In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
It is lawful for you to make love to your wives on the night of the fast. They are as a garment for you, and you are as garment for them. Allah is aware that you have been deceiving yourselves in this respect, and He has turned to you with His mercy and pardoned you. So you may now lie with them and seek that which Allah has ordained for you; you may eat and drink until you can discern the white line of dawn against the blackness of the night. Then resume the fast till nightfall; but do not lie with them (i.e. your wives) while you are in retreat in the Mosques. These are the bounds set by Allah; do not come near them. Thus Allah makes clear His revelations to mankind that they may remain God-fearing.
Do not devour one another’s property wrongfully, nor bribe with it the judges in order that you may sinfully, and knowingly, deprive others of any part of what is rightfully theirs. The Cow, "Al-Baqarah": 2:187-8)
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb, Translated by A.A. Salahi & S.A. Shamsi.
The first of these two verses explains some of the rulings with regard to fasting and relaxes some of the restrictions. When fasting was first imposed as a duty on Muslims, they were allowed not to eat or drink, or to have sex with their wives, once they went to sleep after they have broken their fast at sunset. If anyone happened to wake up during the night, even though it might be before dawn, the restriction remained in force and he could neither have sex with his wife nor have anything to eat and drink. It happened that someone came home at the time when fasting ended to find that there was nothing to eat. While his wife went out to fetch some food he dozed off. When he woke up he could not eat or drink, so he resumed fasting. The following day he collapsed and the case was reported to the Prophet . In another case, someone slept after having broken his fast (or perhaps it was his wife who slept) but woke up during the night and could not resist his sexual urge. He had intercourse with his wife, and the case was also reported to the Prophet (Pbuh). It was clear to everyone that this duty was too hard for Muslims. Allah, therefore, relaxed their restrictions when this experience was still vivid in their minds so that they may appreciate Allah’s mercy and His response. This verse was revealed allowing Muslims to have sex at any time between sunset and dawn on the night of fasting; “It is lawful for you to make love to your wives on the night of the fast.”
That Arabic term used for “making love” may be taken to mean the preliminaries of sex or sexual intercourse itself. Both meanings are intended here in order to make both actions lawful. The Qur’an, however, does not let this meaning pass without adding a compassionate touch which gives the marital relationship an air of gentle friendliness which contrasts with the rough animal aspect of the sexual desire. It also adds the meaning of protected privacy in facilitating this relationship; “They are as a garment for you, and you are as a garment for them.” Garments provide cover and protection. The relationship between man and wife does both functions as it protects the privacy of each of them.
Islam deals with man as he is and accepts everything in his constitution and nature. It then holds man by the hand to elevate him to a much higher level. Adopting this attitude, Islam satisfies the physical urge, adds to it this genetic touch and provides it with this gentle cover, all at the same time.
The Qur’an then tells the Muslims of their own thoughts and feelings, and shows them Allah’s mercy as He allows for their natural desires; “Allah is aware that you have been deceiving yourselves in this respect, and he has turned to you with His mercy and pardoned you.” The deception of themselves which is mentioned here, refers to their suppressed desires, or, perhaps, to the actual fulfilment of these desires, since it was reported that some of them did so at the restricted hours. In either case, Allah has shown them His mercy and pardoned them, recognizing their weakness. He, therefore, has relaxed their fasting restrictions which relate to this deception. Again, the relaxation is utilized to strengthen the Muslims’ ties with Allah even when they have this kind of activity; “So you may now lie with them and seek that which Allah has ordained for you.”
You may seek your enjoyment with your wives, and with your offspring, the fruit of sex. Both types of enjoyment have been given by Allah. Since they have been made lawful, you may go ahead and seek them. As Allah has given you this urge, it must fulfil a certain aim He wants. It is not a purely physical desire, isolated from the sublime horizon to which Islam attaches all human activity.
Thus, sex between man and wife is related to a larger objective and attached to a horizon which is more sublime than the earth or the moment of full ecstasy between man and wife. The relationship between them is thus made cleaner, more gentle and noble. When we consider all similar cases of inspiring touches in the Qur’anic teachings and the Islamic philosophy as a whole, we can appreciate the fruitful and wise effort which is made in order to help man look up to a higher level of existence, within the limits of his nature, capabilities and constitution. This is the nature of this Islamic method of education of elevation. It is a method designed by the Creator who knows what He has created and who is aware of everything.
Like sex, eating and drinking are allowed in the same period; “You may eat and drink until you can discern the white line of dawn against the blackness of the night.” This means that the permission extends until light has spread on the horizon and on mountain tops.
Samorah ibn Jundob reports that the Prophet (Pbuh) has said: “Do not pay much heed to the call of Bilal or to this whiteness, until dawn has actually broken or has appeared.” Another version of this pronouncement runs as follows; “Do not be prevented from your morning meal (suhoor) by Bilal’s call (athan) or by the prolonged dawn. You should watch for the dawn spreading over the horizon.” This later dawn which spreads over the horizon occurs shortly before sunrise. Bilal used to make an early call for prayers in order to awaken those who were asleep. Another call was made later by Ibn Umm Maktoom which signalled the beginning of the fast.
We have then a ruling concerning intercourse in the period when one is in retreat in the Mosque. Going into such a retreat is recommended in the last few days of Ramadan. The Prophet (Pbuh) himself used to do it in the last ten days of Ramadan, which means that it is a Sunnah. Retreat into the Mosque means to devote one’s time only to worship and not to go home except for man’s natural need or to have a meal. It is, then a period of complete devotion to Allah. To make this devotion truly complete, and to rid oneself of all other preoccupations, sex is not allowed in this period, whether at the time of fasting or during night when one is not fasting. “But do not lie with them while you are in retreat in the Mosques.”
Following its familiar line of directing all actions and abstentions, all commands and prohibitions, the Qur’an relates this injunction to Allah: “These are the bounds set by Allah; do not come near them.”
If one goes too close to a certain boundary it is very easy to step over it. Since man cannot always be in full control of himself, it is better for him not to test his willpower by going too close to what is forbidden, relying on his ability to check himself at the right time. Because the bounds mentioned here are those of desires, the order is given here in these terms; “Do not come near them.” What is meant here is that intercourse itself it forbidden, not the physical proximity to one’s wife. The warning here is expressed in such a way which encourages us to be on our guard; “Thus Allah makes clear His revelations to mankind that they may remain God-fearing.” To remain God-fearing is an objective we should strive to attain. It is a noble objective, the value of which is appreciated only by those who believe and those who are addressed by the Qur’an in every age.
Then comes another warning against a different type of eating, that is to devour other people’s property by unfair law suits and relying on false proofs and twisted evidence as well as the fabrication of argument and title. Judges are supposed to make their rulings on the strength of evidence submitted to them but this need not necessarily reveal the real truth. Since this warning comes immediately after mentioning the bounds set by Allah and the call made to mankind to be conscious of Him, there is an air of fear which should serve as a deterrent against violating Allah’s commandments; “Do not devour one another’s property wrongfully, nor bride with it the judges in order that you may sinfully and knowingly, deprive others of any part of what is rightfully theirs.”
In his commentary on the Qur’an, Ibn Katheer explains that this verse refers to any person who owes some money to another when there is no document to prove his indebtedness. He denies that he owes the money and that he is sinfully and knowingly depriving its rightful owner of it. A number of famous scholars have set the principle; “Do not enter into a legal dispute when you know that you are in the wrong.” It has been authentically reported by Umm Salamah, the Prophet’s Wife, t that he has said: “I am only a human being. People in dispute come to me and one of them may be more eloquent than the other and he may make his case clearer. Thus, I may rule in his favour. If I give anyone something which rightfully belongs to another Muslim let him know that I am only giving him a piece of fire. He may take it or leave it.” Thus, people are left to their own knowledge. A court judgement does not make lawful anything which Allah has forbidden. Nor does it forbid something lawful.