I am thinking out loud and do not take what I write as my fixed beliefs; the usual cop out is to say Allah knows Best, He does but we can think as well.
I have no objection to a training programme that incorporates an abstinence from food etc during daylight in a month of Ramadan as long as it also has a programme of learning from the Quran as this was the month it STARTED to be revealed so we should understand it more at this time.
Abstaining from food and drink, life’s necessities, should strengthen one’s character, improve self-control, make us face challenges better.
I am also NOT opposed to any metaphorical interpretation if it makes sense.
I have no objection to anyone not doing the 'fast' as it is not a crime or involves human rights violations which is why the Quran says if we are unable to do it we can do some good for others, so it is not compulsory but it is better for you to do saum
2.183. O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint,-
2.184. (Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (Should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (With hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will,- it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.
Where are the number of days mentioned in the Quran that is ‘fixed’ if it is not for the fixed month of Ramadan?
2.185. Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur'an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful.
If saum means stop and refrain from doing whatever is causing such situation......and so on, then the above verse says do saum unless you are ill or on a journey, then make it up later. Someone who is ill or on a journey need not stop trying to refrain from wrong situations, and it does not make sense that they can stop and make up days later on.
It could be that we have to attend a centre for training, the mosque for example and if we cannot go then postponing this can be done.
Feeding the poor for not refraining from doing wrong or not attending the training makes no sense as this no way equals the training in Quranic values that should be undertaken.
The Quran was started to be sent down during the month of Ramadan or during a time of fiery heat of ignorance when man was without complete Revelation of Allah and He sent this to guide us to ‘cooler’ times.
2.186. When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way.
Listen to my call means follow the Quran so we have a direct link between soum and the Quran.
2.187. Permitted to you, on the night of the fasts, is the approach to your wives. They are your garments and ye are their garments. Allah knoweth what ye used to do secretly among yourselves; but He turned to you and forgave you; so now associate with them, and seek what Allah Hath ordained for you, and eat and drink, until the white thread of dawn appear to you distinct from its black thread; then complete your fast Till the night appears; but do not associate with your wives while ye are in retreat in the mosques. Those are Limits (set by) Allah. Approach not nigh thereto. Thus doth Allah make clear His Signs to men: that they may learn self-restraint.
2.188. And do not eat up your property among yourselves for vanities, nor use it as bait for the judges, with intent that ye may eat up wrongfully and knowingly a little of (other) people's property.
Eat in 2:188 is not consume food so can eat and drink in 2:187 may mean seek what Allah has ordained for us by metaphorically consuming the Quranic knowledge? Dawood need not respond to this, I know what he will say!
The literal and metaphorical meaning can be summarised like this: Nights of soum are linked to the fixed days so cannot be taken metaphorically, and Nisa means women but also low people so this may mean that whilst doing soum we can approach our wives at night or low people, but once daylight, twin threads of dawn, comes or when we are able to distinguish truth from falsehood, twin threads of truth and falsehood, we should not associate with wives or low people.
2.189. They ask thee concerning the New Moons. Say: They are but signs to mark fixed periods of time in (the affairs of) men, and for Pilgrimage. It is no virtue if ye enter your houses from the back: It is virtue if ye fear Allah. Enter houses through the proper doors: And fear Allah. That ye may prosper.
Here we have New Moons mentioned and this ties in nicely with the month of Ramadan which is based on the moon calendar. Why mention New Moons if this has nothing to do with a month and how it is calculated for the fixed days of the Moon cycle?
Again, I am presenting views I have heard and do not make complete sense to me, neither the traditional meaning which has some ambiguities I have not fully resolved.