Reflection No. 1:03 on Q 2:185 – Ramadhan in the Qur’an

Ramadhan Reflections on selected verses of the Holy Quran aim at helping Mu’mineen derive guidance and strength of spirit from the Quran. Readers are encouraged to reflect on the verse and refer to the relevant verses mentioned. We hope that this form of study of the Quran will help instill a familiarity and appreciation for the contents of the Quran. May the Almighty make us from among those who take guidance from the Word of Allah.

. . .  so that you complete the number, and so that you exalt the greatness of Allah for guiding you, and that you may give thanks.
– Sura al-Baqarah, 2:185

Commentary
These words come at the end of a verse which talks about the month of Ramadhan in which the Quran was sent. The verse gives the command for Muslims to fast in this month. Those who miss fasts due to certain reasons need to make them up so they complete the number.

According to this part of the verse, when believers complete the period of fasting two objectives are achieved. One is the exaltation of Allah which is done through the act of fasting in obedience to the command of Allah. Fasting announces the belief in the Lordship of Allah, the acceptance of His guidance through the Quran, and the submission of desires to the will of Allah. Fasting magnifies Allah and reveres the month in which the His guidance was sent down. The very act of fasting is a manifestation of the greatness of Allah.

The other objective that is achieved is gratitude to Allah for the guidance He sent during this month. This guidance gives believers the ability to know what God expects of them and allows them to distinguish between Truth and Falsehood. Through fasting, the believer conveys a sense of thankfulness for this month, and for the Quran that was sent in it for his guidance. It shows a respect for the month in which he received this great blessing from God.

The Takbir that believers recite on the night and day of Eid is in answer to the objectives outlined in this verse. A part this Takbir says: Allah is great. All praise is for Allah for that which He has guided us, and for Him is thanks for what He has favored us.

Points to Ponder
1) What is true exaltation of the greatness of Allah, the true meaning of the Takbir that a believer recites, saying Allahu Akbar, or Allah is great? In other verses of the Holy Quran Allah also tells believers to magnify Him. See 17:111, 22: 37.

The following conversation between Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a) and one of his companions illustrates the true meaning of exalting the greatness of Allah.

Companion: “Allah is great.”
Imam: “What is Allah greater than?”
Companion: “He is greater than all things.”
Imam: “By saying that you have limited Allah, you are comparing him to other things.”
Companion: “Then what shall I say?”
Imam: “Say Allah is greater than that He can be compared, or than that He can be described.”

The true meaning of Takbir is to know that Allah cannot be compared to anything at all.

2) Note that in the verse above God says that you complete the number of fasts so that you magnify Allah, and so that perhaps you may be grateful. According to Tafsir, exaltation of Allah happens with fasting, regardless of whether the fast fulfills all the spiritual conditions of fasting or not. Even if the fast is only an apparent (dhaheri) fast, not a true (haqiqi) one, the mere act of fasting and abstaining from all that is not allowed for  a fasting person, becomes an act of magnification.

The feeling of gratitude however comes only when the fast is sincere and fulfills all the spiritual conditions. It is an inner achievement, not just an outward act of worship. Gratitude comes from the heart, when the believer achieves closeness to God and His holy book during this month. It is an acknowledgement of the favor of Allah for having sent the book to deliver us from darkness into light. It does not come when believers think of fasting during the month as a difficult chore and are pleased when it is over. It comes when believers appreciate the month and what it stands for, and understand the worth of the message of Allah. Most people would achieve the first objective but only select people would achieve the second.

May the Almighty make us from among those who achieve both objectives, and whose fasts and worship are accepted.

Eid Mubarak. May it be a day full of blessings and mercy for the Muslim Ummah.