Meaning of SAUM
There has been a great deal of discussion on this forum on the subject of SAUM and RAMADHAN. Like SALAAT, the intellectual and practical constructs of SAUM have been manipulated, corrupted over a millennia. I have been observing and questioning the practices, traditions during the month of RAMADHAN for some time because my intellect and my actions have been out of sync.
Lately I have come up with a methodology to understand the meaning of the Qur-anic messages; this approach is simply to write down my questions and then explore the always enlightening Book to answer my questions. I did the same with SAUM. My questions are below.
1) SAUM was prescribed for earlier generations. So what knowledge do we have about these ancient practices?
2) Why is there hardship in observing SAUM?
3) There is an exemption from observing SAUM. Is it because there is no compulsion in Deen?
4) In QXP 2:186 sates “...Whoever witnesses this month should participate in the program of Abstinence,”. To witness something, some or all of your senses must be engaged. A month is an amorphous concept. How do you witness it?
5) Why is sex confined to night time only? I suspect this may not be a great hardship for most of the people.
6) In 2:187 the description of Dawn (FAJR) is very nuanced. Why?
7) In 2:187 the role of AAKIFOON is mentioned. What is this role and what is its relevance to SAUM?
8) Why is SAUM for a fixed number of days? Is it a “one size fits all” situation?
As I went through these questions, I made a decision that no human being knows what is SAUM and my only source and teacher is the Qur-an. I perused the the Book and came up with the following verses that speak of SAUM and I gained valuable insight pondering their meaning. I am paraphrasing:
[2:196] - If not able to contribute while at the Hajj convention. 10 days of SAUM - 3 while at the Hajj convention and 7 after returning home. It is for those whose home is not in the vicinity of the Hajj convention.
[4:92] - Killing a believer, who belongs to an opposing tribe, by mistake. 2 months of SAUM.
[5:89] - Breaking your deliberate and intentional oaths. 3 days of SAUM if one is not able to feed ten people or free someone from bondage.
[5:95] - Hunting, killing an animal while at the Hajj convention and in the state of Pilgrimage. 3 days of SAUM if not able to replace the destroyed animal or feeding people.
[58:3 - 58:4] - Making senseless declarations about their wives, estranged them, and then wish to go back on their utterances. 2 months of SAUM if one does not have means to free someone from bondage.
A careful review of the behaviors described in the verses above paints a picture of humans who have a compromised moral and emotional constitution. Their actions are mere symptoms, the real issues are hidden in their psyche. My assessment of these behaviors suggest that these individuals must learn to restrain themselves from the following thought processes:
[2:196] - Shirking responsibility, being a moocher and not contributing while at the Hajj convention.
[4:92] - Anger, rage, hatred, disregard for human life lead to the murder.
[5:89] - Breaking commitments, taking responsibilities as a play thing, disregard for the other party as they break their oaths.
[5:95] - Giving into selfish desires, disregarding rules - like the one against hunting - while at an auspicious event such as the Hajj convention.
[58:3 - 58:4] - Total disregard for the wife and obligations as a husband; making a mockery of the institution of marriage, and selfishness which leads to the senseless utterances about the wives.
If these individuals choose to undertake the SAUM program, the program will last from 3 days to 2 months, and there is no waiting to start till the next month of RAMADHAN. Certainly this program cannot be self-administered - it will require help and support from family, friends, teachers and counselors.
So I put forth the following for consideration and discussion:
- Starting a SAUM program is not restricted to the month of RAMADHAN. Conditions in a society will require the installment of the SAUM program to begin to resolve serious behavioral issues that are prevalent and are undermining the smooth functioning of a Qur-anic society. Central Authority should make the SAUM program available to whomever desires it or needs it.
- In [2:187] the statement “...You may eat and drink until you can discern the white streak of light against the black streak of night at daybreak. Then complete the Abstinence until sunset.” is generally understood to eat and drink till the daybreak and then start your fast at daybreak till the sunset. I think this understanding has robbed us from taking advantage of what SAUM can offer to mankind and has prevented building credible institutions to implement it. In my judgement this statement speaks to the activities one must engage in between the sunset and the dawn. Eating and drinking implies both nourishment and preparation for the next day. The SAUM program requires that the night before, we must assess our progress, engage in self reflection, re-read the objectives, re-affirm our convictions, and plan for the following day. It is said in 73:6 “...the vigil of the night impresses the minds most strongly...“ This is where one works with the appointed AAKIFOON who function as teachers, coaches, and mentors. So eat and drink - nourish your body and intellect - and engage. The time between dawn and sunset, the day time, is to use your knowledge as you go through the day and keep an eye on your emotions and behaviors you are trying to reform - there is no need to merely abstain from food and drink. However, one may choose to fast to further build ones will power and test the stability of ones emotions.
- The hardship in the SAUM program comes with the changes one has to make in their daily routine to accommodate for the self-reflection, extra reading, re-affirming convictions, and spending time with the AAKIFOON to make sure that SAUM program is producing the desired results.
- The SAUM program is for a fixed number of days, however, these days are determined by the objectives of each individual. Some people can complete the program in a few days while other may require a few weeks or months. A generalized SAUM program can also be instituted to help people deal with negative emotions such as impatience, anger, unfair criticism, envy etc. This SAUM program can be for a few days, lets say 10 days, however the structure of this program should not change - participants have to self-reflect, read, re-affirm convictions, spend time with the AAKIFOON, and monitoring their emotions and behaviors during the day time. The participants can postpone the SAUM program due to sickness or other obligations, however they can pick it up from right where they left it and complete the program.
- Sexual activity between the spouses is confined to the night time. The AAKIFOON are not to engage in sexual activity while functioning as such. This implies that the AAKIFOON are on a rotation so they do not feel burdened.
- For those people who are not able to withstand the structure and rigor of the SAUM program, they can redeem themselves by feeding an indigent.
The primary purpose of the SAUM program is to develop TAQWA. To live a life in security, warding off evil, and protecting the ‘Self’ against deterioration requires controlling our actions. The best way to control our actions is to keep our emotions in check. The SAUM program is designed to help you keep your emotions under control.