English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 2: Al-Baqarah — The Cow (Revealed at Madinah: 40 sections, 286 verses)

Section 23 (Verses 2:183–2:188): Fasting



یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا کُتِبَ عَلَیۡکُمُ الصِّیَامُ کَمَا کُتِبَ عَلَی الَّذِیۡنَ مِنۡ قَبۡلِکُمۡ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تَتَّقُوۡنَ ﴿۱۸۳﴾ۙ

2:183 O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil.1

اَیَّامًا مَّعۡدُوۡدٰتٍ ؕ فَمَنۡ کَانَ مِنۡکُمۡ مَّرِیۡضًا اَوۡ عَلٰی سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّۃٌ مِّنۡ اَیَّامٍ اُخَرَ ؕ وَ عَلَی الَّذِیۡنَ یُطِیۡقُوۡنَہٗ فِدۡیَۃٌ طَعَامُ مِسۡکِیۡنٍ ؕ فَمَنۡ تَطَوَّعَ خَیۡرًا فَہُوَ خَیۡرٌ لَّہٗ ؕ وَ اَنۡ تَصُوۡمُوۡا خَیۡرٌ لَّکُمۡ اِنۡ کُنۡتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُوۡنَ ﴿۱۸۴﴾

2:184 For a certain number of days. But whoever among you is sick or on a journey, (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days. And those who find it extremely hard may effect redemption by feeding a poor one.2 So whoever does good spontaneously, it is better for him; and that you fast is better for you if you know.

شَہۡرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِیۡۤ اُنۡزِلَ فِیۡہِ الۡقُرۡاٰنُ ہُدًی لِّلنَّاسِ وَ بَیِّنٰتٍ مِّنَ الۡہُدٰی وَ الۡفُرۡقَانِ ۚ فَمَنۡ شَہِدَ مِنۡکُمُ الشَّہۡرَ فَلۡیَصُمۡہُ ؕ وَ مَنۡ کَانَ مَرِیۡضًا اَوۡ عَلٰی سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّۃٌ مِّنۡ اَیَّامٍ اُخَرَ ؕ یُرِیۡدُ اللّٰہُ بِکُمُ الۡیُسۡرَ وَ لَا یُرِیۡدُ بِکُمُ الۡعُسۡرَ ۫ وَ لِتُکۡمِلُوا الۡعِدَّۃَ وَ لِتُکَبِّرُوا اللّٰہَ عَلٰی مَا ہَدٰىکُمۡ وَ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تَشۡکُرُوۡنَ ﴿۱۸۵﴾

2:185 The month of Ramadan3 is that in which the Quran was revealed,4 a guidance to people and clear proofs of the guidance and the Criterion.5 So whoever of you is present in the month, he shall fast in it, and whoever is sick or on a journey, (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days. Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire hardship for you, and (He desires) that you should complete the number and that you should exalt the greatness of Allah for having guided you and that you may give thanks.

وَ اِذَا سَاَلَکَ عِبَادِیۡ عَنِّیۡ فَاِنِّیۡ قَرِیۡبٌ ؕ اُجِیۡبُ دَعۡوَۃَ الدَّاعِ اِذَا دَعَانِ ۙ فَلۡیَسۡتَجِیۡبُوۡا لِیۡ وَ لۡیُؤۡمِنُوۡا بِیۡ لَعَلَّہُمۡ یَرۡشُدُوۡنَ ﴿۱۸۶﴾

2:186 And when My servants ask you concerning Me, surely I am near. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he calls on Me, so they should hear My call and believe in Me that they may walk in the right way.6

اُحِلَّ لَکُمۡ لَیۡلَۃَ الصِّیَامِ الرَّفَثُ اِلٰی نِسَآئِکُمۡ ؕ ہُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَّکُمۡ وَ اَنۡتُمۡ لِبَاسٌ لَّہُنَّ ؕ عَلِمَ اللّٰہُ اَنَّکُمۡ کُنۡتُمۡ تَخۡتَانُوۡنَ اَنۡفُسَکُمۡ فَتَابَ عَلَیۡکُمۡ وَ عَفَا عَنۡکُمۡ ۚ فَالۡـٰٔنَ بَاشِرُوۡہُنَّ وَ ابۡتَغُوۡا مَا کَتَبَ اللّٰہُ لَکُمۡ ۪ وَ کُلُوۡا وَ اشۡرَبُوۡا حَتّٰی یَتَبَیَّنَ لَکُمُ الۡخَیۡطُ الۡاَبۡیَضُ مِنَ الۡخَیۡطِ الۡاَسۡوَدِ مِنَ الۡفَجۡرِ۪ ثُمَّ اَتِمُّوا الصِّیَامَ اِلَی الَّیۡلِ ۚ وَ لَا تُبَاشِرُوۡہُنَّ وَ اَنۡتُمۡ عٰکِفُوۡنَ ۙ فِی الۡمَسٰجِدِ ؕ تِلۡکَ حُدُوۡدُ اللّٰہِ فَلَا تَقۡرَبُوۡہَا ؕ کَذٰلِکَ یُبَیِّنُ اللّٰہُ اٰیٰتِہٖ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّہُمۡ یَتَّقُوۡنَ ﴿۱۸۷﴾

2:187 It is made lawful for you to have intercourse with your wives on the night of the fast. They are an apparel for you and you are an apparel for them.7 Allah knows that you acted unjustly to yourselves, so He turned to you in mercy and removed (the burden) from you.8 So now be in contact with them and seek what Allah has ordained for you, and eat and drink until the whiteness of the day becomes distinct from the blackness of the night at dawn, then complete the fast till nightfall,9 and do not touch them while you keep to the mosques.10 These are the limits of Allah, so do not go near them. Thus does Allah make clear His messages for people that they may keep their duty.

وَ لَا تَاۡکُلُوۡۤا اَمۡوَالَکُمۡ بَیۡنَکُمۡ بِالۡبَاطِلِ وَ تُدۡلُوۡا بِہَاۤ اِلَی الۡحُکَّامِ لِتَاۡکُلُوۡا فَرِیۡقًا مِّنۡ اَمۡوَالِ النَّاسِ بِالۡاِثۡمِ وَ اَنۡتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُوۡنَ ﴿۱۸۸﴾٪

2:188 And do not swallow up your property among yourselves by false means, nor seek to gain access thereby to the judges, so that you may swallow up a part of the property of (other) people wrongfully while you know.11



  1. Fasting is a religious institution almost as universal as prayer, and in Islam it is one of the five fundamental practical ordinances. “Fasting has in all ages and among all nations been an exercise much in use in times of mourning, sorrow and affliction” (Cruden’s Bible Concordance). But Islam has introduced quite a new meaning into the institution of fasting. It becomes an institution for the improvement of the moral and spiritual condition of man. This is plainly stated in the concluding words: so that you may guard against evil. The object is that man may learn how he can shun evil, and hence fasting in Islam does not mean simply abstaining from food, but from every kind of evil. Abstention from food is only a step to make a person realize that if he can, in obedience to Divine injunctions, abstain from that which is otherwise lawful, how much more nece­ssary is it to abstain from the evil ways which are forbidden by God.
  2. The first two classes exempted are: (a) those who are sick and (b) those journeying. Both are required to fast afterwards when sickness or journey ends. What is sickness or journey every person can determine for himself. Some­one who needs a medicine or is unable to bear the hardship of hunger or thirst should not fast. In journeying again, whether one can easily fast or not is the determining factor. The third exception is in the case of those who find it extremely difficult to bear the hardship of fasting. Such people may effect a redemption by giving food daily to a poor person. This exception covers the case of pregnant women, women who are breast feeding infants, old people who cannot bear fasting; also such sick people whose sickness is prolonged and such people whose journey extends over the whole year.
  3. The revelation of the Quran commenced in the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Arabian year; hence, the month of Ramadan is particularly spoken of as being the month in which the Quran was revealed.
  4. Elsewhere we are told that it was revealed on the Lailat al-Qadr or the Night of Majesty (97:1), a well-known night in the month of Ramadan, being the 25th or 27th or 29th night of that month. By the revelation of the Quran in the month of Ramadan is therefore meant the commencement of its revelation. The month of Ramadan is thus a memorial of the revelation of the Quran.
  5. Firstly, the Quran is a “guidance” for all people, and therefore it contains teachings suitable and sufficient for all people in all countries and ages. Secondly, it contains “clear proofs” to demonstrate the truth of what it asserts. Thir­­dly, it contains arguments which afford a “criterion” (Arabic: furqān), separa­ting truth from falsehood.
  6. This verse speaks of the nearness of God to man and of the accept­ance of his prayers to show that fasting is a spiritual exercise and it brings about spiritual awakening in man. Fasting undoubtedly awakens a living consciousness of the existence of God in the mind. This is the idea underlying the words: “When My servants ask you concerning Me”. A real and earnest search for God is raised in the mind through fasting. “I am near” is the reply to that inner search. And then follow the words: “I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he calls on Me”. God is near, but that consciousness only raises the further desire to get nearer and nearer to Him. For that man calls on God; he prays to Him to draw him closer and closer to Himself. And he is told that God accepts this prayer.
  7. First, the sex instinct is classed with hunger and thirst. It is a natural desire and one could not live without satisfying it. And then in these words — your wives are an apparel for you and you are an apparel for them — we are told that while satisfying a natural desire, the relation of husband and wife has higher ends in view. They serve as a garment for each other, i.e., they are a means of protection, comfort and even embellishment for each other, and the weakness of one is made up by the strength of the other.
  8. Muslims at first thought that it was illegal to have intercourse with their wives even at night, on the days during which they kept fasts. These words made it clear that this was permitted during the nights of fasting as the satisfaction of hunger and thirst was permitted.
  9. In countries where the days are sometimes very long, the time of fasting may be measured in accordance with the length of an ordinary day, or where practi­cable postpone the fasts to shorter days of about normal length.
  10. Those people are meant who cut themselves off from all worldly connections during the last ten days of Ramadan, passing day and night in the mosques. This practice, known as I‘tikāf, is voluntary and not obligatory.
  11. The command to abstain from illegally taking other people’s pro­perty is a fitting sequel to the injunction relating to fasting, for by fasting a person abstains from using what he has a legal right to, simply in obedience to Divine commandments. Fasting, in fact, enables one to control his passions, and the more the passions are mastered, the less the greed for illegal acquisition.