Fasting Ramadan is an Obligation

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. Peace and blessing be upon whom Allah sent as a mercy to the Worlds, upon his Family, his Companions and his Brothers till the Day of Resurrection.

A brief explanation of verses 183-185 in Surah al-Baqarah – taken from Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen’s explanation of Riyaadh as-Saliheen, Vol. 5/ Pge 259

In Surah al-Baqarah, verses number 183 to 185, Allah says:

(183) O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous –

(184) [Fasting for] a limited number of days. So whoever among you is ill or on a journey [during them] – then an equal number of days [are to be made up]. And upon those who are able [to fast, but with hardship] – a ransom [as substitute] of feeding a poor person [each day]. And whoever volunteers excess – it is better for him. But to fast is best for you, if you only knew.

(185) The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be

Some benefits from the verse:

O you who have believed:
Fasting is connected to Emaan. Allah addresses those with Emaan, because fasting increases Emaan and is from its perfection. Not fasting in the month of Ramadan is a cause of a person’s Emaan decreasing.

As it was decreed upon those before you:
Fasting is mentioned as being an obligation on those before. This was not mentioned regarding prayer, even though it was also an obligation. This is because fasting is difficult and includes refraining from things loved from food and drink. This is especially the case during the summer when the days are long and the weather is hot. So Allah mentioned it was obligation on those before us, because when a person knows that he is not the only one doing the action, he finds it easier to do.

That you may become righteous:
Fasting is a shield. It is a protection from sins and a protection from the Fire. Whoever fasts Ramadan with true faith and hoping for reward from Allah will have his sins forgiven. The wisdom behind fasting is Taqwa.

[Fasting for] a limited number of days:
Fasting is mentioned with a limited number of days to illustrate it is not long. It is not for a number of months, or a number of years, but it is days. This makes it easier for the person, when he knows that it is only days.

Whoever among you is ill or on a journey [during them] – then an equal number of days [are to be made up]:
This again makes it easy on the person who is fasting. Here, in addition to the previous verse illustrating that fasting is a limited number of days, it is also mentioned that if you are ill or a traveller you can break your fast and make up the days later, again facilitating ease for the fasting person.

And upon those who are able [to fast, but with hardship] – a ransom [as substitute] of feeding a poor person [each day]:
When fasting was first made an obligation, people had the choice to fast or to feed a poor person. However, afterwards fasting became an obligation and the ruling of this verse became abrogated.

Whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days:
The scholars divide illness relating to fasting into three categories:

  1. incurable illness. Here the Ruling is not to fast and to feed a poor person for every day, as he is like the aged person who cannot fast
  2. illness made worse by fasting such that person fears that he will harm himself by fasting. Here the Ruling is it is Haraam to fast
  3. illness that makes fasting hard, but no harm from fasting. Ruling here is it is better to break fast and make up days afterwards

The scholars divide a journey relating to fasting into three categories also:

  1. journey that fasting becomes harmful, and is extremely difficult, like travelling in the summer or the long days. Ruling: person is sinful if he fasts
  2. journey that makes fasting difficult, but possible. Ruling: it is disliked to fast for this person
  3. journey that has no impact on the fast of the person, either because the day is short or the weather is cool. In this case the ruling is it is better to fast. The reason is that is easier on the person, as fasting with the people is easier than fasting alone. It is more in line with following the sunnah of the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and it coincides with the time that fasting is of greater reward, which is the blessed month of Ramadan.