Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:187)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
Rulings of Fasting
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ لَيْلَةَ الصِّيَامِ الرَّفَثُ إِلَىٰ نِسَائِكُمْ ۚ هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَّكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ لِبَاسٌ لَّهُنَّ ۗ عَلِمَ اللَّـهُ أَنَّكُمْ كُنتُمْ تَخْتَانُونَ أَنفُسَكُمْ فَتَابَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَعَفَا عَنكُمْ ۖ فَالْآنَ بَاشِرُوهُنَّ وَابْتَغُوا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ ۚ وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ ۖ ثُمَّ أَتِمُّوا الصِّيَامَ إِلَى اللَّيْلِ ۚ وَلَا تُبَاشِرُوهُنَّ وَأَنتُمْ عَاكِفُونَ فِي الْمَسَاجِدِ ۗ تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّـهِ فَلَا تَقْرَبُوهَا ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّـهُ آيَاتِهِ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ ﴿١٨٧﴾
2:187 It is made lawful to you to go into your wives on the night of the fast; they are an apparel for you and you are an apparel for them; Allah knew that you acted unfaithfully to yourselves, so He has turned to you (mercifully) and excused you from (this burden); so now be in contact with them and seek what Allah has ordained for you, and eat and drink until the whiteness of the day becomes distinct from the blackness of the night at dawn, then complete the fast until nightfall, and have not contact with them while you are in retreat in the mosques; these are the limits (set by) Allah, so do not approach them. Thus, does Allah make clear His communications for men so that they may attain piety.
Commentary: Rules of fasting at first allowed Muslims to eat and drink only at early part of the night. Also, intimate relations between spouses was strictly prohibited throughout the days and nights of the month of Ramadan. The aforementioned verse relaxed these restrictions and allowed Muslims to eat and drink and have marital relationships from the nightfall till dawn.
The verse under discussion consists of ruling in fasting and Etikaf [(اعتکاف)]. “Etikaf” means staying in seclusion for a long period of time, and here it means retreat in a masjid for worship and devotion for at least three days. During this retreat, a believer fasts and deserts worldly pleasures. This worship has a profound effect on purification of the soul and in bringing man to the nearness of Allah (SWT). Its rules and ethics are mentioned in jurisprudence books.
The verse begins with declaration of the revised rule of fasting which permits marital relations during the nights before the dawn:
أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ لَيْلَةَ الصِّيَامِ الرَّفَثُ إِلَىٰ نِسَائِكُمْ …. ﴿١٨٧﴾
2:187 It is made lawful to you to go into your wives on the night of the fast;
The verse continues by saying that spouses to each other are like garments to a body. A garment in general protects the body from the cold of winter, heat of summer; some garments protect the body from harsh and detrimental environments such as fire and adorn the appearance of human beings. Similarly, spouses protect each other interests, bring peace and tranquility to each other’s life, and cultivate inwardly adornments in each other’s souls:
… هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَّكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ لِبَاسٌ لَّهُنَّ … ﴿١٨٧﴾
2:187 … they are an apparel for you and you are an apparel for them;
As stated earlier, intimate relations between spouses during the month of Ramadan was prohibited through the entire month. Nevertheless, Allah (SWT) knew that some individuals approached their wives and acted unfaithful to themselves [(عَلِمَ اللَّـهُ أَنَّكُمْ كُنتُمْ تَخْتَانُونَ أَنفُسَكُمْ)]. To circumvent Muslims from further inflicting harm on themselves, Allah (SWT) relaxed this rule, approached them with His mercy and forgave them [(فَتَابَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَعَفَا عَنكُمْ)]. Henceforth, spouses could have intimate relations [(فَالْآنَ بَاشِرُوهُنَّ)] and seek what Allah has ordained (made lawful) to them, [(وَابْتَغُوا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ)]. Equally, it is permissible to eat and drink [(وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا)] from the nightfall until the whiteness of the day becomes distinct from the darkness of the night at dawn [(حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ)].
At dawn, fasting begins and it ends with the nightfall [(ثُمَّ أَتِمُّوا الصِّيَامَ إِلَى اللَّيْلِ)]. The last statement emphasizes the prohibition of eating and drinking and intimate spousal marital relations while fasting, which begins from dawn [Fajr (فجر)] and ends with the beginning of the night [Maghrib (مغرب)].
The verse under discussion affirms one of the conditions of retreat in a masjid for devotion, which is dissociating from spousal marital relationships completely, including the night or day, during Etikaf [(وَلَا تُبَاشِرُوهُنَّ وَأَنتُمْ عَاكِفُونَ فِي الْمَسَاجِدِ)].
The verse calls these rulings as a “divine borders”, the boundary between the prohibitive (Haram) and permissible (Halal) acts and believers should not even think to encroach the divine boundaries [(تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّـهِ فَلَا تَقْرَبُوهَا)]. Temptations of lust and desire often overwhelm willpower once an individual puts themselves in a vulnerable position.
The verse declares that Allah (SWT) through His prophet and His book makes clear His communications for mankind so that they may attain piety [(كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّـهُ آيَاتِهِ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ)].
2:186 [أُحِلَّ] permitted [لَكُمْ] for you [لَيْلَةَ] on the nights [الصِّيَامِ] of fasting [الرَّفَثُ] is the approach [إِلَىٰ] to [نِسَائِكُمْ] your wives. [هُنَّ] they [لِبَاسٌ] are garments [لَّكُمْ] for you [وَأَنتُمْ] and [لِبَاسٌ] you are garments [لَّهُنَّ] for them [عَلِمَ] knows [اللَّـهُ] Allah [أَنَّكُمْ] that you [كُنتُمْ] used to [تَخْتَانُونَ] deceive [أَنفُسَكُمْ] yourselves. [فَتَابَ] So He turned [عَلَيْكُمْ] towards you [وَعَفَا] and He forgave [عَنكُمْ] on you. [فَالْآنَ] So now [بَاشِرُوهُنَّ] have relations with them [وَابْتَغُوا] and seek [مَا] what [كَتَبَ] has ordained [اللَّـهُ] Allah [لَكُمْ] for you [وَكُلُوا] and eat [وَاشْرَبُوا] and drink [حَتَّىٰ] until [يَتَبَيَّنَ] becomes distinct [لَكُمُ] to you [الْخَيْطُ] the thread [الْأَبْيَضُ] the white [مِنَ] from [الْخَيْطِ] the thread [الْأَسْوَدِ] the black [مِنَ] of [الْفَجْرِ] the dawn. [ثُمَّ] Then [أَتِمُّوا] complete [الصِّيَامَ] the fast [إِلَى] till [اللَّيْلِ] the night. [وَلَا] And do not [تُبَاشِرُوهُنَّ] have relations with them [وَ] while [أَنتُمْ] you [عَاكِفُونَ] are secluded [فِي] in [الْمَسَاجِدِ] the masajid. [تِلْكَ] These [حُدُودُ] are the limits [اللَّـهِ] set by Allah [فَلَا] so do not [تَقْرَبُوهَا] approach them. [كَذَٰلِكَ] Thus [يُبَيِّنُ] makes clear [اللَّـهُ] Allah [آيَاتِهِ] His verses [لِلنَّاسِ] for the people [لَعَلَّهُمْ] so that they may [يَتَّقُونَ] become righteous.