Both reason and revelation confirm that Allah, The Most Exalted, does not make obligatory that which does not benefit His servants nor does He prohibit that which is not harmful. Some of us may in fact recognise some of these benefits and detriments on which divine commands and prohibitions are predicated. Indeed, as Allah has placed wisdom in His creations, He has also placed wisdom in His Law. For Allah is Wise in His Actions. He does not create something that has no value nor does He enact a law that is frivolous or of no significance.
Almighty Allah, in His Mercy and through His Knowledge of man’s complex nature, has mandated fasting through gradual stages. In fact, this progressive and forbearing method is not only evident in fasting but in all that Allah has ordered and prohibited. Take for example the prohibition of alcohol. Allah has regulated drinking gradually until the last and final prohibition came in the verse (which means): “O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone altars [to other than Allah], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful.” [Qur’an 5:90]
Stages in Mandating Fasting
As regards fasting, it was mandated through three stages. In the first stage, Allah granted the believers a choice to either fast Ramadan or feed a poor person for each day of fasting. In the second stage, fasting was made mandatory but if one happened to go to bed before breaking one’s fast, one would be obliged to continue one’s fast until the next day’s Iftar time (sunset). [Al-Bukhari, the Book of Fasting]
Later, these two stages were abrogated and Ramadan fasting took the final shape that Muslims practice today.
What is more, Allah, The Most Exalted, has made feeding poor people an alternative to fasting for the elderly or those who are unable to endure certain challenging conditions. For travellers and the sick, fasting is not obligatory but the days missed must he fulfilled in the future, as soon as circumstances permit, as Allah says (what means): “…and whoever is ill or on a journey - then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.” [Qur’an 2:185]
Not only did Allah break down the obligation of fasting into three stages, He also presented these stages in an attractive and appealing fashion so that we would wilfully accept fasting and hope for its rewards.
In the first stage, it was the option in choosing whether to fast or feed the poor. Allah then coupled this option with encouragement to mankind to fast, as He, The Most Exalted, says (what means): “And upon those who are able [to fast, but with hardship] - a ransom [as substitute] of feeding a poor person [each day]. And whoever volunteers excess - it is better for him. But to fast is best for you, if you only knew.” [Qur’an 2:184]
This stage of fasting paved the way for the following stage- the last stage in which fasting is made absolute and obligatory on all mankind in the verse (which means): “The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it.” [Qur’an 2: 185].
However, the license to make it up still remains for those with substantial excuses. And along with this last stage, Allah has brought forth His Forgiveness and Mercy, as He Says (what means): “It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your wives [for sexual relations]. They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them. Allah knows that you used to deceive yourselves, so He accepted your repentance and forgave you.” [Qur’an 2: 187]
No doubt, fasting in this flexible manner is a blessing that deserves our gratitude. And for this very reason Allah ended the verses of fasting with gratitude, such as the verse (which means): “Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.” [Qur’an 2:185]
Article source: http://www.islamweb.net/emainpage/
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