As I was thinking about the below ayah (2:183), the phrase "as it was prescribed for those before you" jumped out at me. This is no ordinary phrase. I attempted to find a similar phrase elsewhere in the Qur'an but was unsuccessful.
Why is Saum so important that the Qur'an highlights that it is not only prescribed to you but to humans before you? Why not use this phrase for other concepts like justice, kindness, equity? Am I missing something here? ... It seems to me that the most important thing people of any generation, present and past, could do is to abstain from all types of actions, big or small, hidden or open, that lead to negative consequences to our self/family/community/society.
If our self/family/community/society is burning (or tasting the negative consequences) of our actions, isn't the most important thing to ABSTAIN from those actions? Shouldn't the focus of everyone be on that, instead of a diversion - a "collective exercise of Saum" - which has no direct and immediate connection to immediately stopping the negative consequences from visiting us?
Respectfully, self-control is not the key to an ideal society. Abstaining from wrongs is the key to an ideal society, which leads to Taqwa. If you want to practice avoiding behaviour X, you don't create a "collective exercise of Saum" for a month to practice avoiding behaviours Y and Z, which are inherently good for humans. Rather, you practice avoiding behaviour X every single day until it stops.
In other words, if I have a bad habit of eating too much sugar, then I don't practice avoiding the cracks in a sidewalk every time I walk outside for 30 days, hoping that such self control of not walking on the cracks in a sidewalk will somehow translate into me not eating too much sugar. See how ridiculous that sounds. I cannot practice pitching with the hope that I'll be good at batting. Instead, if I want to be good at batting, I must practice batting. If I want to reduce eating sugar, I must practice abstaining from sugar every day.
Similarly, if we want to create a better society, we must every day abstain from all actions that contribute to creating and maintaining a horrible self/family/community/society. It makes more sense to practice that, than to practice abstaining from something unrelated and irrelevant like food/drink for 30 days in the hopes that it builds self control, to then hope that it translates into practice abstaining from the actions that lead to a horrible self/family/community/society.
Further, 1 month out of 12 months does not give results in any aspect of life! Name anything you have succeeded in life where you gave 1/12 (8.3%) efforts?
Therefore, a concept that is so fundamental that the Qur'an uses the unique phrase "as it was prescribed for those before you" is Saum. It cannot mean a diversion of a collective exercise to build self control. Self control does not lead to Taqwa. Instead, abstaining from all types of wrongs immediately leads to Taqwa. Practice that every day.