شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ ٱلْقُرْءَانُ هُدًۭى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَـٰتٍۢ مِّنَ ٱلْهُدَىٰ وَٱلْفُرْقَانِ ۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ ٱلشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ ۖ وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍۢ فَعِدَّةٌۭ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ ۗ يُرِيدُ ٱللَّهُ بِكُمُ ٱلْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ ٱلْعُسْرَ وَلِتُكْمِلُوا۟ ٱلْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَىٰكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ ١٨٥
Ramaḍân is the month in which the Quran was revealed as a guide for humanity with clear proofs of guidance and the standard ˹to distinguish between right and wrong˺. So whoever is present this month, let them fast. But whoever is ill or on a journey, then ˹let them fast˺ an equal number of days ˹after Ramaḍân˺. Allah intends ease for you, not hardship, so that you may complete the prescribed period and proclaim the greatness of Allah for guiding you, and perhaps you will be grateful.
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“Allah intends ease for you, not hardship”. It’s an intriguing phrase, even more so within the context of fasting. Ask any non-Muslim and the idea of abstaining from food and drink seems anything but ease, especially in the hot summer months! So why, of all the commands Allah ﷻ gave us, did He make this point here?
As human beings, obeying Allah’s ﷻ commands and abstaining from His prohibitions is challenging. The Prophet ﷺ described:
حُفَّتِ الْجَنَّةُ بِالْمَكَارِهِ وَحُفَّتِ النَّارُ بِالشَّهَوَاتِ
Paradise is surrounded by hardships and Hell-Fire is surrounded by temptations.
Few things are more desirable to us than food and intimacy. Industries are built on marketing these two desires, knowing they have the power to pull in customers. Ramadan is a month which requires us to withhold from these desire, even the permissible ones, in devotion to our Lord ﷻ who commands it. On the face of it, Muslims should despise this experience; yet, almost universally, Ramadan is loved dearly by Muslims the world over! Abstaining from food, drink and intimacy should make us sadder, yet somehow it doesn’t! Add to that the extra charity, prayers and good deeds people do in this month which they normally struggle with, and the effort it takes to guard one’s tongue, avoid indecency and withhold from temptations, it seems strange to an outsider why Muslims would love this month so much!
Yet love it they do! Muslims the world over rejoice at the entry of this blessed month, feeling genuine joy as the struggle begins. Marketers have even caught on to it, creating annual Ramadan campaigns to capitalise on the good will people feel this month! One proof I often give is the contrast between the two Eid celebrations for Muslims. Eid-ul-Fitr, the celebration after Ramadan, is known as the smaller Eid, lasting only 1 day compared to the 4 of Eid-ul-Adha. Yet, from my experience at least, I am yet to meet a Muslim who does not celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr with more joy and enthusiasm! The meal tastes finer, the gifts more expensive and the celebrations more joyful. The difference between them? Eid-ul-fitr follows after a month of worship that Allah ﷻ obliged.
When Allah ﷻ states within the verse obliging fasting the He “intends ease for you, not hardship”, He does so to point to the universal experience we all share when observing Ramadan as a proof of His statement. Struggling to pray on time? Remember Ramadan. Fighting to lower your gaze? Remember Ramadan. Holding back on charity? Remember Ramadan. Remember how you stopped eating and drinking yet you felt better by obeying Allah ﷻ; then this command is no different! Nothing is more palpable a proof than experience, so where else to point Allah’s ﷻ intent about His commands than the one worship we all bear witness to as evidence for the point. It’s not that we enjoy hunger or thirst, nor that withholding from sin is any easier or our desires diminished; it’s that we recognise the greater joy we get when we observe His commands instead. That is the reason these words are placed in this verse; to connect that experience of ease in Ramadan with the rest of Allah’s ﷻ commands too.
When it comes to the commands of Allah ﷻ, obey them unquestioningly even if you do not understand them at first. On the surface, fasting defies logic – it should make us sadder. Yet, through our experience of it, we know it doesn’t. Whilst we must always endeavour to understand God’s commands, we must obey first unconditionally, then enquire why later. Just like fasting, often the best proof is to experience it yourself.