When the fast of Ramadan became an obligation upon the Ummah

All praises belong to Allah the Owner of virtue and grace. He has prescribed the fast to purify the souls from sin. May the peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad the best of those who prayed and fasted; he remained steadfast upon good and uprightness; may the peace and blessings be upon his family and his companions and those who continue to follow him.

As to what follows:

Allah (Subhanahu Ta’ala) said:

“O you who believe fasting has been prescribed for you as it has been prescribed for those who can before you in order for you to obtain piety.” [Quran 2:183]

Therefore Allah has mentioned in these noble verses that he has prescribed fasting upon this nation just as he has prescribed it upon the previous nations. And prescribed means that He has obligated the fast, therefore fasting is an obligation upon this nation just as it was an obligation upon the previous nations.

Some of the scholars have said concerning the explanation of this verse: The worship of fasting has been prescribed upon the Prophets and the nations from Adam until the end of time.

Allah mentioned this because something that is difficult, if it is made general (for all the people) it becomes easy upon the soul to complete the task and the person will be more at ease with this.

The fasting therefore; has been an obligation upon all of the nations even if the manner and time in which the fast was done differed. Saeed bin Jubair said, ‘”Those who came before us used to fast from the nightfall until the next night, just as it was done in the beginning of Islam.”

Hasan said, “‘The fast of Ramadan was an obligation upon the Jews, but they abandoned this fast and they fasted one day in the year, believing that this was the day that the Pharaoh was drowned; and they erred or lied concerning this because this day was the day of ‘Ashura. And the fasting was also an obligation upon the Christians, but after they fasted for a long time they encountered in their fast severe heat and this was a hardship upon them in their travels and in their livelihoods. Therefore their scholars and leaders agreed to make the fast during a season between the winter and the summer so they made the fast during the spring. And they made this fast the same time every year that would never change. Then upon their alteration of the fast they said, we will fast an extra ten days as atonement for the alteration we have made; so their fast became forty days.”

And the statement of Allah, ‘In order that you may obtain piety’; meaning this is the reason for fasting. Therefore the fast a reason for obtaining piety due to what it contains from subduing the soul and breaking the desires.

Allah (Subhanahu Ta’ala) said;

“Therefore if any from among you are sick, or on a journey, the prescribed number (should be made up) from days later, but for those who can do it (with hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is poor.” [Quran, 2:184]

It was said that these were days other than the days of Ramadan and that it was three days, and it was said these days were from the month of Ramadan because the verse that follows it makes it clear with the statement, ‘the month of Ramadan’.

They said, in the beginning of Islam the people had a choice to either fast or to feed the poor, due to the statement of Allah (Subhanahu Ta’ala):

“For those who can do it (with hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is poor but he that will give more, of his own free will, it is better for him. And it is better for you that you fast.” [Quran, 2:184]

Then the choice was abrogated and fasting was made an obligation upon us with the statement of Allah (Subhanahu Ta’ala),

“Therefore those among who are present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting.” [Quran, 2:185]

The wisdom in this is to gradually bring the legislation and to show ease upon the Ummah because they were not familiar with fasting so this was a help for them upon its hardship. So in the beginning they were given a choice between fasting or feeding the poor, then when their certainty became strong, their souls became at ease and they became familiar with the fast it became an obligation upon them.

This is how Islam dealt with hardship, so it is legislation which is gradual.

But that which is correct is that this verse was abrogated for those who have the ability to fast; as for those who are not able to fast or elderly or are afflicted with a chronic illness then this verse was not abrogated for them. Therefore they are able to eat and to feed a poor person for each day missed and they do not have to make the days up.

As for other than them then it is obligatory upon them to fast. So whoever eats due to sickness or travel then it is upon then to make the day up based upon the statement of Allah (Subhanahu Ta’ala).

“Therefore those among who are present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later.” [Quran, 2:185]

The fast for the month of Ramadan was made an obligation during the eight year after the migration and the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) fasted Ramadan nine times.

The fast of Ramadan became a requirement and a pillar of Islam; whoever denies its obligation has disbelieved, and whoever breaks their fast without an excuse while acknowledging the obligation of fasting has committed a grave sin. It is an obligation to reprimand this individual and to deter him and it is upon him to repent to Allah and to make up the days he missed.

– By Shaykh Salih Fawzan

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