TYPES OF FASTING IN THE QURAN
Food Fasting (Sawm ut Taam) 2:187
Word Fasting (Sawm ul Kalam) 19:26
Usually “Fasting” means Food Fasting in the Quran.
FASTING AND SHAHR RAMADAN
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).
2:184 (Fasting is) for a few number of days; and if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (Should be made up) from days later, and for those (who miss the fast for illness or travel) who are able to do it, is a ransom of feeding 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 you fast, if you only knew.
2:185 The Full Moon (Shahr) of Scorching heat (Ramadan) is when the reading was descended as a guidance for people and clarifications from the guidance and the criterion, so whomever witnesses FULL MOON, then he shall Fast. And whomever was sick or traveling, (let him fast the same) number of other days. Allah wants to facilitate and not make it hard on you. And so complete the number and magnify Allah for what He guided you and perhaps you would be thankful.
Now 2:185 contains the complete information that we need to know when to start the fasting.
DOES THE WORD SHAHR MEAN A MONTH OR FULL MOON?
The word ‘Shahr’ can be used for both month and full moon. One would have to look at the context in which it is used to determine the exact meaning.
Shiin-ha-Ra = make it notable/known/manifest/public/infamous (in a bad or good sense), hire/contract for a month, stay a month, month old, MONTH, new moon, moon, FULL MOON, any evil thing that exposes its author to disgrace, a vice/fault or the like, big & bulky, reputable/eminent.
RELATION BETWEEN ‘SHAHIDA’ AND ‘SHAHR’
The word ‘Shahida’ is used to denote an action taking place in relation to the ‘Shahr’. When this verb is used with a recipient following, then the only logical interpretation is that the shahr is something that can physically seen through the senses, such as the eyes. We cannot see time, so this eliminates the meaning of shahr as being a month in this context. The more logical interpretation is that it is referring to the full moon.
Shiin-ha-Dal = told/gave information, to WITNESS/SEE, to be present, give evidence/testimony, bear witness. mushhad – time or place of being present or of giving or hearing evidence, meeting place. mashhuud – that which is witnessed.
We can also eliminate the other meanings of ‘shahida’ which mean to be present, because there is no location specified where one must be present in order to be required to fast during the ‘shahr’. Therefore, the most logical meaning of ‘fa man shahida min-kum ash-shahr fal-yasum-hu’ is: “whoever among you who witnesses the full moon should fast during it.”
This does not mean that the word ‘shahr’ means full moon in every other context of the Qur’an. One also cannot assume that the word ‘shahr’ means month in every context of the Qur’an simply because it is used that way most of the time. One must examine each context and interpret it based on the context in which it is being used.
One may say that the word Shahr may also just mean ‘moon’ since that is also one of the definitions listed. Therefore, it could be used to denote the sighting of the sliver/crescent (hilal) also. The problem with this understanding though is that in other places, Allah specifically mentions the crescent as the New Moon of the month using the word ‘Hilal’:
Q2:189 They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the new moons (ahillah). Say, ” They are for timings for the people and for Hajj.” And it is not righteousness to enter houses from the back, but righteousness is [in] one who fears Allah. And enter houses from their doors. And fear Allah that you may succeed.
If Allah intended to say that the Muslims should sight the New Moon/Crescent and then begin to fast, he could have done so by instructing the Muslims to sight the Hilal. The verse mentioning the ‘Hilal’ is only four verses away from the verse mentioning the Shahr, so the choice of wording cannot be overlooked
Shahida means to witness something, namely through the senses, such as the eyes, ears, etc. The word ‘hilal’ is a used to denote the crescent moon stage of the moon during the monthly cycle. If Allah wanted the Muslims to begin their fast when the month arrives, he could have said “fast when you sight the hilal (crescent). However, he does not say this. Instead, he says that whoever among you witnesses the Shahr, he should fast. He used the word Shahr instead of Hilal.
Now, if the word ‘Shahr’ means month in this context, then it should be noted that this is not something that one can witness. It does not make sense to say that one should witness a month and then fast once it has been witnessed. If it means a specific phase of the moon, then what stage is it referring to? It cannot possibly be referring to the crescent, because a few verses later the word used to denote the crescent is ‘Hilal’. So there is a distinction made between the ‘Hilal’ phase and the ‘Shahr’ phase. He chose to say ‘Shahr’ instead. The word ‘Shahr’ is also used to refer to a full moon.
The idea of using the full moon as the starting indicator also makes more sense because:
1). It is much easier to see a full moon than it is to see a crescent.
2). It is known that the full moon falls on the 15th day of the month in a lunar cycle.
3). One can determine the starting point days in advance.
4). The crescent moon does not become visible to the human eye until 2-3 days into the month.
And this is why the Muslims disagree on the exact start date of the ‘fast of Ramadhan’ every single year.
Notice that the Qur’an refers to the fasting time as a certain number of days in verse 2:184. Do “a certain number of days” mean an entire month, or does it mean a certain number of days out of a month? If the fast began with the sighting of the full moon, then this would definitely mean a certain number of days out of a month and not an entire month.
You may ask how many days to fast. Well, if we understand Shahr to mean full moon then it would indicate that starting point of the fast would begin with the full moon and end with the hilal (crescent)
Allah did not tell us this. Astronomy tells us that, The time it takes for a new moon to become visible on earth is 2-3 days.
Counting is between 10-15 days. We will only know by looking ourselves.
Here are the facts. The Quran makes a distinction between the Shahr and the Hilal. The beginning of a new month is known by the Hilal. The Quran says to begin fasting when you sight the Shahr, not the Hilal. That means, when you sight the full moon, which is visible to all, then fast.
WHEN DOES SCORCHING HEAT BEGIN TO TAKE PLACE?
The time of scorching heat starts after the summer solstice. This is the time when the sun is at its highest point and hence the shadow is smallest. Verse 25:45 talks about the indicative relationship between the sun and the shadow.
25:45 Did you not see to your Lord how He casts the shadow? And if He wished, He could have made it still, then We would have made the sun as a guide to it.
It is after the summer solstice that the weather starts to become hot.
Interestingly, the full-moon around the summer solstice is special because it follows a lower path across the sky compared to the rest of the year’s full moons and for some reason our brains are wired to perceive such full-moons as larger than normal. In fact, not only will the full-moon seem bigger than normal, but the low-hanging full moon takes on an orange hue as a result of scattered moonlight in Earth’s dusty atmosphere.
Hence, the full-moon after the summer solstice is easier to witness. Moreover, because this orange moon appears while the days are longest, at the time of its appearance it is still daylight and it is still hot outside. All these signs are certainly not coincidental.
WHY 10 DAYS OF FASTING?
2:189. They ask you regarding the crescent moons, Say: “They are timings for the people as well as for the Hajj.” And piety is not that you would enter a home from its back, but piety is whomever is righteous and come to the homes from their main doors. And be aware of the Allah that you may succeed.
According to the corrected translation, crescent moons in general (both the thinning crescent and the widening crescent) can serve as timing devices.
Another verse that talks about timing/”myqat” is 7:142 where Mosa is described as completing the “myqat”/timing. So “myqat”/”mawaqit” can signify timing/timings for completion of something.
7:142. And We appointed for Mosa thirty nights, and We completed with ten: thus was completed the timing of his Lord, forty nights…
We also hear about 10 nights in 89:2-3.
89:2 And ten nights.
89:3 And the even and the odd.
Interestingly, 10 nights is exactly how long it takes for the full-moon to reach the crescent stage.
Note the relationship between the 10 extra nights in 7:142 and the 10 days of “Hajj” in 2:196. We hear about 10 days in 2:196, three during the “Hajj” and seven when those whose family was not in the institution of hearing and obeying the restriction/”al-masjid al-haram” return. As for those whose family is in the institution of hearing and obeying the restriction, they would stay the whole 10 days. This makes sense because those whose family are not oriented to the truth from our Lord, should go back earlier to teach them based on what they heard.
Hence, putting 2:189, 7:142, and 2:196 together, we can see that the “ahila(t)”/crescents provide timing for the completion of the “Hajj” not its beginning.
We also know from 2:189 that we should come into houses from the obvious front doors and not from the obscure backs. This hints to us that the “Hajj” starts with the obvious full moon and that the unobvious crescent is what ends the “Hajj”. This way it lasts for 10 total days, which is the exact period from full-moon to crescent:
<full moon><—10 days–><– thinning crescent 4-5 days–><– widening crescent 4-5 days–><—10 days–><full moon>
This is how the crescents provide timing for the “hajj”. Moreover, the “hajj” is a known counted days at the restriction “ash-hur”/full moons.
They are the 10 days between the full moon and the crescent moon. The first full-moon of the restricted full-moons (the full moon of scorching heat/”ramadhan”) is for fasting while the remaining three full moons are for the Hajj. This gives people three opportunities per year to meet up for the “Hajj”.
Verse 2:184 talks about fasting for a few/”madoodat” days and 2:185 talks about completing the count/”al-ida(t)”. The word “madoodat” typically means “few” and indicates a number from 3-10 as the term is used for numbers which can be simply counted even by the fingers of the hands. As we saw already, 2:196 indicates that the full time of “hajj” is 10 days for those whose family are in the institution of hearing and obeying the restriction and three days for those whose family is not (could be shortened to two according to 2:203). Notice that the complete count is said to be a “complete 10” in 2:196. Also, 7:142 talks about completing the thirty nights with 10 to make it 40 nights. Similarly, 28:27 talks about completing the count by reaching 10.
Thus, in 2:185 the complete count is 10 days, which again is the exact period from full-moon to crescent. Hence, the crescent once again serves as a timing device, in this case to time the Fasting.
FASTING BEGINS WHEN THE TWILIGHT LIGHT IS DISTINCT FROM THE DARKNESS AT DAWN (When the stars begins to disappear in the sky)
FASTING ENDS WITH THE NIGHT (When the stars begins to appear in the sky)
2:187 It has been made lawful for you during the night of fasting to approach your women sexually. They are a garment for you and you are a garment for them. God knows that you used to betray your souls so He has accepted your repentance, and forgiven you; now you may approach them and seek what God has written for you. AND YOU MAY EAT AND DRINK UNTIL THE WHITE THREAD IS DISTINCT FROM THE BLACK THREAD OF DAWN; THEN YOU SHALL COMPLETE THE FAST UNTIL NIGHT; and do not approach them (Your wives) while you are devoted in the temples. These are the boundaries of God, so do not transgress them. It is thus that God clarifies His revelations to the people who they may be righteous.
THE RESTRICTED FULL-MOONS
This would be a good time to find out how the restricted full-moons fit in all this.
First, let’s see the traditional view. The reason for the so-called Islamic calendar is always given as verse 9:37:
9:37. But the “nasi’a” is an increase in rejection, whereby those who have rejected are misguide with it. They make it permitted one year, and they restrict it one year, to circumvent the count that The Allah has made restricted; thus they make lawful what The Allah made restricted! Their evil works have been adorned for them, and The Allah does not guide the rejecting people.
The whole lunar calendar was adopted to avoid the “nasi’a”. Interestingly, despite this there is no consensus about what the word “nasi’a” means. Some people claim that it is the addition of an intercalary month. Others claim that it is the haphazard assignment of the restricted “ash-hur” at the beginning of each year. All the classical Arabic dictionaries say that “nasi’a” means “delay” and that the Arabs used to delay the start of the restricted “ash-hur” by making the month of Safar restricted instead of Mu7aram. Given the etymology of the word that points to “delay” then most probably the dictionaries are the most correct and their meaning has nothing to do with changing the calendar to lunar, since the arbitrary assignment of a restricted “shahr” can be delayed in a lunar calendar just as easily as in a solar one.
Another verse that is used to justify a fully lunar calendar is 9:36. Here is a translation of 9:36 that is based on our findings:
9:36. The count of the full-moons with The Allah is twelve full-moons in The Allah’s book the day He created the heavens and the earth; four of them are restricted. This is the correct obligation; so do not wrong yourselves in them; and fight those who set-up partners collectively as they fight you collectively and know that The Allah is with the forethoughtful.
The Georgian solar calendar has some arbitrary periods with 31 days and others with 30 and 28/29 days to make them 12. The so-called Islamic calendar actually has 12.3 months every year and not 12. Now, people will say that in some years the number of full-moons is actually 13. However, we are not concerned about the number (“adad”) of full-moons in a year. We are concerned about the count (“idat”) of full-moons in a year.
To illustrate the difference between “adad” and “idat”, let me use an example. In so-called Islamic countries the laws for divorce state that there is a 3 months waiting period before a divorce becomes final. Hence, a couple who divorced on September 7th would have their divorced finalized on December 7th, if using the Georgian calendar. Or applying the same principle in the so-called Islamic calendar, a couple who divorces on the 12th of Mu7aram would have their divorce finalized on the 12th of Rabi3 Al-Thani. Hence, the number of months is 3 and the waiting period in both cases is approximately 90 days. As we will see, this is different than the count “idat”.
Verse 2:228 provides interesting clues into how the count is different than the absolute number. It shows us how waiting periods and “shahr” are measured.
It can be seen from 2:226-228 that in case the couple decides to divorce after the initial 4 “ash-hur” waiting period in 2:226, then 2:228 prescribes an additional waiting period of 3 menstruations.
What is interesting here is that assuming that the average is 28 days for a menstrual cycle and it lasts for a week, counting 3 menstruations could be between 56+7=61 days (if the lady happens to have her menstruation right after the divorce) and 82 days (if the lady happens to finish her menstruation right before the divorce). This is certainly different than the 90 days we found earlier by waiting for 3 months.
In 2:226, assuming a cycle of full moon to full moon is 30 days, then waiting for 4 “full moons” could range from 90 days (if a full moon occurs right after the couple is estranged) to 119 days (if a full moon occurred right before the couple is estranged). This is again different than the 120 days of the absolute 4 months.
Another interesting observation is that 2:234 talks about 4 “ash-hur” plus 10 (days?/nights?) for the woman whose husband died. What are the 10 days/nights after the full moon? As we saw earlier, it is the time it takes for the full-moon to reach the crescent stage again. So here we have the crescent used as a timing device for the purpose of counting the waiting period.
There is a sign in this that can help us to correctly understand 9:36. If The Allah was telling us about the number (i.e., an absolute number), then given that a few billion years passed since He created the moon and the earth, the absolute number of full-moons would not be twelve but would be in the billions. Hence, what is meant here is not an absolute number but how to count the full moons in a year. What The Allah is telling us is that we should always count 12 full moons in a year, out of which, we should count four as restricted. We start with the marker given to us. So in a solar year starting from the summer solstice, the first full-moon to count would be the one after the summer solstice and that is the full-moon of “ramadhan”/scorching heat. So what happens in the occasional years where we have 13 full-moons from one summer solstice to the next? The answer is that we simply do not count the 13th moon. This would automatically readjust the count and the full-moon of “ramadhan” would always be the first moon after the summer solstice. It is a very clear and surprisingly simple mechanism. All it requires is that we put our faith in The Allah and count only 12 full-moons in a year despite that we occasionally see 13. Only in this system from the great reading do we count EXACTLY 12 full moons EVERY SINGLE year and it is in-sync with the seasons.
So now that we have this puzzle finally solved, let’s turn our attention back to the restricted full-moons. We already determined that the first full-moon after the summer solstice (the full-moon of “ramadhan”) is the first restricted full-moon. Hence, counting four full-moons beginning with the first full-moon after the summer solstice would give us the restricted four full-moons and as usual, the crescent times the end of the period (a period of about 90+10 ≈ 100 days). The solstice happens towards the later part of June (June 22 or so). The full-moon of scorching heat would be 0-30 days after that. Thus, the start of the restricted full-moons would be on average around the beginning of the second week of July and would end around the third week in October (this is average but it could be sooner or as late as end of October depending on when the full-moon occurred after the summer solstice). So the restriction full-moons cover the time from about mid summer to mid fall.
The timing of the restriction is significant, especially given that the restriction is on hunting wild-life. Interestingly, the restriction doesn’t cover domesticated livestock animals (see 5:1). Why is that? The answer may be because summer is the time when most wild animals and even wild birds give birth. By killing a wild female animal, you are not only killing it but you would also be inadvertently killing all its new-born off-spring who cannot feed and fend for themselves. Also, finding the new-born animals gives the hunter an unfair advantage because the mother is sometimes reluctant to leave them or the hunter can just wait close by until the mother comes back for them and easily bring her down. On the other hand, when a mother of a domesticated livestock animal is killed, her new-born can be easily cared for by people and they will survive fine. Of course, our analysis indicates that the restriction period would be different between the southern and the northern hemisphere. This is fine. There is nothing in the great reading that indicates that they should be the same for people all over the world. We should orient our direction to the truth from our Lord wherever we are, whether in the Southern or Northern hemisphere (see 2:149).
The timing of the restriction is also significant in light of Chapter 106, which totally negates that the present so-called Islamic calendar can be used to determine the period of restriction. The 5 and 6 season systems that the Arabs used divided what we know today as “summer” into “sayf” (Around April 22 – June 22) and “qayth” (Around June 22 – August 22). Hence, “ramadhan” occured in “qayth” not “sayf”. In a purely lunar calendar, the alleged restricted months change and would eventually fall in “shitaa” or in “sayf”. However, because according to Chapter 106 Quraysh traveled during those times, those cannot be the times of the restricted full-moons of “Hajj”/Pilgrimage. Given that “Hajj” is a gathering like the annual fair where people gather their products to sell, it makes perfect sense that Quraysh would travel in “sayf” before the start of the restricted full-moons in “qayth” to buy goods to sell at the “Hajj”/Pilgrimage. After the end of the restricted full-moons, it would also make sense that they use the money they earned during trading and travel to buy goods.
In conclusion, we can see that The Allah gave us a clear marker for the restriction month. This clear marker is independent from any man-made calendar system and instead relies on easily witnessed cosmic phenomena. The orange full-moon after the summer solstice that appears clearer and larger to the observer and is directly in the line of sight can be witnessed by almost everybody so that even primitive societies with no means to calculate the moon cycles ahead of time can witness it. 2:185 doesn’t say “whoever was told by someone, who was told by a Mullah about “al-shahr””, it says “whoever witnessed “al-shahr””. This is the simplest and most straightforward method that would generate the least discrepancies no matter how primitive or advanced a society is and no matter what man-made calendar system they use. Moreover, this marker is unaffected by the arbitrary decisions of people who came before us and we don’t have to implicitly blindly accept those decisions. Hence, those who have faith can always now and in the future make a fresh start and reset the system to the true marker. So clearly this is a robust timing solution that is not affected by any errors propagated from those who came before us.