THE TRUTH ABOUT SAUM (HAQIQAT SAUM) BY DR. QAMAR ZAMAN
All world religions are based on some common traditions (customs) and faiths. First, there is always some type of worship, which is considered the central pillar of each religion. Second, there is a tradition in which human is seen torturing himself. He goes hungry or hurts himself physically to please his God. Third is the Pilgrimage or the tradition of visiting holy persons or places. This includes visiting the graves of saints or buildings associated with either God or His saints. Last, every religion includes a concept of charity or spending wealth in the way of God.
In addition, some faiths are considered an essential part of the religion. God is the most important part of faith. Every religion has a concept of God whether it is Monotheistic or Polytheistic. Then, there are faiths associated with God, which the believers must accept and demonstrate.
The concept of a prophet is also an integral part of every religion. The prophets or messengers are considered the most important servants of God. Their characteristics and abilities are so exaggerated that they do not even remotely resemble human beings. Their noble character is used only for praise, as it is impossible for any human being to follow and be like them. The fact is that the prophets reach the apex of moral character by living according to God’s Commands. However, we are required to believe in every exaggeration associated with the Messenger no matter it results in the death of our common sense. Otherwise, we are labeled blasphemers and thrown out of religion.
The relatives and friends of the Messenger even surpass him in their supernatural characteristics and powers. We are mesmerized and accept every tradition associated with these manmade deities. We dare not think or question anything or else we face the wrath of the so-called guardians of the religion. Even those claiming to be relative of the sacred personalities, who lived centuries ago, instantly achieve the status of being pious and holy. In brief religion is a dark labyrinth of traditions and faiths. We dare not question any tradition of faith or else we invite death by fatwa.
Today’s Islam is no different than any other religion. It includes the same faiths and traditions proclaimed by other religions though with different names. It too prohibits and suppresses any rational thinking and inquiry.
I do not consider it my right to criticize other religions. First of all we need to take a critical look at our own religion. Do not we own the same questionable faiths, traditions, and customs practiced by other religions albeit with different names?
In the light the Quran let us take a critical look at our faiths, traditions, and customs. Dear friends, if you are not familiar with my previous books, I want to let you know I take guidance and understand Islam only and only from the Quran.
[Doubtless, Quran is the only Guidance from our creator still preserved in its original form. Our Creator calls it light. You do not shed light on light to see it. Moreover, our beloved Prophet received only One Guidance and it was the Quran. He followed and preached only the Quran. Here is testimony from the Quran itself.
God Almighty commands: FOLLOW WHAT HAS BEEN REVEALED TO YOU FROM YOUR LORD. (AL-AN’AM 106)
Prophet declares: I FOLLOW ONLY WHAT HAS BEEN REVEALED TO ME FROM MY LORD. (AL-A’RAF 203)]
In my view Islam is not a religion, which has been made a prisoner of a set of faiths and customs of worship. I consider it a code of conduct for all living people of the earth (earthlings). Hence, I try to understand this code of conduct only from the Quran. I agree with those authentic scholars of Islam who believe that there are so many false and irrational traditions attributed to the Prophet. How can we use something that is not even valid to understand Quran?
Keep in mind that after narrating these illogical traditions the narrators never miss to add this disclaimer. “Or whatever the Prophet might have said.” After attributing a false statement to the Prophet, these narrators try to free themselves from any liability by adding that if Prophet did not say that, then whatever he said. This is an absurd statement (and an insult to our common sense). It is utmost dishonesty to invent fabrications and, then, attribute them to the Prophet to emphasis (and propagate) own ideas or views.
Hence, whatever we got in the name of Hadith is not necessary to understand the Deen. Contrary, it is very harmful to Deen. As a matter of fact the injections of Ahadith have completely disfigured our Deen. If you want to understand Deen, please study the Quran. After reading and understanding the teachings of the Quran you will be surprised to learn that God’s Commandments (and his Laws) stay the same from the beginning to the end of times. By following God’s Commandments we can achieve success and prosperity today same like the Prophet and his companion did centuries ago.
God’s Commandments (and Laws) have not changed and will never change. Any change in circumstances does not affect the Commandments given to us by our Creator. Also, we never fail if we follow these Commandments. Further, these Commandments are not bound by time or space. (They are workable in all times and spaces.) Hence, God’s Commands are Supreme and Final whether the time is past, present, or future. (The times and spaces can change but God’s Commandments and His Laws do not.)
Now, let us study the subject of SOAM in the light of the teachings of the Quran. We will study and discuss those verses where SOAM is mentioned.
THE TRUTH ABOUT ROZA (FASTING)
The root of the Arabic word Soam is saad (s), wau (w), and meem (m). Soam basically means to stop, cease, or discontinue. Here are some examples.
Sam Alfaras: Horse stopped feeding.
Sam Alma: Water stopped flowing.
Sam Alrih: Wind stopped blowing.
Sam An Altaam: Man stopped eating.
Like Qoum (nation) the weight of Soam is “Faal” (action) and its source is Sam, Yasoum, and Siama, which mean to stop whatever someone is doing. On page 935 the Arabic dictionary “Al Qamos Alwaheed” defines the meaning of Alsoam as to stop speech or action. But in religion Islam Soam is assumed to mean stop eating.
Siam is mentioned in the verses 183-188 of Surah Al-Baqarah (The Cow) and Roza (fasting) is often derived from these verses. Let us study these verses directly from the Quran. God Almighty says:
183 يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
184 أَيَّامًا مَّعْدُودَاتٍ ۚ فَمَن كَانَ مِنكُم مَّرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ ۚ وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ فِدْيَةٌ طَعَامُ مِسْكِينٍ ۖ فَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيْرًا فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّهُ ۚ وَأَن تَصُومُوا خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
O ye who believe! Fasting (Roza) is prescribed to you, as it was prescribed to those before you, so that you become Mutaqi. (2:183)
These are just a number of days. If any of you is sick or on a journey, he can make up the number on other days. For those who have the power to fast (but choose not to do so) there is a ransom, the feeding of a needy. But whoever does good gladly, it is good for him. And fasting is better for you if you knew. (2:184) (Traditional Translation)
Let us assume that Soam means Fasting. Then, five out of six times Quran uses it as a punishment. But the beginning of the above verses is stunning. Here Quran states that the reason Fasting has been prescribed because it will make you Mutaqi. Is not it strange that the same act used as a punishment five times is now being prescribed as a gift or blessing? How is it possible that the same physical trial used as a punishment on various occasions suddenly becomes a blessing that helps people become Mutaqi (righteous)? If we consider it a punishment here as well, how come God subjected the whole Ummah (Muslim Nations) to this punishment from the day one? Does Ummah deserve this kind of punishment or is Siam something other than keeping oneself hungry and thirsty?
If we look at the sad and sorry plight of Muslims as a result of their never ending infighting and quarrels, they sure deserve such type of punishment even longer than one month fasting. Doubtless, the condition of Muslims today warrants the prescription of Ramadan Fasting as a punishment. But can Fasting in Ramadan make the Ummah Mutaqi? This is a million dollar question. As a matter of fact in no period in history Muslims ever became Mutaqi through Fasting in Ramadan. Contrary, Muslims display utter lack of discipline during Ramadan. You can see complete chaos and disorder on the streets, which results in complete breakdown of traffic system. Groceries and produce disappear from the shelves in stores. Prices of essential commodities sky rocket. (Ramadan is sure a blessing for the hoarders and profiteers, but not for the common folks.) Workers are either lazy and ignore their duties or absent during office hours. Do we need any more evidence to show that Roza or Fasting has not made any person Mutaqi and can never do so? Instead of making people Mutaqi Roza or Fasting in fact does the opposite.
Now let us take a look at the verse 177 of Surah Al-Baqarah, which defines the characteristics or qualities of a Mutaqi.
177 ۞ لَّيْسَ الْبِرَّ أَن تُوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَلَـٰكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ وَالْكِتَابِ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ وَآتَى الْمَالَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِ ذَوِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَالسَّائِلِينَ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَالْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَاهَدُوا ۖ وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِي الْبَأْسَاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ ۗ أُولَـٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا ۖ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ
It is not a virtue that you turn your faces towards east or west. Virtuous is the one who believes in God, the Last Day, the Angels, the Scripture, and the Prophets; and who spends his wealth on relative, orphans, helpless, wayfarer, needy, and broke; and strives to establish political, social, and economical system according to God’s Commandments to bring about prosperity to the whole society; and he keeps his promises; And he is stead fast in all circumstance whether he encounters daily hardships or full scale war; such are the truthful people and deserve to be called Mutaqi. (2:177)
Please ponder over the last part of this verse. It clearly states that only those people who possess the qualities or characteristics mentioned in this verse deserve to be called Mutaqi. Keeping in mind the characteristics of Taqawa (Righteousness), you can figure out who is a Mutaqi. Can fasting, which brings nothing but hunger and thirst, produce such noble characteristics in a person?
Let us review important points made in the above verse.
1. He becomes a Mumin by conforming to God’s decrees, Last Day, Angels, the Scripture, and the prophets.
2. He spends his wealth on relatives, orphans, helpless; those committed to God’s cause, the needy, and broke.
3. He establishes the system of Salat and Zakat according to God’s decrees.
4. He brings prosperity to humanity.
5. He fulfills his promises.
6. He is stead fast in all circumstances be it a routine hardship or state of war.
Did fasting, which is nothing but mere hunger and thirst, ever produce such noble qualities in a Muslim or any human being? The answer is no, never.
To produce these characteristics we need an ideology based on the firm Commandments whose results can be guaranteed. The same Commandments that Prophets enforced with the help of Angels and brought peace and security to the society. Every aspect of this ideology guarantees prosperity to the whole society. And those who follow this ideology are always prepared to take care of the needy and helpless in the society. They spend their wealth on those in need. They check and control economic woes with the system of Zakat. The always speak the truth and keep their promises. They uphold the scale of justice. They are steadfast in all circumstance. What produces these noble characteristics in a human being? It is Soam, of course. Those who acquire these qualities deserve to be called Mutaqi.
God Almighty says:
أَيَّامًا مَّعْدُودَاتٍ ۚ فَمَن كَانَ مِنكُم مَّرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ ۚ وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ فِدْيَةٌ طَعَامُ مِسْكِينٍ
These are just a number of days. If any of you is sick or on a journey, he can make up the number on other days. For those who have the power to fast (and do not fast) they feed the needy. (Traditional translation)
Here every translator plays mind games with God’s Words. Some claim there is an invisible LA (Not) before YUTIQUNAH. Hence, they insert (NOT) in their translation. Obviously, this translation is done for the Roza of hunger and thirst. If someone has the power or ability to fast but chooses not to do so, the whole business of Roza falls flat on its head. Hence, they force “Not” in the translation. “Whoever has (no) power to fast, can feed the helpless, as compensation.” Is not this a modification in the Quran? We blame others (Jews and Christians) for changing the scripture. Are not we guilty of doing exactly the same? Others were not satisfied with this alteration and they came up with their own. They claim YUTIQUANA means people who fast with too much force. Hence, God exempted them from fasting and instead let them feed the helpless. Obviously, this unique modification too is done to support the Roza of hunger and thirst.
فَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيْرًا فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّهُ ۚ وَأَن تَصُومُوا خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
But whoever does good gladly, it is good for him. And fasting is better for you if you knew.
Here Arabic word TATOWA means obedience. Hence, correct translation would be “Whoever obeys the good (Khair, the Quran), it is good for him.” There is no mention of doing good gladly in the original Arabic text. In the verse 185 God says:
185 شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ ۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ ۖ وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ ۗ يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ وَلِتُكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَاكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
Ramadan is the month in which we revealed the Quran, which is guidance for people, a criterion of right and wrong. Hence, whoever is present in this month should fast. Anyone sick or on a journey, he can complete the numbers on other days. God wants ease for you, not hardship. Hence, complete the numbers and establish God’s glory as commanded. And be grateful for God’s bounties. (2:185)
The above is the traditional translation you can find in any Quran translation. Here is what we learn from the above translation.
Quran was revealed during the month of Ramadan. But we are also told that the Quran was revealed over a period of 23 years. To overcome this discrepancy, they tell us the revelation of the Quran began in Ramadan. Still not satisfied, they concocted another story that the Quran was brought down from the Highest Heavens to the Lowest in Ramadan. Then, it was revealed to the Prophet a little at a time. Anyway they had to invent a story whether it made any sense or not. The fact is that Ramadan did not get its name as a result of God’s revelations. The root of Ramadan is Raa, Meem, and Daad (R, M, Z), which means intense heat that burns skin. It also means to sharpen the blade of a sword. If Ramadan were a month during which the weather was very hot, we can speculate that during the times of the Prophet people used to follow solar calendar, not the lunar calendar. Likewise, the months Rabi-Al-Awal and Rabi-Al-Thani are associated with the harvesting season. Even in Pakistan the harvesting season is called the Days of Rabi.
The next part of the verse describes the virtues of the Quran.
هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ
This is Guidance for people and criterion of right and wrong.
The mention of these virtues of the Quran indicates that people will need Quran during Shahar Ramadan. The very purpose of reminding us the virtues of the Quran is that we use the Guidance and Truths of the Book to solve the problem humanity encounters.
فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ
Hence, whoever is present in this month should fast.
This traditional translation is extremely vague. “Whoever is present” implies those who are alive. In other words fasting is mandatory only for those who are alive. This is a strange command. Do not we know that the dead cannot fast? To tell the people these commands are for the living implies that there are some commands meant for the dead. This is indeed a baloney. Quran was sent down for the living, not the dead.
There is fundamental error in this translation. By depicting Shahar Ramadan as a particular month, we opened the door and let in the Roza (fasting). Let us ponder over this part of the verse once again.
فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ
Henceforth, whoever witnesses this Shahar (state or situation) should stop (participating in or contributing to this state).
“Faman Shahid” (whoever witnesses) implies this is a situation or condition in the society that people can see or observe. By translating “shahid” to mean “find” or “be present” (finding the month of Ramadan or be present during the month of Ramadan) has distorted the meaning of the term. We can see that for such situations or conditions the Quran was revealed and that we must take guidance from the Quran to meet the challenges and overcome these conditions.
وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ
Hence, whoever is sick or on journey he should complete the number on other days.
Two types of people are exempt from fasting, sick and the traveler. Traditional translators consider sick to mean only a person who is physically ill. Likewise, they consider a traveler to be a person who travels on land only. Generally, Arabic word ED means to count. But it can also mean to be prepared. And the word Astaadad (capability) is also derived from the root word ED. Next God Almighty says:
يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ وَلِتُكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَاكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
God wills ease for you, not hardship. Hence, complete the numbers and establish God’s glory as commanded. And be grateful for God’s bounties.
Please note that here God explains the wisdom behind fasting, which is supposed to do the following.
1. Bring ease or comfort, not hardship
2. Complete the count
3. Facilitate establishing God’s glory and acknowledging His bounties
This verse includes a word “bikum”, which means through you or with you. Mufsarin Quran incorrectly translate it to mean “for you”. But Arabic has the word LIKUM, which means for you.
For the moment let us assume that Soam means Roza or Fasting, which is all about avoiding food and drink. Now we have a dilemma. The Roza does not fulfill the wisdom described for Soam. Humans are supposed to bring ease and comfort to the society through Soam as well as establish God’s glory. The Roza or Fasting can do none of these. It does not remove hardships (turmoil, unrest, anarchy, chaos, terror etc.) or bring ease and comfort to the society. Moreover, a rozadar fails to acquire any abilities to establish God’s glory.
In brief this fasting, which is mere hunger and thirst, can never establish God’s glory. The poor rozadar folks are preoccupied with the food and drink during the entire month of Ramadan. They cannot even think or imagine anything else. Far from establishing God’s glory by studying and enforcing His Decrees, these hungry and thirsty folks can neither think rationally nor do anything practically. As a matter of fact establishment of God’s glory requires devising and implementing programs to reform the society. Only a reformed society can insure just and equitable distribution of God’s abundant bounties as well as safeguard their rightful use.
[When this happens, not only the individuals but the whole society enjoys peace, comfort, and security. As a result people bow to God in gratitude.]
Can saying “Thank God” is enough to fulfill the obligation of Laalamkum Tashkurun (Hence, be grateful.)? The answer is definitely no. Your verbal ‘Thank you’ means nothing if you do not use the gift rightly. The person who gave you the gift feels hurt if you do not use the gift as it is intended. It matters nothing if you thank the gift giver every day. On the other hand if the gift giver sees you using the gift appropriately, it brightens his day even though you did not say thank you. Likewise, the best way to thank God is to make the best use of His bounties, which He has bestowed upon us.
In the next verse God Almighty says:
186 وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ ۖ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ
And when my servants ask about me (tell them) I am nearby. Whenever someone calls Me, I answer. Hence, they should move ahead and become righteous by following My decrees. (2:186)
Please take a look at this verse with reference to Roza. “Where is your God?” Did anyone ask a Rozadar this question during the past 1400 years? How is this question even related to a Rozadar?
Let us take a critical look at Roza and Soam again. Here is what Soam does.
1. Soum makes people Mutaqi. The first quality of a Mutaqi is that he does not face East or West to worship God. Instead he lives his life according to God’s Commands at all times. Here are other characteristics of a Mutaqi.
He becomes a Mumin.
He spends his wealth and resources helping the needy.
He establishes the system (social and economic) according to God’s Decrees.
He builds a welfare state where everyone enjoys prosperity.
He never fails to fulfill his promises.
He is always stead fast in facing hardships and trials of life.
2. Whenever he sees chaos or disorder in the society, he not only distances himself from it but also prevents other from contributing to the disorder.
3. Quran was revealed to deal with such circumstances. By taking the Quran as guidance and criterion of right and wrong we can overcome the chaos and disorder and restore order and peace in the society.
4. He strives to acquire capabilities to achieve the above objectives.
5. This blue print of action insures the society functions according to God’s Decrees. And that is how God’s Supremacy is established.
6. Once God’s Supremacy is established, people will not fight over His abundant bounties. They will be shared justly and used rightly by all individuals of the society. [There will be no stealing and quarrelling over God’s bounties. Hoarding and profiteering will not be allowed. A few powerful will not take control of all the bounties leaving little or nothing for the weak.]
7. People who are busy carrying out Soam may face questioning, “Where is such benevolent system?” or “When/How such beneficent system will be implemented?”