Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 185

شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ ٱلْقُرْءَانُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَٰتٍ مِّنَ ٱلْهُدَىٰ وَٱلْفُرْقَانِ ۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ ٱلشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ ۖ وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ ۗ يُرِيدُ ٱللَّهُ بِكُمُ ٱلْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ ٱلْعُسْرَ وَلِتُكْمِلُوا۟ ٱلْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَىٰكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ


 Muhsin Khan
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
The month of Ramadhān [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’ān, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey - then an equal number of other days. Allāh intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allāh for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

This verse establishes fasting in Ramadan as obligatory for all healthy non- travelling Muslims, with no concessions except for the elderly, as pointed out above: “Whoever of you is present in that month shall fast throughout the month.” It has thus become binding on all Muslims who either see the new moon of the lunar month of Ramadan themselves or learn of it by any other reliable means, to observe the fast in Ramadan. But as this is a general order applicable to all, a reiteration of the concession given in special cases immediately follows: “But he who is ill or on a journey shall fast instead the same number of days later on.

The sūrah gives the Muslims yet another incentive to keep the fast: “God desires that you have ease. He does not desire that you be afflicted with hardship.” This statement encapsulates the fundamental principle on which all Islamic religious duties are founded. They are intended to be easy, not arduous. This indicates a generous and realistic outlook on life as a whole. It instils in the Muslim heart a tolerant, easy and agreeable attitude. Religious and social activities and responsibilities are discharged with ease, confidence and assurance, in the happy knowledge that God’s purpose is to enable man to go through life with the minimum of hardship or discomfort.

To complete a whole month, sick people or those who travel in Ramadan and avail themselves of the special concession are required to make up for days missed by fasting an equal number of days at a later date in the year: “You are, however, required to complete the necessary number of days.

Fasting is an occasion to celebrate God’s guidance, glory and grace. Hence the requirement “to extol and glorify God for having guided you aright and to tender your thanks.” It is a time during which believers can feel and appreciate God’s favours and reciprocate with thanks, submission and gratitude. In so doing, Muslims cultivate the precious and vital quality of taqwā, or God-fearing; a main objective of fasting.

Thus we can see how evident God’s grace is in the imposition of the duty of fasting which, on the face of it, seems hard and demanding. We can clearly see its educational and disciplinary benefits for a nation being prepared for the leadership of mankind, guided by a genuine fear of God, a keen sense of accountability, and a vigorous conscience.


  • Interesting to note that the very first mention of the word 'Qur'an' in the Mushaf is in Surah al-Baqarah 2:185. We also know that the Qur'an was revealed in the month of Ramadan. The word, رمضان Ramadan occurs only once in the Qur'an. So the very first mention of the Qur'an is in the Ayat of Ramadan, the month in which it was revealed.
  • Ending acts of worship with Dhikr  - Ibn Kathir writes, " Allah's statement: (...and that you must magnify Allah ﴿i.e., to say Takbir (Allahu Akbar: Allah is the Most Great)﴾ for having guided you) means: So that you remember Allah upon finishing the act of worship. This is similar to Allah's statement: فَإِذَا قَضَيْتُم مَّنَـسِكَكُمْ فَاذْكُرُواْ اللَّهَ كَذِكْرِكُمْ ءَابَآءَكُمْ أَوْ أَشَدَّ ذِكْرًا  (So when you have accomplished your Manasik, (rituals) remember Allah as you remember your forefathers or with far more remembrance.) (2:200) and: ﴿فَإِذَا قُضِيَتِ الصَّلَوةُ فَانتَشِرُواْ فِى الاٌّرْضِ وَابْتَغُواْ مِن فَضْلِ اللَّهِ وَاذْكُرُواْ اللَّهَ كَثِيراً لَّعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ  (...Then when the (Jumu`ah) Salah (prayer) is ended, you may disperse through the land, and seek the bounty of Allah (by working), and remember Allah much, that you may be successful.) (62:10) and: ﴿فَاصْبِرْ عَلَى مَا يَقُولُونَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ قَبْلَ طُلُوعِ الشَّمْسِ وَقَبْلَ الْغُرُوبِ - وَمِنَ الَّيْلِ فَسَبِّحْهُ وَأَدْبَـرَ السُّجُودِ   (...and glorify the praises of your Lord, before the rising of the sun and before (its) setting. And during a part of the night, glorify His praises, and after the prayers.) (50:39, 40) This is why the Sunnah encouraged Tasbih (saying Subhan Allah, i.e., all praise is due to Allah), Tahmid (saying Al-Hamdu Lillah, i.e., all the thanks are due to Allah) and Takbir (saying Allahu Akbar, i.e., Allah is the Most Great) after the compulsory prayers.

2. Linguistic Analysis

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  • This is the first mention of the word 'Qur'an'  in the Mushaf. Interestingly, it appears in the Ayat of Ramadhan - the very month the Qur'an was revealed.
  • The word, رمضان Ramadhan only appears once in the Qur'an, appearing in this Ayat, (2:185). 

Frequency of Root words in this Ayat used in this Surah *

3. Surah Overview

4. Miscellaneous Information

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5. Connected/Related Ayat

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6. Frequency of the word

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7. Period of Revelation

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The scholars are unanimous that Surah al-Baqarah is Madani and that it was the first Surah revealed in Madinah. [Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani in Fath al-Bari no. 160/8].

Despite it being the first Surah to be revealed in Madinah, it contains Ayaat from a later period also. In fact, according to Ibn Abbas [as mentioned in Ibn Kathir] the last Ayat revealed to the Prophet was Ayat no. 281 from Surah al-Baqarah and this occurred 8 days or so before his death [which corresponds to the year 11 Hijri].

8. Reasons for Revelation

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In order to understand the meaning of this Surah, we should know its historical background:

1. At Makkah, the Quran generally addressed the polytheist Quraysh who were ignorant of Islam, but at Madinah it was also concerned with the Jews who were acquainted with the creed of Monotheism, Prophethood, Revelation, the Hereafter and Angels. They also professed to believe in the law which was revealed by God to their Prophet Moses, and in principle, their way was the same (Islam) that was being taught by Prophet Muhammad. But they had strayed away from it during the centuries of degeneration and had adopted many un-Islamic creeds, rites and customs of which there was no mention and for which there was no sanction in the Torah. Not only this: they had tampered with the Torah by inserting their own explanations and interpretations into its text. They had distorted even that part of the Word of God which had remained intact in their Scriptures and taken out of it the real spirit of true religion and were now clinging to a lifeless frame of rituals. Consequently their beliefs, their morals and their conduct had gone to the lowest depths of degeneration. The pity is that they were not only satisfied with their condition but loved to cling to it. Besides this, they had no intention or inclination to accept any kind of reform. So they became bitter enemies of those who came to teach them the Right Way and did their utmost to defeat every such effort. Though they were originally Muslims, they had swerved from the real Islam and made innovations and alterations in it and had fallen victims to hair splitting and sectarianism. They had forgotten and forsaken God and begun to serve material wealth. So much so that they had even given up their original name “Muslim” and adopted the name “Jew” instead, and made religion the sole monopoly of the children of Israel. This was their religious condition when the Prophet went to Madinah and invited the Jews to the true religion. That is why more than one third of this Surah has been addressed to the children of Israel. A critical review of their history, their moral degeneration and their religious perversions has been made. Side by side with this, the high standard of morality and the fundamental principles of the pure religion have been put forward in order to bring out clearly the nature of the degeneration of the community of a prophet when it goes astray and to draw clear lines of demarcation between real piety and formalism, and the essentials and non-essentials of the true religion.

2. At Makkah, Islam was mainly concerned with the propagation of its fundamental principles and the moral training of its followers. But after the migration of the Prophet to Madinah, where Muslims had come to settle from all over Arabia and where a tiny Islamic State had been set up with the help of the ‘local supporters’ (Ansar), naturally the Quran had to turn its attention to the social, cultural, economic, political and legal problems as well. This accounts for the difference between the themes of the Surahs revealed at Makkah and those at Madinah. Accordingly about half of this Surah deals with those principles and regulations which are essential for the integration and solidarity of a community and for the solution of its problems.

After the migration to Madinah, the struggle between Islam and disbelief (Kufr) had also entered a new phase. Before this the Believers, who propagated Islam among their own clans and tribes, had to face its opponents at their own risk. But the conditions had changed at Madinah, where Muslims from all parts of Arabia had come and settled as one community, and had established an independent city state. Here it became a struggle for the survival of the Community itself, for the whole of non-Muslim Arabia was bent upon and united in crushing it totally. Hence the following instructions, upon which depended not only its success but its very survival, were revealed in this Surah:

a. The Community should work with the utmost zeal to propagate its ideology and win over to its side the greatest possible number of people.

b. It should so expose its opponents as to leave no room for doubt in the mind of any sensible person that they were adhering to an absolutely wrong position.

c. It should infuse in its members (the majority of whom were homeless and indigent and surrounded on all sides by enemies) that courage and fortitude which is so indispensable to their very existence in the adverse circumstances in which they were struggling and to prepare them to face these boldly.

d. It should also keep them ready and prepared to meet any armed menace, which might come from any side to suppress and crush their ideology, and to oppose it tooth and nail without minding the overwhelming numerical strength and the material resources of its enemies.

e. It should also create in them that courage which is needed for the eradication of evil ways and for the establishment of the Islamic Way instead. That is why God has revealed in this Surah such instructions as may help achieve all the above mentioned objects.

At the time of the revelation of Al-Baqarah, all sorts of hypocrites had begun to appear. God has, therefore, briefly pointed out their characteristics here. Afterwards when their evil characteristics and mischievous deeds became manifest, God sent detailed instructions about them. [REF: Mawdudi]

9. Relevant Hadith

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  • The Prophet Muhammad [saw] said, أنزلت صحف إبراهيم أول ليلة من شهر رمضان، و أنزلت التوراة لست مضت من رمضان، و أنزل الإنجيل بثلاث عشرة مضت من رمضان، و أنزل الزبور لثمان عشرة خلت من رمضان، وأنزل القرآن لأربع وعشرين خلت من رمضان “The Suhuf [scrolls] of Ibrahim were revealed on the 1st night of Ramadhan. The Torah was revealed on the 6th of Ramadhan. The Injeel [Gopel] was revealed on the 13th of Ramadhan. The Zabur on the 18th of Ramadhan. And the Qur’ān on the 24th of Ramdhan.” [Jami as-Sagheer, Suyuti no. 2734 -  حسن  [Hasan]

  • The Prophet Muhammad [saw] said, الصِّيامُ والقرآنُ يشفعان للعبدِ يومَ القيامةِ يقولُ الصِّيامُ أيْ ربِّ منعتُه الطَّعامَ والشَّهوةَ فشفِّعني فيه ويقولُ القرآنُ منعتُه النَّومَ باللَّيلِ فشفِّعني فيه قال فيشفعان “Fasting and the Qur’ān will intercede for the slave on the Day of Judgement. Fasting will say, ‘O My Lord! I prevented him from food and desires, so accept my intercession for him.’ And the Qur’ān will say, ‘I prevented him from sleep during the night, so accept my intercession for him.’ ....thus they will intercede.” [Musnad Ahmad no. 6337 - صحيح [Sahih]

  • Abu Ad-Darda' said, "We once went with Allah's Messenger during Ramadan while the heat was intense. One of us would place his hand on his head because of the intense heat. Only Allah's Messenger and `Abdullah bin Rawahah were fasting at that time.''Allah's Messenger said about fasting while traveling “Those who did not fast have done good, and there is no harm for those who fasted”. Sahih Muslim
  • `A'ishah narrated that Hamzah bin `Amr Al-Aslami said, "O Messenger of Allah! I fast a lot, should I fast while traveling'' The Prophet said “Fast if you wish or do not fast if you wish”
  • Imam Ahmad recorded Anas bin Malik saying that Allah's Messenger said “Treat the people with ease and don't be hard on them; give them glad tidings and don't fill them with aversion”

10. Wiki Forum

Comments in this section are statements made by general users – these are not necessarily explanations of the Ayah – rather a place to share personal thoughts and stories…

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12. External Links

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