Our Beacon Forum

The Truth About Saum by Dr. Qamar Zaman (2)
Date: Wednesday, 18 November 2009, 8:52 pm

Now let us study verse 187, which too is related to Saum. God Almighty says:

187 أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ لَيْلَةَ الصِّيَامِ الرَّفَثُ إِلَىٰ نِسَائِكُمْ ۚ هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَّكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ لِبَاسٌ لَّهُنَّ ۗ عَلِمَ اللَّهُ أَنَّكُمْ كُنتُمْ تَخْتَانُونَ أَنفُسَكُمْ فَتَابَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَعَفَا عَنكُمْ ۖ فَالْآنَ بَاشِرُوهُنَّ وَابْتَغُوا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ ۚ وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ ۖ ثُمَّ أَتِمُّوا الصِّيَامَ إِلَى اللَّيْلِ ۚ وَلَا تُبَاشِرُوهُنَّ وَأَنتُمْ عَاكِفُونَ فِي الْمَسَاجِدِ ۗ تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ فَلَا تَقْرَبُوهَا ۗ كَذَ‌ٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ آيَاتِهِ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ

It is lawful for you to go to your wives at night during fasting. They are your garment and you are theirs. God was aware of your dishonesty. He showed kindness and forgave your transgression. Now sleep with your wives and seek whatever God has ordained for you as a result of intercourse. Eat and drink until the white thread appears distinct from the black thread. Then, complete the fasting until the night falls. But do not sleep with your wives when you are in retreat in Masjids. These are limits set by God. Do not approach them. Thus God makes clear His Message to people so that they become Mutaqi. (Traditional Translation)

Now let us see if the above translation is correct and it conveys the accurate message of the verse. Mufsarin explain that this verse allows men to enjoy intercourse with their wives at night during the fasting month. Women are your garment and you are theirs. People thought that they were not allowed to sleep with their wives at night during the fasting month. They thought they were committing transgression by sleeping with their wives at night. Now God granted them His approval and urged them to sleep with their wives. And whatever (child) is in the future as a result of the intercourse, they should look for it. Eat and drink until the ray of day break is distinct from the darkness of night. Then, complete the fasting until night falls. However, do not have any sexual contact with your wives while you are in retreat in the Masjids. These are limits set by God. Hence, do not ever approach them. Thus God makes His message clear so that they become Mutaqi.

Look and ponder. At the end of this verse once again it is repeated, “So that they become Mutaqi”. Does this type of fasting and intercourse with wives ever build Taqawa in men? What is the relationship between Taqawa and intercourse at night? Let us go further. Here are some questions that the traditional translation of this verse raises.

1. The verb or action in this verse is Rafas, which means bad mouthing or slandering. Our Mufsrin translate it intercourse. Why? Does not Arabic language have the word “Mubashart” for intercourse? Mufsrin or Ulma claim God is shy and could not say Mubashart (intercourse) directly. Hence, He said intercourse indirectly by using the word Rafas metaphorically. What a splendid explanation? But we got a problem here. How come God uses the word Mubashart in the very next statement in the same verse?

2. What does Annisa mean here? If God meant wives, He would have used the correct word Zujat (wives). Annisa not only means wives but mothers and sisters as well.

3. Instead of common noun Nisa the proper noun Annisa has been used. Who are these special women?

4. عَلِمَ اللَّهُ أَنَّكُمْ كُنتُمْ تَخْتَانُونَ أَنفُسَكُمْ فَتَابَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَعَفَا عَنكُمْ

God was aware of your transgression. Yet he showed mercy and forgave you.

God knew what they were doing was transgression or treachery. Yet, God allowed them to continue with their treachery. Why? An evil is always an evil no matter one committed it yesterday or toady or plans to do so tomorrow. Hence, treachery is always treachery. God is flawless. He would never sanction any evil or wrong act.

5. Assuming it was not a transgression in God’s eyes. Rather people felt that what they were doing could be a transgression. Hence, God showed mercy and forgave them. But we still have a problem here. Quran clearly attributes the knowledge of this transgression to God, not humans. Further, if we attribute the knowledge of wrong doing to humans, God could have negated their thought by saying, “This is what you think, but God did not forbid it.

6. فَالْآنَ بَاشِرُوهُنَّ وَابْتَغُوا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ

Henceforth, sleep with them and seek what has been ordained for you as a result of this action.

“Henceforth, sleep with them” indicates that people were not coupling before. Rather they got the command to do it now in order to compensate for their transgression. Now we need to find out what the transgression was and how intercourse ended it.

7. وَابْتَغُوا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ

And seek what has been ordained for you.

Mufsrin think God means the child conceived during the intercourse. But we have seen the meaning of “Kataba Alaikum” in the verse 183 where all Mufsrin translated it to mean “What God has decreed to you”. But in this verse they translate it to mean a child who is not even born yet. Mind you not every intercourse results in conception and the birth of a child.

8. وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا

Eat and drink.

Eating and drinking does not always mean eating food and drinking water. It also means seeking knowledge and applying it. Here we need to discuss a bit more about the Arabic word “Kuluwa”. When it is translated “eat”, then our attention is diverted to fasting, which prohibits eating and drinking. Now let us see how this word is used at other places in the Quran and what it really means there.

In verse 2:168 God Almighty says:

168 يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ كُلُوا مِمَّا فِي الْأَرْضِ حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا خُطُوَاتِ الشَّيْطَانِ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِينٌ

O dwellers of the earth! Eat the produce of the earth, which is Halal and clean and do not follow the footsteps of Satan, as he is your sworn enemy. (Traditional translation)

This verse conveys two commands.

First, eat Halal and clean or pure.

Second, do not follow the footsteps of Satan.

Obviously, if we take “Kuluwa” to mean eat, then whoever follows Satan’s footsteps will be eating Haram and unclean foods instead of Halal and clean. If God’s commands us to eat Halal and clean, Satan’s command will be opposite. But we see that Satan is not giving any commands related to eating or drinking. He is commanding us something else, which is not even remotely relate to eating. Now take a look at the next verse.

169 إِنَّمَا يَأْمُرُكُم بِالسُّوءِ وَالْفَحْشَاءِ وَأَن تَقُولُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

He only commands you to commit evil and shameful acts. And that you talk about Allah of something you do not have any knowledge.

Arabic word “Inma” means “only”. Hence, in the very beginning of the verse we are told that Satan gives us two commands and both are not related to eating. Instead they both deal with moral and ideological aspects of humans.

“Su” means vice and “Al-Su” is proper noun. Hence, whatever Quran considers a vice is called “Al-Su” in Arabic. This is the behavior Satan adopted against God’s command. In Surah Al-Baqara this behavior is termed “Abi wa Astakabar”. We can see two things in Satan’s behavior.

1. Disobedience (Al-Su)
2. Pride (Al-Fahash)

Both disobedience and pride are not things that we can eat or drink. Yet walking on the footsteps of Satan is interpreted to mean eating and drinking.

It would be worthwhile to study additional verses of Surah Al-Baqara. Then, it will be clear to us that “Kuluwa” means to acquire knowledge of God’s decrees and “Sharb” means to apply this knowledge to our daily lives.

9. حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ

Till the white thread of dawn distinguishes the black thread of night

Alfajar (the Dawn) is a proper noun. This is not a regular dawn that we see every morning at day break. Otherwise, the common noun “Fajar” (dawn) would have been used. Also, the verse does not say black thread will distinguish the white thread. Instead, it says white thread will distinguish the black thread. If it meant the morning rays would distinguish the white thread from the black thread, then “Al-Fajar” would be in subjective state. In that case we would see a “damma” (vowel U) on the “R” of “Al-Fajar” and white thread (Kheet Al-Abeez) would be in objective state. Also, the use of a proper noun for dawn (Al-Fajar) indicates that either it has been mentioned before or it might be a new term used in the Quran.

Similarly, proper nouns have been used for the Arabic words that mean white thread (day break) and black thread (darkness of night). The same is the case with night. The Arabic word “Al-Lil” (the Night) is a proper noun. Of course there is a reason for using the proper nouns instead of common nouns. We will discuss it later.

10. وَلَا تُبَاشِرُوهُنَّ وَأَنتُمْ عَاكِفُونَ فِي الْمَسَاجِدِ ۗ تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ فَلَا تَقْرَبُوهَا

And you must not have any sexual relations with them while you are in retreat in Masjids. These are limits set by God. Do not approach them.

Generally this command is thought to be related to the fasting of hunger and thirst. As a result religious folks retreat in the Masjids and consider it their greatest achievement. We are well aware of the above fact. But what does it mean by “Tilk Hadood Allah” (these are limits set by God) and Fala Taqarbuha (do not approach them)? We got a problem here if these “limits set by God” are related to fasting. There is only one command of fasting. Hence, it will be considered only one limit. Why God is talking about multiple limits?
Does the command “Do not even approach them” refer to the same one month of fasting? If so, what does it mean “do not approach the fasting”? If God meant the women, then Fala Taqarbuhan would have been appropriate.
Here we will repeat briefly all our concerns and questions about fasting, which is the traditional translation of the Quranic term Soam.

1. Fasting or Roza does not make people Mutaqi. The characteristics of Taqawa have been mentioned in verse 177 of Surah 2. A rozadar or fasting person does not ever display or build even one of those characteristics.

2. Whoever has the power to fast, can avoid fasting by feeding a helpless. And the helpless can avoid fasting by feeding on the food provided to him.

3. If you are alive during the month of Ramadan fast, otherwise do not. This is a ridiculous statement and does not befit God.

4. Fasting does not lessen human sufferings.

5. Fasting does not bring ease to the society.

6. Fasting does not establish supremacy of God.

7. Nobody ever asks a rozadar “where is your God?” and God responds, “I am nearby”.

8. Rozadar are commanded to bad mouth or slander their women.

9. God knew people were committing treachery. Yet he allowed them to continue with their practice.

10. Alfajar means a special dawn. What is it?

11. What are “the white thread” and “the black thread”?

12. What is this special night called “Al-Lil”?

13. Something permitted otherwise got forbidden in the Masjids. What was it and why forbid it?

Nobody pays attention to Verse 188 of Surah AL-Baqarah, which mentions the real purpose of Soam. God Almighty says:

188 وَلَا تَأْكُلُوا أَمْوَالَكُم بَيْنَكُم بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتُدْلُوا بِهَا إِلَى الْحُكَّامِ لِتَأْكُلُوا فَرِيقًا مِّنْ أَمْوَالِ النَّاسِ بِالْإِثْمِ وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

You must not devour each other’s property wrongly or use a portion of it to buy favor with authorities, so that you could keep your ill gotten wealth.

The truth is that Soam stops injustices in the society. It insures justice and peace for all citizens regardless of their status, creed, or color of skin. It safeguards human rights. Soam is not the fasting of hunger and thirst.


In general fasting, which involves only hunger and thirst as a result of avoiding food and drink, fails to produce any desired results of Soam, as mentioned in the Quran. Let us reexamine the same verses and try to understand them from within the Quran itself and see what picture of Soam emerges.


First of all the stated objective of Soam is that it produces Taqawa (righteousness). Fasting never achieves this objective. Contrary, we often find fasting folks to be hot tempered, quarrelsome, irritated, and disorganized. Please keep in mind the verse 177 of the same Surah (The Cow), which we discussed on pages 4 and 5. Let us repeat some qualities or characteristics of Taqawa here. People endowed with Taqawa use all their capabilities and resources to serve fellow human beings. To provide peace and security to humans is the most important aspect of Taqawa. One can never be called a Mutaqi if he does nothing to promote peace and security in the society. Further, insuring justice for all, spending wealth to relieve burdens of others, building and maintaining a welfare state, fulfilling promises, and standing firm against all hardships and trials are some of the characteristics of a Mutaqi. Nobody can achieve these characteristics with the fasting of hunger and thirst. We need to struggle physically to acquire these noble characteristics or qualities. This physical struggle is called Soam. In other words an individual performing Soam contributes the following.

1. Provides peace to others.
2. Keeps his wealth available for the benefit of others.
3. Strives to establish justice in the society.
4. Participates in building a welfare state where the needs of every citizen are taken care of.
5. It is his mission to bring prosperity to the whole nation.
6. Keeps and fulfills his promises.
7. Holds his ground in adverse circumstances.

(to be continued)