveller who leaves his home shall be entitled to having been exempted from fasting only upto the time his travel continues. It is obvious that stopping in between to rest or take care of something does not cut off his onward travel in the absolute sense, unless his stay be for a considerable period of time. This very considerable period of time has been set at fifteen days following a statement of Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam. Anyone who intends to stay at a given place for fifteen days shall not come under the umbrella of ` ala safarin, therefore, he shall not be deserving of the leave granted to one on ‘a journey’.

Ruling: Right from here comes the ruling that anyone who intends to stay out for fifteen days, not at one place but at different places and towns, he shall continue to remain in the status of a ‘traveller’ and thereby shall continue to enjoy the concession of being ‘on a journey’ because he is in the state of ` ala safarin.

Making Qada’ قضاء of the missed fast

The words of the text, فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ‌ literally translated as ‘then, a number from other days’ mean that a sick person or a traveller is obligated to fast during other days making the number match the number of days he could not fast. The purpose is to tell people that fasts abandoned because of the compulsion of sickness or journey must be replaced by making qada قضاء ‘ of them. Rather than using a simple statement to the effect that ‘their replacement is on them’, the Qur’anic text has said. فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ‌ which suggests that a sick person or a traveller will have to make qada’ only when the sick person becomes healthy and the traveller returns home and gets to live on for the number of days he is required to replace the fasts he missed. So, one who dies before this happens, qada قضاء ‘ of fasts will not remain obligatory on him, nor will he be required to make a will for the payment of ransom (Fidyah فدیہ).

Ruling: In the Qur’anic provision, ‘a number from other days’, there is no restriction on qada قضاء ‘fasts, they could be seriatim or random; the choice is open. Therefore, a person who has missed his fasts for the first ten days of Ramadan, could first fast in lieu of his tenth or ninth fast of Ramadan and replace the earlier ones missed later on; this brings no harm. Similarly, one can fast with gaps at his convenience which would be quite permissible since the wordings of the Qur’an in فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ‌ (then, a number from other days) leave the possibility open.

The Fidyah or Ransom for a Missed Fast

The verse وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ means that those who have the strength to fast and are not restricted by sickness or travel, but do not wish to do it for some reason, they have the option of paying, in lieu of a fast, ransom in the form of charity. However, along with this leave, it was simply added: ‘And that you fast that is better for you’.

This injunction was valid in the early days of Islam when the purpose was to familiarize people to fasting. In the verse that follows, that is, فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ‌ (so, those of you who witness the month must fast therein), this injunction was abrogated for normal people. However, according to the consensus of the Ummah, it remained applicable to the people of very old age and to those who suffer from a permanent illness with no hope of recovery (Jassas and Mazhari).

All Imams of Hadith, such as, al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, al-Nasa’i, al-Tirmidhi, al-Tabarani and others have reported from the blessed Companion Salma ibn Akwa’ Radiallahu Anhu: When the verse, وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ (and on those who have the strength) was revealed, we were given the choice of either fasting or paying fidyah for each fast. However, when the other verse, فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ‌ فَلْيَصُمْهُ (those of you who witness the month must fast therein), was revealed, this choice was withdrawn and fasting alone became necessary for those who had the strength.

Three Changes in the Command of Fasting

A long hadith from the blessed Companion, Mu` adh ibn Jabal Radiallahu Anhu reported in the Musnad of Ahmad describes three changes that came in Salah نماز during the early period of Islam, as well as, three changes in Sawm صوم . The three changes brought in the injunctions of fasting are as follows:

When Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam came to Madinah, he used to fast for three days in a month, and on the tenth of Muharram. Then the command to observe fasts in the month of Ramadan was revealed. Under the verse كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ (the fasts have been enjoined upon you), there was an option either to fast or to pay ransom, with a preference given to fasting. Then, Allah Almighty revealed the other verse, (those of you who witness the month must fast therein), which took away the option given to those who had the strength, and ordained fasting as the only alternative. However, the command remained valid for the very old who could pay ransom for fasts they missed.

After these two changes, there was a third change. In the beginning, the permission to eat, drink and have marital intimacy after اِفطار iftar was valid only if one did not sleep after breaking his fast Sleeping was taken to be an indicator of the beginning of the next fast in which, naturally, eating and drinking and marital intimacy are prohibited. Then, Allah Almighty revealed the verse, أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ لَيْلَةَ الصِّيَامِ الرَّ‌فَثُ إِلَىٰ نِسَائِكُمْ (It is made lawful for you, in the nights of fast, to have sex with your women), which made it permissible to eat, drink and have conjugal relations during the night until the break of dawn. The eating of suhur سُحُر or sahri سَحری soon after getting up in the early hours of dawn was declared to be the sunnah. This is corroborated by ahadith in al-Bukhari, Muslim and Ab Dawud. (Ibn Kathir)

The amount of Ransom and other rulings

The ransom of one missed fast is half sa` of wheat, or its cost. Half sa` is equivalent to approximately 1.632 kilograms. After finding out the correct market price of wheat, the amount should be given to a poor person which will be the ransom of one missed fast. It should be borne in mind that this amount should not be given as part of wages given to those engaged in the service of a mosque or madrasah مدرسہ .

Ruling 1: The amount of ransom for one fast should not be distributed between two recipients. Similarly, it is not correct to give the ransom amount for several fasts to one person on a single date. Although, some scholars permit this, yet, as a matter of precaution, it is better not to give the ransom amount of several fasts to one person on one single date. However, if someone does not observe this precaution, the ransom may be treated as valid. (See Shmi, Bayan al-Qur’an, Imdad al-Fatawa)

Ruling 2: Should someone be in a position that he cannot even pay the ransom due, he should simply seek forgiveness from Allah through istighfar اِستِغفار and have an intention in his heart that he would pay it when he can. (Bayan al-Qur’an)

[Maariful Quran 2:184]