Quranic Reflection No. 318 Āyat 2:183 – The Command to Fast
yā ayyuhal-ladhīna āmanū kutiba ‘alaykumus-siyāmu kamā kutiba ‘alal-ladhīna min qablikum la‘allakum tattaqūn
O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you so that you may be God conscious.
(Sūratul Baqarah, No.2, Āyat 183)
The command to fast was revealed in a set of three verses. According to Tafsīr al-Mīzān verses 183-185 of Sūratul Baqarah were revealed together to make fasting obligatory for Muslims in the month of Ramadan. Because the command would be heavy and may be met with resistance, the Almighty sets the ground before giving the exact command with details. He knows that the human being may be inclined to shirk the responsibility of fasting, or that he may find it formidable. To make it easier a few different points are discussed in the passage.
The verse above starts with an address to the believers. Fasting is part of the rules they have to follow but it has been the case with people of the past too. They should not be overwhelmed by it or feel that they have been singled out for this difficult duty. It is part of what other nations were also asked to do. Fasting has always been part of the training of the human soul so it can rise towards spirituality and perfection.
The verse ends with outlining the goal of fasting. There is a purpose behind the command. Fasting during the holy month is an exercise in continuous control over the self-stemming from the consciousness of Allah’s rules. Its coveted fruit is taqwaor God consciousness, the criteria for superiority in the eyes of God (Q 49:13). Note that Allah does not say fast so you will become God conscious. Rather He says fast so perhaps you may become God conscious. Fasting teaches God consciousness. The training makes it easier to be like that during and after the period of fasting.
Recite and reflect on the passage (Q 2:183-185) to see how God prepares the human mind for fasting. The wisdom in the verses serves to lessen the resistance to fasting that may be the initial reaction. The mention of the benefits of fasting, the exceptions, the end of the month . . . all show encouragement to accept and be pleased with the command. It is a sign of God’s compassion for the hardship His creatures have to endure. Let the passage inspire you to be positive about fasting and gain the strength you need from it.
Sources: ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husain Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān;