Assalamu alykum brother, Ramadan Kareem. Brother, could you be kind enough to give me a simple explanation of the part (AND FOR THOSE WHO ARE ABLE TO FAST, a redemption by feeding a poor man) of the verse Quran 2:184. Which group of people Allah mentioned in that part?
AJ Arberry transliteration: 2:184
for days numbered; and if any of you be sick, or if he be on a journey, then a number of other days; and for those who are able to fast, a redemption by feeding a poor man. Yet better it is for him who volunteers good, and that you should fast is better for you, if you but know.
Thank you for writing to us. Ramadan Kareem.
Ustaz Ghamidi has translated the Aayah as follows:
"These are but a few days, but if any one among you is ill or on a journey, let him fast a similar number of days later; and those who have the capacity [to feed a needy] should feed a needy in place of every fast. Then he who does a virtuous deed out of his own desire, it is better for him and if you fast, then this is even better for you if you but knew." (184)
Explaining the phrase 'وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ Ustaz Ghamidi writes:
"The Qur'anic words used are: 'وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ'. Although the antecedent of the accusative pronoun 'هُ' in 'يُطِيقُونَه' comes later, it is in fact found in earlier in one's intention just as we say: 'If you have the strength for this then you should embark on the journey'." (Al-Bayaan; Vol 1)
Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi, in his commentary has delved on the issue as follows:
"Usually these words are taken to mean that when the fasting was first prescribed, the Arabs were not used to such ardous form of worship and were therefore given the following option: if a person, though able to fast, did not want to, he could instead feed one needy person for each day of the fasting period. Later on, it is said, this concession was withdrawn. This interpretation, however, does not appear sound or correct at all.
Firstly, what kind of an obligation is it it that is accompanied by a clear permission not to fast, and instead to feed one needy person for each day of fasting? If this was the nature of the initial commandment about fasting, then the words kutiba alaykumuss siyaamu (fasting is prescribed for you) appear to be superfluous, because in such a case its obligatory nature is rendered ineffective.
Secondly, it would be strange that where as both the sick and the travellers are obliged to make up their missed fasts on other days (as is clear from the words " if any one among you is ill or on a journey, let him fast a similar number of days later") others at the same time should enjoy the freedom to fast or not to fast, despite being able to do so. A perfectly healthy person living at home could, if he were so inclined, feed one needy person a day instead of fasting. In an effort to avoid this problem, some people have taken the word "yutiqoona hu" to mean "those who hardly have the power". This raises an even bigger question: is this linguistically the genuine meaning of "yutiqoona" or is it only a presumed meaning assigned to it arbitrarily? In our view, this word does not carry any such significance.
Some reckless commentators claim that when a person says " he has the ability to do something", he actually means "he has the ability to do it with difficulty". Even if we suppose that the word does carry a sense of hardship or difficulty along with having the ability, the question is whether such ability renders a person responsible for carrying out his religious duties or absolves him of all his religious obligations prescribed by the Shariah? As far as the Islamic Shariah is concerned, everyone knows that possession of such a power makes a person accountable for its use rather than freeing him of his obligations, irrespective of whether he can do it with ease or with difficulty.
As to the question, what then is the correct meaning of yutiqoona-hu, we submit that the difficulty does not liein the verb "yutiqoona" which is used in its commonly understood sense of "those who have the power or the ability." The difficulty rather lies in determining what is the refferent- marja'- of the suffixed pronoun "hu" in "yutiqoona-hu". What does this pronoun refer to? Usually, people take it to refer to "Sawm" (fasting)- and this is the root cause of all the difficulties and inconsistencies mentioned above. In fact, the pronoun "hu" refers to "ta'am" (food) and not the "Sawn" (fasting) that is mentioned later on. Some earlier authorities have also interpreted it similarly and if I remember correctly, Shah Waliullah, may Allah bless him, has also given a similar explanation. In our view, this is a quite obvious and convincing interpretation. Some may, however, think that as the word "ta'am" is not mentioned before in the statement, using a pronoun for it would be a case of a pronoun preceding its referent- a linguistic flaw of which a book like the Qur'an should definitely be free.
Undoubtedly the use of a pronoun before its referent- the object it refers to- is a flaw of speech, but this is so when the object is not foremost in the intention of the speaker. Such a usage, however, is not a flaw- its mention is mererly delayed in order to avoid unnecessary repetition or to meet any other demand of linguistic eloquence. In all case such usage is not a flaw but rather adds beauty and excellence to speech. Many a fine example of such usage is found in Arabic literature. We believe that the pronoun termed "dameer ash-sha'n" where a speaker uses only a pronoun for an object that remains only in his thoughts falls into a similar category.
The full sentence culd thus have read "wa 'ala-lladhina yutiqoona ta'aama miskeenin fidayatun ta'aamu miskin" (and those who have the capacity to feed a needy person, for them the ransomis the feeding of a needy person). This is obviously heavy and cumbersome, so in the interests of eloquence, the flow and brevity, the words "ta'aama miskeen" (feeding a needy person)- at one place are omitted, while at the second place where an explicit reference to them was necessary, they are replaced with the pronoun "hu" in order to avoid unnecessary repetition.
If we accept this interpretation of the Aayah, then there is no question of an option of paying a ransom by feeding the needy for those unwilling to fast. In this light, the piture that emerges from the words of the Qur'an is that those who, because of travelling or sickness could not complete the required number of fasts during the month of Ramadan, only they were given permission either to make up their missed days by fasting in other days or pay 'ransom' by feeding one needy person for every missed day of fasting. Later on, as the next Aayah shows, this permission was cancelled, which meant that now the only way to compensate for one's missed fasts is to fast for an equivalent number of days." (Tadaburr-i-Quran, Vol 1)
Hope this helps.