Here is the translation by NJD (N.J. Dawood) for the verses 186 and 187 of the second Surah:
If My servants question you about Me, tell them that I am near, I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls to Me; therefore let them answer My call and put their trust in Me, that they may be rightly guided.
It is now lawful for you to lie with your wives on the night of the fast; they are a comfort to you as you are to them. God knew that you were deceiving yourselves. He has relented towards you and pardoned you. Therefore you may now lie with them and seek what God has ordained for you. Eat and drink until you can tell a white thread from a black one in the light of the coming dawn. Then resume the fast till nightfall and do not approach them, but stay at your prayers in the mosques.
These are the bounds set by God: do not approach them. Thus He makes known His revelations to mankind that they may guard themselves against evil.
What I understand from the above is that do not approach your wives while fasting but stay at your prayers in the mosques. You and the other translation refer to ‘aitikaf’ (which I believe is something like staying at the mosque during night saying your prayers). By the way what is meant by “… what God has ordained for you.”
As far as the text is concerned, you will most definitely see the words “wa antum `aakifuna fil masaajid” (Al-Baqarah 2: 187) in these words, the word “`aakifun” is given to mean the same as “Mu`takif” which in turn has been translated as: “secluded, isolated, withdrawn, solitary, recluse, remaining, staying, abiding” (Al-Mawrid, Arabic to English Dictionary, dar al ilm lilmalayeen)
Now, in the Qur’an , the word “`aakifun” is used as a term just like the word “Sala’h”. It means a “complete temporary seclusion for concentrated praying”.
I think that NJD’s translation over here is not a very accurate one. I would think that the word “`aakifun” (because it is a term) should not be translated at all. It could be something like this: “and do not approach them, when you are in `aitikaaf in mosques” and then this word could have been explained in a footnote.
“but stay at your prayers in the mosques” is not a good translation of “wa antum `aakifuna fil masaajid”. I really do not know what should be the correct English Translation for the words which are translated as: “… what God has ordained for you”. The meaning, as I see it, are the outcomes of sexual relations.
2nd November 1997