I had no idea that Ramadan was the holy month that it is because it was the month in which the Quran was revealed! Boy, you learn something knew every day, don’t you? Well, I guess that’s particularly true if you’re reading the Quran every day!
What I guess I’m not entirely sure about is why (according to verse 185) one should fast during the month of Ramadan. I guess the question comes down to what the purpose of fasting is in Islam. In Judaism, fasting is done in large part for commemoration and remembrance. A day is spent without food in order to be reminded of some terrible event in the past or so that one can constantly recall the purpose of a particular day. Is it similar in Islam? Is fasting conducted during the month of Ramadan in order that Muslims constantly be reminded that this is the month in which they were given the Quran? That’s what the end of verse 185 seems to indicate (“give glory to God for the guidance”).
The remainder of this section is the specific ways that the fasting should be followed. I think it’s interesting that sex with one’s wife is acceptable at night, and therefore not during the day. It seems that the day is a time for deprivation in all senses and that nothing should be satiated during the day except for one’s desire to assiduously devote himself to God. I like the consistency.
I find the end of verse 187 particularly interesting, because it enjoins people to stay “well within” the bounds fixed by God. That seems to mean – to me – that you shouldn’t go treading close to the edge of God’s proscriptions. When God says you can do something until the very beginning of dawn, don’t go starting the moment before dawn and trying to eat your fill right around first light. That’s cutting it close, and you shouldn’t risk violating God’s laws for that. The end of the verse, telling men that God has given them laws that they may take heed for themselves, reinforces this personal level of responsibility associated with being a Muslim.
What do you think of these verses? Have I missed anything or would you like to add anything?
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The Cow 183-188
183. O believers, fasting is enjoined on you as it was on those before you, so that you might become righteous. 184. Fast a (fixed) number of days, but if someone is ill or is traveling (we should complete) the number of days (he had missed); and those who find it hard to fast should expiate by feeding a poor person. For the good they do with a little hardship is better for men. And if you fast it is good for you, if you knew. 185. Ramadan is the month in which the Qur’an was revealed as guidance to man and clear proof of the guidance, and criterion (of falsehood and truth). So when you see the new moon you should fast the whole month; but a person who is ill or traveling (and fails to do so) should fast on other days, as God wishes ease and not hardship for you, so that you complete the (fixed) number (of fasts), and give glory to God for the guidance, and be grateful. 186. When My devotees enquire of you about Me, I am near, and answer the call of every supplicant when he calls. It behooves them to hearken to Me and believe in Me that they may follow the right path. 187. You are allowed to sleep with your wives on the night of the fast: They are your dress as you are theirs. God is aware you were cheating yourselves so He turned to you and pardoned you. Eat and drink until the white thread of dawn appears clear from the dark line, then fast until the night falls; and abstain from your wives (when you have decided) to stay in the mosques for assiduous devotion. These are the bounds fixed by God, so keep well within them. So does God make His signs clear to men that they may take heed for themselves. 188. And do not consume each other’s wealth in vain, nor offer it to men in authority with intent of usurping unlawfully and knowingly a part of the wealth of others.