Reflection No. 217 on Q 2:185 – Understanding the Spirit of Fasting

يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ
Yurīdullāhu bikumul-yusra walā yurīdu bikumul-‘usr
Allah desires ease for you and He does not desire hardship for you
(Sūratul Baqarah, No. 2, Āyat 185)

This verse is part of a passage about fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Almighty Allah states an important truth: He does not want to impose a difficulty on us by asking us to fast. The apparent difficulty of the fast conceals an inner ease. Fasting uplifts the heart and spirit and brings peace to the soul. It strengthens the will of the human being and allows him to gain control over his desires and impulses.

The month of Ramadan is a feast for the soul, not of the body. When the Holy Prophet (s) said in his sermon to welcome the holy month: It is a month in which you are invited to be the guests of Almighty Allah. The question that follows is: why would Allah invite us and then ask us to refrain from food and drink. It is because we are so accustomed to thinking only of the physical. That is the extent of our thought horizons and to think beyond the physical requires effort and persistence. To encourage this God invites us to a feast of the soul where delicacies such as intense mercy, forgiveness, generosity, acceptance, understanding, etc. are freely available. The physical difficulty of fasting allows us to fully savor these delicacies. Such joys of the soul would not be possible without the physical hardship of the body.

Any achievement in this world comes with effort and overcoming of difficulties. The greater the difficulty, the greater is the challenge. Overcoming the challenges allows for the sweetness of achievement. It is a victory that is relished but which cannot be accomplished without the stages before that did not seem so sweet. But there was ease and joy at the end of the journey.

The blessings of fasting in the holy month include:
God consciousness – Taqwa
Inner strength
Health of the body
Closeness to Allah
Answering of prayers
Peace and safety on the Day of Judgment

It is the love of Allah for the human beings that He invites and encourages them to gain these blessings. Enjoy the spirit of the fast and allow it to change you from within. As Imam Sadiq (a) says: Fasting has a condition which must be met for the fast to be complete, and that is the inner silence . . . Be present in the Hereafter, waiting for your days, waiting for what Allah has promised you, preparing for the meeting with Allah . . . You have given of yourself to God in the days of your fast, and emptied your heart for Him, and given Him of yourself for whatever He has ordered you and invited you towards. (Sharullāh, H. 306)

Recite the above verse often during the days of fasting and do allow yourself to indulge in self -pity because of the physical hardship you may endure. Inspire yourself with the thoughts of the ease and joys awaiting the spirit.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūne; Muhammadī Rayshahrī, Shahrullā fil-kitāb wal-sunnah.