يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ
Yurīdullāhu bikumulyusra walā yurīdu bikumul–‘usr
Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty
Sūrat Baqarah, No.2, Āyat 185
Verses 183-186 of Sūra al-Baqarah talk about the month of Ramadan and related issues. Among these verses the above phrase is an enlightening statement about the perceived difficulty of fasting. Allah ‘azza wa-jall states that He wants ease for human beings and is not imposing a difficulty on them by asking them to fast.
This verse can be understood in different ways:
• Fasting may be difficult but its result both in terms of physical and spiritual effects brings ease for the human being.
• The rules of Allah subhānahu wa-ta‘ālā are not the commands of a dictator who expects obedience at all cost. There are exemptions made for those who cannot fast.
• Almighty Allah is a Compassionate Master who wants His servants to enjoy ease that is long lasting and firm.
Ease and difficulty have also been combined in other verses where Allah promises that with difficulty there is always ease. He says: Allah will bring about ease after hardship (Q 65:7). And in Sūratul Sharh, He repeats twice: Indeed ease accompanies hardship (Q 94:5-6). It is a promise from Allah that whoever faces difficulty and goes through hardship of any form will also face ease and comfort. The former is a necessary process that results in the latter. Without going through the bitterness of hardship there cannot be the relishing of ease.
The attitude towards fasting is a key contributor to how difficult or easy it seems. If we focus on submitting to the Divine command, the spiritual benefits of the month, the joys of worship, feeling the experience of the deprived, and the special pleasures of the nights of the month of Ramadan, it becomes easy to go through the hardship of fasting during the day. It is the understanding and conviction in what the month brings that creates a positive attitude towards it. The Holy Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wa-salaam reminds us about this when he says: It is a month the first of which is mercy, its middle is forgiveness, and its end is safety from the fire (Bihārul Anwar, v. 93, p. 342). There is much that makes the month unique and special, and it must be appreciated for the richness that it brings to our lives. It is no wonder that the Holy Prophet says: If the servant knew what [blessing] was in the month of Ramadan he would wish that the entire year be the month of Ramadan. (Bihārul Anwar, v.93, p.346).
This month of Ramadan focus on what makes it such a unique opportunity. Look at it as ease in many different forms. It will pass by quickly and we will be left yearning for it. Imam Ali Zaynul ‘Ābidīn (a) sums it up beautifully: Peace be on you, a highly respected companion when present whose absence is lamented when gone . . . Peace be on you O companion who becomes familiar on arrival and delights us but makes us feel lonely at departure and grieves us. (Du‘ā 45, Sahīfa Sajjādiyya)
Sources: Academy for Learning Islam, Glimpses of Sahīfa Sajjādiyya; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; http://www.alketab.org/