In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 187 (Part 2)
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “…and eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night),” This gives us the starting and ending time for fasting.
Here, the darkness of the night has been likened to the black thread and the light of the dawn to the white thread. It means that one should not continue eating after the light of dawn being apparent. The light of the dawn is the demarcation between eating and drinking and the intended fast.
When this ayah was revealed some people who intended to fast, tied black and white threads to their legs and went on eating till they differentiated between the two. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then revealed the words, “…of dawn…” and it became clear to the people that black and white meant the darkness of night and the light of day.
Imam Bukhari recorded that Ash-Sha’bi said that ‘Adi said, “I took two strings, one black and the other white and kept them under my pillow and went on looking at them throughout the night, but could not make any distinction between the two. So, the next morning I went to Allah’s Messenger and told him the whole story. The Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam replied,
إنَّ وِسَادَكَ إِذًا لَعَرِيضٌ، أَنْ كَانَ الْخَيْطُ الْأَبْيَضُ وَالْأَسْوَدُ تَحْتَ وِسَادَتِك
“Your pillow is very wide if the white and black threads are under it!” From this hadeeth, we learn that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was not harsh with his followers. He would smile and make decent jokes. If such an incident happens with us then we too should neither rebuke nor make fun of the other person.
Suhoor is Recommended
By permitting to eat and drink until dawn, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala encourages His slaves to eat before intending to fast. Many people due to missing their alarms or unable to wake up early miss their Suhoor and fast on an empty stomach. They then keep complaining the entire day though it was their own mistake.
Anas ibn Maalik radhiAllahu ‘anhu narrates from Rasoolullah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam,
تَسَحَّرُوا فَإِنَّ فِي السَّحُورِ بَرَكَة
“Eat the Suhoor, for there is a blessing in Suhoor.” Even if one drinks a glass of milk or water and eats a date, he should eat Suhoor.
In another hadeeth, it has been reported that the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
إنَّ فَصْلَ مَا بَيْنَ صِيَامِنَا وصِيَامِ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ أَكْلَةُ السَّحَر
“The distinction between our fast and the fast of the People of the Book is the meal of Suhoor.”
Imam Ahmad reported that Abu Sa’eed radhiAllahu ‘anhu narrated that Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:
السَّحُورُ أَكْلُهُ بَرَكَةٌ فَلَا تَدَعُوهُ، وَلَوْ أَنَّ أَحَدَكُمْ تَجْرَعُ جُرْعَةَ مَاءٍ، فَإِنَّ اللهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّون عَلَى الْمُتَسَحِّرِين
“Suhoor is a blessed meal. Hence, do not abandon it, even if one just takes a sip of water. Indeed, Allah and His angels send Salah (blessings) upon those who eat Suhoor.”
There are several other ahadeeth that encourage taking the Suhoor, even if it only consists of a sip of water.
It is preferred that Suhoor be delayed until the time of dawn. Many people eat their Suhoor before going to bed and then wake up at Fajr with empty stomach. We should remember that the food gets digested within a few hours. If we eat light meal for iftar and then wake up for Suhoor to have a proper meal, we will be more energized for the day.
In the two Saheehs it has been recorded that Anas ibn Maalik radhiAllahu ‘anhu narrated that Zayd bin Thabit radhiAllahu ‘anhu said, “We had Suhur with Allah’s Messenger (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and then went on to pray.” Anas asked, “How much time was there between the Athan [call to prayer] and Suhoor?” He said, “The time that 50 ayaat take (to recite).”
Imam Ahmad recorded Abu Dharr radhiAllahu ‘anhu saying that Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
لَا تَزَالُ أُمَّتِي بِخَيْرٍ مَا عَجَّلُوا الْإِفْطَارَ وَأَخَّرُوا السُّحُور
“My Ummah will always retain goodness as long as they hasten in breaking the fast and delay the Suhoor.”
There are several ahadeeth that narrate that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam called Suhoor: the blessed meal.
Q. Is it Haram to begin fasting while Junub [sexually impure]?
Issue: Among the benefits of allowing sexual activity, eating and drinking until dawn for those who are fasting, is that it is allowed to start the fast while Junub [in the state of sexual impurity], and there is no harm in this case if one takes a bath any time in the morning after waking up, and completes the fast. This is the opinion of the Four Imams and the majority of the scholars. Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded that ‘A’ishah and Umm Salamah radhiAllahu ‘anhum said that Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam used to wake up while Junub from sexual intercourse, not wet dreams, and he would take a bath and fast. Umm Salamah added that he would not break his fast or make up for that day.
Muslim recorded that `A’ishah said that a man asked, “O Messenger of Allah! The (Dawn) prayer time starts while I am Junub, should I fast?” Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam replied, “The prayer time starts while I am Junub and I fast.” The man said, “You are not like us, O Messenger of Allah! Allah has forgiven your previous and latter sins.” Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
وَاللهِ إِنَّي لَأَرْجُو أَنْ أَكُونَ أَخْشَاكُمْ للهِ وَأَعْلَمَكُمْ بِمَا أَتَّقِي
“By Allah! I hope that I have the most fear from Allah among you and the best knowledge of what Taqwa is.”
Q. Does Fasting End Exactly at Sunset?
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,
ثُمَّ أَتِمُّوا الصِّيَامَ إِلَى اللَّيْلِ
“then complete your fast till the nightfall,” this orders breaking the fast at sunset. It is recorded in the two Saheehs that ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab radhiAllahu ‘anhu said that Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
إِذَا أَقْبَلَ اللَّيْلُ مِنْ ههُنَا، وَأَدْبَرَ النَّهَارُ مِنْ ههُنَا فَقَدْ أَفْطَرَ الصَّائِم
“If the night comes from this direction (the east), and the day departs from that direction (the west), then the fasting person breaks his fast.”
It is reported that Sahl bin Sa’d As-Sa’eedi radhiAllahu ‘anhu narrated that Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
لَا يَزَالُ النَّاسُ بِخَيْرٍ مَا عَجَّلُوا الْفِطْر
“The people will retain goodness as long as they hasten in breaking the fast.”
Prohibition of Uninterrupted Fasting [Wisaal]
Several ahadeeth prohibit Al-Wisaal that is continuing the fast through the night to the next night without eating in between.
Imam Ahmad recorded Abu Huraira radhiAllahu ‘anhu said that Allah’s Messenger said,
“Do not practice Al-Wisaal (in fasting).” So, they said to him, “But you practice Al-Wisaal, O Allah’s Messenger!” The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam replied,
فَإِنِّي لَسْتُ مِثْلَكُمْ إِنِّي أَبِيتُ يُطْعِمُنِي رَبِّي وَيَسْقِينِي
“I am not like you, I am given food and drink during my sleep by my Lord.” So, when the people refused to stop Al-Wisaal, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam fasted two days and two nights (along with those who practiced Wisaal) and then they saw the crescent moon (of the month of Shawwal). The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said to them (angrily),
لَوْ تَأَخَّرَ الْهِلَالُ لَزِدْتُكُم
“If the crescent had not appeared, I would have made you fast for a longer period.” That was as a punishment for them (when they refused to stop practicing Al-Wisaal). This hadeeth is also recorded in the Saheehayn.