Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 183

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ ٱلصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous -

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

For the Muslim community, or ummah, duty-bound to undertake a campaign of struggle, i.e. jihad, as a means of establishing God’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 God. It is a discipline that teaches man how to rise above his physical needs and overcome the pressure of temptation in order to earn God’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 God 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 God has chosen for the discipline of man and the administration of the universe as a whole.
 
This important announcement begins by addressing believers directly to remind them of who they are and of their status with God. God is aware that for believers to fulfil any religious obligation, regardless of its immediate benefits, they need encouragement and motivation. Hence they are addressed by their essential quality of having faith.

The verse establishes that fasting had been made obligatory for earlier believers, and that the aim behind it is to open their hearts to God and make them more conscious of Him. This, then, is the principal objective of fasting: to be God-fearing, or taqwā. Fasting, when observed in obedience to God and in pursuit of His pleasure, instils and revives this quality in the human heart and acts as a safeguard against evil and wrongdoing. True believers know and appreciate the value of being God-fearing in God’s sight. Hence, they constantly seek to enhance their sense of it. Fasting is a means to achieve just that.

  • (يَقُولُ اللَّهُ تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَى: كُلُّ عَمَلِ ابْنِ آدَمَ لَهُ إِلا الصَّوْمُ فَإِنَّهُ لِي وَأَنَا أَجْزِي بِهِ...) الْحَدِيثَ؛ خص الصوم بأنه له –وإن كانت العبادات كلها له- لأمرين باين الصوم بهما سائر العبادات؛ أحدهما: أن الصوم يمنع من ملاذ النفس وشهواتها ما لا يمنع منه سائر العبادات إلا الصلاة. الثاني: أن الصوم سر بين العبد وربه، لا يظهر إلا له، فلذلك صار مختصاً به، وما سواه من العبادات ظاهر، ربما فعله تصنعاً ورياء، فلهذا صار أخص بالصوم من غيره. القرطبي: 3/123 [Be the first to translate this....]

2. Linguistic Analysis

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Frequency of Root words in this Ayat used in this Surah *


3. Surah Overview

4. Miscellaneous Information

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5. Connected/Related Ayat

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6. Frequency of the word

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7. Period of Revelation

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The scholars are unanimous that Surah al-Baqarah is Madani and that it was the first Surah revealed in Madinah. [Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani in Fath al-Bari no. 160/8].

Despite it being the first Surah to be revealed in Madinah, it contains Ayaat from a later period also. In fact, according to Ibn Abbas [as mentioned in Ibn Kathir] the last Ayat revealed to the Prophet was Ayat no. 281 from Surah al-Baqarah and this occurred 8 days or so before his death [which corresponds to the year 11 Hijri].

8. Reasons for Revelation

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In order to understand the meaning of this Surah, we should know its historical background:

1. At Makkah, the Quran generally addressed the polytheist Quraysh who were ignorant of Islam, but at Madinah it was also concerned with the Jews who were acquainted with the creed of Monotheism, Prophethood, Revelation, the Hereafter and Angels. They also professed to believe in the law which was revealed by God to their Prophet Moses, and in principle, their way was the same (Islam) that was being taught by Prophet Muhammad. But they had strayed away from it during the centuries of degeneration and had adopted many un-Islamic creeds, rites and customs of which there was no mention and for which there was no sanction in the Torah. Not only this: they had tampered with the Torah by inserting their own explanations and interpretations into its text. They had distorted even that part of the Word of God which had remained intact in their Scriptures and taken out of it the real spirit of true religion and were now clinging to a lifeless frame of rituals. Consequently their beliefs, their morals and their conduct had gone to the lowest depths of degeneration. The pity is that they were not only satisfied with their condition but loved to cling to it. Besides this, they had no intention or inclination to accept any kind of reform. So they became bitter enemies of those who came to teach them the Right Way and did their utmost to defeat every such effort. Though they were originally Muslims, they had swerved from the real Islam and made innovations and alterations in it and had fallen victims to hair splitting and sectarianism. They had forgotten and forsaken God and begun to serve material wealth. So much so that they had even given up their original name “Muslim” and adopted the name “Jew” instead, and made religion the sole monopoly of the children of Israel. This was their religious condition when the Prophet went to Madinah and invited the Jews to the true religion. That is why more than one third of this Surah has been addressed to the children of Israel. A critical review of their history, their moral degeneration and their religious perversions has been made. Side by side with this, the high standard of morality and the fundamental principles of the pure religion have been put forward in order to bring out clearly the nature of the degeneration of the community of a prophet when it goes astray and to draw clear lines of demarcation between real piety and formalism, and the essentials and non-essentials of the true religion.

2. At Makkah, Islam was mainly concerned with the propagation of its fundamental principles and the moral training of its followers. But after the migration of the Prophet to Madinah, where Muslims had come to settle from all over Arabia and where a tiny Islamic State had been set up with the help of the ‘local supporters’ (Ansar), naturally the Quran had to turn its attention to the social, cultural, economic, political and legal problems as well. This accounts for the difference between the themes of the Surahs revealed at Makkah and those at Madinah. Accordingly about half of this Surah deals with those principles and regulations which are essential for the integration and solidarity of a community and for the solution of its problems.

After the migration to Madinah, the struggle between Islam and disbelief (Kufr) had also entered a new phase. Before this the Believers, who propagated Islam among their own clans and tribes, had to face its opponents at their own risk. But the conditions had changed at Madinah, where Muslims from all parts of Arabia had come and settled as one community, and had established an independent city state. Here it became a struggle for the survival of the Community itself, for the whole of non-Muslim Arabia was bent upon and united in crushing it totally. Hence the following instructions, upon which depended not only its success but its very survival, were revealed in this Surah:

a. The Community should work with the utmost zeal to propagate its ideology and win over to its side the greatest possible number of people.

b. It should so expose its opponents as to leave no room for doubt in the mind of any sensible person that they were adhering to an absolutely wrong position.

c. It should infuse in its members (the majority of whom were homeless and indigent and surrounded on all sides by enemies) that courage and fortitude which is so indispensable to their very existence in the adverse circumstances in which they were struggling and to prepare them to face these boldly.

d. It should also keep them ready and prepared to meet any armed menace, which might come from any side to suppress and crush their ideology, and to oppose it tooth and nail without minding the overwhelming numerical strength and the material resources of its enemies.

e. It should also create in them that courage which is needed for the eradication of evil ways and for the establishment of the Islamic Way instead. That is why God has revealed in this Surah such instructions as may help achieve all the above mentioned objects.

At the time of the revelation of Al-Baqarah, all sorts of hypocrites had begun to appear. God has, therefore, briefly pointed out their characteristics here. Afterwards when their evil characteristics and mischievous deeds became manifest, God sent detailed instructions about them. [REF: Mawdudi]

9. Relevant Hadith

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  • The Prophet [saw] is reported to have said, يَا مَعْشَرَ الشَّبَابِ مَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ مِنْكُمُ الْبَاءَةَ فَلْيتَـزَوَّجْ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِع فَعَلَيْهِ بِالصَّوْمِ فَإِنَّهُ لَهُ وِجَاء  "O young people! Whoever amongst you can afford marriage, let him marry. Whoever cannot afford it, let him fast, for it will be a shield for him." [Bukhari and Muslim]

10. Wiki Forum

Comments in this section are statements made by general users – these are not necessarily explanations of the Ayah – rather a place to share personal thoughts and stories…

11. Tafsir Zone

 

12. External Links

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