History of Ramadan

You know it’s coming near. Every day your phone is getting more and more Ramadan-themed messages. Social media groups are buzzing with discussions about fasting. Masjids organise special circles (halaqas). If it’s your first Ramadan you might feel both anxious and excited. If it’s the second, fifth or tenth, you still probably want it to be better than the last one. This is what Ramadan is about: self-improvement. But to benefit from the future it is wise to take a step back and have a look at the past. So to better prepare for the Holy Month, let’s learn about its history and meaning.

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic Calendar. It’s great importance and blessing comes from the fact, that the Holy Quran had been initially revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wa salam) during that time. The first Muslims used to fast only three days in the month, as according to the verse 2:183

“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous”

Quran 2:183

Then, after the reveal of the verse 2:185 it has been clarified that the fast should be observed for a whole month:

“The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, 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. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.”

Quran 2:185

Why is Ramadan Important

During Ramadan the gates of Jannah are opened, while Hell is closed and shaytans are chained. Our good deeds are rewarded much higher than usual and our previous sins are forgiven. It is truly a month of mercy. What is more, the Night of Decree (Laylat al-Qadr) is occurring during the last ten nights of Ramadan, on the exact day of Prophet Muhammad’s (sallallahu alayhi wa salam) receiving first revelation. As stated in the Quran 97:3, it’s “better than a thousand months”.

Ramadan is generally known as a month of fasting, but to make the most of it, one has to concentrate on so much more than just abstaining from food. It is time for reflection; strengthening our relationship with Allah and with His Holy Book. It is also a great reminder to us all, to appreciate the everyday blessing of the food on our plates. While one is fasting it is easy not only to imagine, but also to feel the suffering of the poor and needy around the world. And to act accordingly, as charity is duty of every Muslim. Also, observing Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, thus is definitely an obligatory act (fard), not an option.

Fasting in Ramadan

I’m sure that even if it’s going to be your twentieth Ramadan, you’re still most likely to hear the same questions every year. “What? Not even water?”, “Do children fast as well?”, “How can you do it?” This is the beauty of Ramadan – we CAN do it, because we are clearly aware that we’re doing it for our Creator. And He did not ordain the month of fast as a burden, but rather as a great blessing.

Western science recognises medical properties of fasting. Certain studies show how restraining from eating can improve health. To name just a few: fasting can regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels, fight inflammation, increase brain work and boost metabolism. It is enough to type the phrase “benefits of fasting” into Google, to get an avalanche of articles and videos, all about the “benefits of fasting that will surprise you!”. What can be really ‘surprising’ is the fact that Western science came to such a realisation so late.

Fasting not only cleans the body from toxins and harmful substances; it has similar, detoxifying effect on our minds. As we can read at Organic Facts website: “After fasting, the blood is filled with better levels of endorphins, which makes you more alert and provides you with a feeling of good mental health.” That’s the scientific explanation why during Ramadan it is easier to memorise Quran and why we usually feel more calm, patient and positive. Let’s reflect for a while on the great blessing Allah provided us with – a cure to both body and mind.

It is good idea to plan now some lifestyle and diet changes. You will notice that during Ramadan you actually consume less food than usual, and your stomach gets full way quicker. Let’s feed it then with a food of quality, preferably the slow energy releasing type. We should be also aware of the consumption of sugar and caffeine. The first one is broken down very quickly, thus it doesn’t give much long-lasting energy. The second one is simply robbing our bodies of water and vitamins, which can be counterproductive to our Ramadan diet efforts. It still may be difficult though, to convince some members of a more traditional family to the food choice changes and switching this sugar packed rose syrup with water, or another meat dish with a vegetable or quinoa based.

Ramadan is like a pause button in our busy lives. We change the perspective and the way of thinking. We’re trying to set the goals for afterlife, rather than for worldly gains. I want to wish you all, a truly blessed Ramadan. May it be a time of reflection, self – improvement and strengthening the relationship with our Creator, In Shaa Allah (God Willing).

Post by: Aisha Vetinari Khan

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