Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verse 185..........Part 2
It was in the month of Ramadan that the Quran was revealed as guidance for mankind, clear messages giving guidance and distinguishing between right and wrong. So anyone of you who is present that month should fast, and anyone who is ill or on a journey should make up for the lost days by fasting on other days later. God wants ease for you, not hardship. He wants you to complete the prescribed period and to glorify Him for having guided you, so that you may be thankful.
(Chapter 2, Verse 185)
God says that ‘the Quran was revealed as guidance for mankind.’ Guidance is that which takes you towards your goal through the shortest route. If you place clear road signs on a confusing intersection, you help each traveler reach his or her destination with minimal effort and time. Similarly, heavenly guidance refers to signs God had placed to help us find the shortest path to a just world and to paradise in the hereafter. If God had left guidance for us to figure out, there would have been chaos. We are often self-serving and we lack the knowledge and wisdom to map out the best and shortest way for humanity to reach the ultimate reward. The one who guides must have more knowledge and wisdom than the one who is guided; he or she must not be in need or be looking to benefit from giving help and guidance. Allah has perfect knowledge, ultimate wisdom, He is free of all need, and He will never benefit from anything you and I do.
As for humans, when someone offers help or guidance, he or she may expect a benefit or a favour in return, and more often than not he or she has many flaws in knowledge and wisdom. Take a look at all the governing systems around the world. You will quickly see that each system –regardless of the purity of its claimed principals- helps a minority to gain power, money, and influence. A poor leader who wants to take money from the rich prefers communism or a dictatorship. A rich leader who intends to exploit other people’s effort and resources prefers capitalism. All man-made systems stem from the desire to grow and self-serve. The capitalist sets laws that favour businesses and corporations over the working poor. The Communist oppresses all while leaving just enough room for the ruling elites to do whatever they wish. Humanity is in desperate need for someone to legislate without need, without self-benefit, and without hidden motives; someone who has perfect knowledge of our challenges whether current or future. There is no one, and no group that fits these specifications but Allah.
Another proof of our shortcomings are the laws we legislate. They are often deficient and require ongoing revisions and amendments. Whoever initially set the laws had either an incomplete knowledge of the present, a limited vision of the future, or was self-serving. In order to set universal laws that fit all cultures at all time, one needs to be aware of all the possibilities that may occur in the future. And none can do that except for Allah the All-Knowing and the Wise. He says:
This is My path, leading straight, so follow it, and do not follow other ways: they will lead you away from it- ‘This is what He commands you to do, so that you may refrain from wrongdoing.’ (06:153)
The phrase ‘do not follow other ways’ refers to the contradicting self-serving desires of rulers and ruling parties. Not only do these self-serving desires change from ruler to ruler, but often the same ruler changes his or her mind. Thus, the only logical course of action for you is to follow He who does not change, He who has perfect knowledge of your needs now and in the future, and He who does not benefit from anything you do. The only true guidance is the guidance of God. He says: ‘the Quran was revealed as guidance for mankind, clear messages giving guidance and distinguishing between right and wrong.’ And in another verse:
Never will the Jews be pleased with you, nor the Christians, unless you follow their way of faith and life. Say: "God’s guidance is the only true guidance." If you were to follow their desires after the knowledge that has come to you, you would find no one to protect you from God or help you. (2:120)
The verse continues: “So anyone of you who is present that month should fast, and anyone who is ill or on a journey should make up for the lost days by fasting on other days later. God wants ease for you, not hardship.” It is essential that we view this verse through the phrase ‘God wants ease for you, not hardship.’ In other words, Allah wants to help you make religious obligation trouble-free. Thus, when you read the words of Allah, you should always interpret the text with that concept in mind.
Allah had made an exception for the ill and the traveller in the matter of fasting because He wants ease –not hardship- for His creation. So if you insist on fasting while you are sick or on a journey, you are acting as if you believe that God wants hardship for you. Allah had made it clear that He does not. Rather it would be you who is making things difficult. Ask yourself: Who holds the utmost priority in your heart: the act of fasting, or God almighty? Which is more important to you, the act worship or the one who is worshiped? We answer that it is best to follow God’s commands and wishes and ‘make up for the lost days by fasting on other days later.’
On the other hand, if you are unable to fast in Ramadan due to illness or travel, it is advised that you do not do so in public. In other words, do not eat or drink in public places where those who are fasting can see you. You do not want to become a bad example for someone who may be thinking about skipping the fast and who is not aware that you do have a valid excuse. A child may wonder: how come an adult Muslim is not fasting?
Take note of the beauty of the Quranic expression: ‘He wants you to complete the prescribed period and to glorify Him for having guided you, so that you may be thankful.’ At the beginning of Ramadan, especially for those who are new to fasting, a person may look at the task ahead as an inconvenience and even hardship. Allah, however, knows that when you follow His teachings and complete the prescribed fast, you will find tranquility in your soul and comfort in your body. In fact, these feeling will fill you with gratitude towards the Lord who guided you towards fasting. Thus, you would glorify Allah and when the end of Ramadan celebration of Eid arrives, you would chant: ‘Allahu Akbar’ ‘Allah is the Greatest’.
Whenever Allah temporarily forbids you from something you have, He gives you that which is much better and longer lasting. When He temporarily prevents you from the essentials of life like food and water, He grants you that which is essential for eternal life like forgiveness, mercy, and paradise.