Ramadan fasting is a blessing from God like other practices of Islam, and from the 6-pillar concept of Islam its position is the 5th while the Quran has the 1st position as God always comes first in our thoughts and prayers. The Quran confirms that fasting started with prophet Abraham, and all the prophets and messengers came after him observed this practice. But there is no mention in the Quran that fasting was decreed in the lunar month of Ramadan while there are references of fasting in the Bible that the Jews and the Christians used to fast in different occasions or as and when required to be humble to God as well as to please Him abstaining from food and drink. However, the fasting is decreed in the month of Ramadan for us to be grateful to God for giving us the Quran in the special night of this month to attain righteousness, and the commandment of Ramadan fasting is found in a few verses of the Quran.
Commandment of Ramadan fasting
The commandment of Ramadan fasting is very straightforward in the Quran but with appropriate details on how to fast including options and objective so that we can fulfill this obligation to be righteous:
- Fasting is decreed as an essential practice for us to achieve righteousness, and its practice as a key component of seeking righteousness, has been part of Islam since the time of Abraham:
[2:183] O you who believe, fasting is decreed for you, as was decreed for those before you, so that you become righteous.
- Fasting is prescribed for us for a number of days each year accommodating necessary alternatives. If a person is unable to fast for some reason, God gives him or her other options to supplement it. Therefore, those who are sick, pregnant, elderly, or traveling, can make up an equal number of days later in the year. If they are physically unable to do this, they can feed a needy person for breaking every fast but fasting is good for us if we can fulfill this obligation being an opportunity for us for the growth and development of our souls:
[2:184] Specified days. But whoever is ill among you or on a journey, then the prescribed number in other days. And for those who can do it (but with hardship), there is a ransom of feeding a poor. But whoever volunteers good, then it is better for him. And if you fast, it is better for you if you knew.
- Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar in which the Quran was revealed as our guidance, clear proofs of the guidance and the statute book. God has decreed for us fasting during the entire blessed month to glorify Him for guiding us as well as to express our appreciation:
[2:185] Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed as guidance for the people, clear proofs of the guidance, and the statute book. So whoever among you witnesses the month, then he should fast in it. But whoever is ill or on a journey, then the prescribed number in other days. God wishes for you ease and He does not wish for you hardship and that you can complete the prescribed number, and that you can glorify God for what He has guided you so that you may be grateful.
Note: This verse has a reference to the month being Ramadan at the night of which the whole Quran was revealed, more specifically inspired to the prophet’s soul for its participation with the set of verses logically separated and mathematically confirmed connected to the event of revealing the whole Quran once through inspiration while the night is specifically referred in the other 8 participating verses of the set.
- In the month of Ramadan, the Muslims (Submitters) are to fast from dawn to sunset, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations to attain righteousness. However, sexual relation is allowed with their wives during the nights of fasting but it is prohibited if someone has decided to retreat to the masjids. Thus God has made His revelations clear to the people so that they can be righteous:
2:187] Permitted for you is to approach unto your wives during the nights of fasting. They are garments for you and you are garments for them. God knew that you used to betray your souls. So He has redeemed you and has forgiven you. Now, you may have relation with them and seek what God has prescribed for you. And you may eat and drink until the white thread becomes distinct to you from the black thread of the dawn. Then, you shall fast until the night. And do not have relation with them while you are devoted in the masjid. These are the God given limits, so do not transgress them. Thus, God makes His revelations clear to the people so that they may be righteous.
Note: This verse refers to the update made in the ritual of fasting permitting sexual relation between the fasting spouses during the nights of fasting if someone does not stay in the masjids for commemoration of God including details on how to fast. Even though there is a hint to stay in the masjids, which is not enough to believe that this is an order for us to stay in the masjids during the last 10 days of Ramadan when we are certain that the Quran was revealed on the night of 27th Ramadan while we know from the Quran that God’s commandment about any matter is very specific not to have any confusion or doubt in our hearts to obey it.
The commandment of Ramadan fasting is found in 4 verses of sura Al-Baqarah and if the relevant sura and verse numbers are added, the total is a multiple of 19 => 741 = 19x39 (shown in the table below):
Note: This mathematical confirmation is an explicit proof of the very precise commandment of Ramadan fasting to avoid all misconceptions around this practice while 2:185 is a bridge between the mathematical confirmation of one-night event and that of the commandment of Ramadan fasting.
However, there is also another mathematical confirmation of fasting including obligatory (Ramadan) and optional fasting together from 11 occurrences of the word, “Siyam” or “Saum” in 10 verses of 5 suras in the Quran around us for a while as shown below:
Note: In fact, this is not an explicit proof of the commandment of Ramadan fasting but can be used as a concise reference to understand the difference between Ramadan and optional fasting. We may also reflect that there is always room for our improvement as well as to understand and do better if we investigate the source of unlimited knowledge and wisdom.
Misconceptions around it
Islam driven by the Quran has made our journey simple and easy to meet our Lord as well as to receive our recompense from Him but many misconceptions and innovations have infiltrated stealthily in it to make the life miserable for those who believe and follow them. Even there are many misconceptions and innovations around the very straightforward commandment of Ramadan fasting. Here are the major ones that are noticeable but can be avoided for the cause of God to be obedient to Him if someone makes his/her proper attention to this precise commandment:
- Ramadan is a sacred month
Among the traditional Muslim circle Ramadan is considered to be the sacred month while it can be called the blessed month as the whole Quran was inspired to Muhammad’s soul in the night of this month (2:185, 44:3) about 1400 years ago that we now are certain on the night of 27th of Ramadan. We cannot call the month sacred unless God has called it so. In addition, it would be confusing with the months that God has specifically called to be the sacred months (9:36), which are Dhu al-Hijjah, Muharram, Safar and Rabi’I. And Hajj is decreed but fighting is sacrilege during these four sacred months of the lunar (Islamic) calendar. However, this night is also called the Night of Power (97:1), which has been made better than a thousand months (97:3) to give our proper attention to the event that took place in the night to give us the Quran making it as our guidance, clear proofs of the guidance and the statute book (2:185). Since God has called the night of 27th Ramadan to be the blessed as well as the best night, it would be logical for us to call the month to be the blessed and the best month reflecting to the event of the night instead of just blindly calling it a sacred month.
- Observance of laylatal Qadr
The night in which the whole Quran was inspired to the prophet’s soul is called the Night of Power (laylatal Qadr) and the night is so elusive to some of us that they stay in the masjids during the last 10 days of Ramadan to experience the night considering it a commandment from God to earn lots of extra rewards from Him as the night is better than a thousand months. There is no such order from God in the Quran but those who volunteer to stay in the masjids during this month can be benefitted themselves from the group study of the Quran or from participating in the discussion on specific subjects from the Quran or from meditation with the Quran knowing our guidance or from imploring God using His words specifically designed to do that to find right thing to do in right way.
However, there is also a notion around us for long based on the verse (97:4) that the angles and the Spirit (the Gabriel) descend annually on this night to carry out every command to grant us our wishes while multitude of rewards can be earned if we stay up all night in observance of the night. There is no such thing related to the past event except misinterpretation of the verse in question and the ritual that has handed down to us is man-made.
- Salatul Qadr
There is another innovated way to observe laylatal Qadr by establishing Salat prayer during the night before the Isha prayer. The 2-unit prayer is performed at a time reciting sura Al-Qadr followed by the sura Al-Fatehah until the dawn prayer when the Isha prayer is established it is too late. While the Quran has confirmed daily 5 times Salat prayer (4:103, 20:130) to establish consistently in a timely manner. Anything we are doing or following that has not been prescribed by God, then we are doing idol worshipping, which is an unforgiveable sin (4:48, 116, 39:65). There is no more or no less as per God is our concern except what has been specially enjoined us to have extra rewords such as paying to charity as much as we can but not being extravagant after fulfilling Zakat (obligatory charity), studying of the Quran as much as we can being freed from the infuence of the Satan and imploring Him using His words from the Quran at any time. Since there are no extra Salat prayers including ‘Wajib’, ‘Sunnat’, ‘Nafil’ or ‘Betar’ that are practiced by many Muslims around the globe expecting extra rewards from God are all false prayers and such practices make them idol worshipers instead of getting rewords from Him.
- Tarawih prayer
Tarawih prayer is a special appearance in Ramadan before the Isha prayer consisting of various ways to go about it depending upon the preference of Hadith by the hundreds of unauthorized sects around the world (6:159, 30:32). Some Tarawih sessions make people stand and sit so much that they end up bored and tired. Most masjids divide the Quran into 30 equal parts and recite a part each night of Ramadan just to finish it, even though no one cares to listen or understand (2:171, 7:204). Instead of these false and uncomfortable religious gatherings, people should follow God’s command in the Quran to meditate in the night (17:79, 25:64, 26:217-219, 73:2), reflecting upon His name (50:40) and seeking His mercy in Ramadan and throughout the year as well (3:191-192, 20:130, 32:15-16, 40:55). The Quran has provided us adequate evidences not to have any extra Salat prayers beyond 17 units of prayers in 5 times a day. Therefore, there should not any doubt that Tarawih prayer is a man-made ritual introduced during the Ramadan fasting.
- Eid prayer
There is no such prayer called ‘Eid’ Salat prayer, which is performed in congregation on the first morning of Shawaal after the end of Ramadan fasting just like there are no extra Salat prayers as mentioned earlier. However, there is nothing wrong if people get together and celebrate with a feast, greeting and congratulating each other for fulfilling such a great obligation to God provided it is not made into a religious requirement. It is an event of personal choice not a religious law.
- Ramadan feasting
Ramadan is a month for the spiritual gain but it becomes a time for feasting in the Muslim communities around the world. It is a very social time for hosting and feasting being a month long holiday of cooking special foods, inviting friends and relatives over and special functions in the masjids. Thus, in most cases it turns to the Ramadan feast from the Ramadan fast as it does not help us very much grow our soul. However, we may turn it around if we can reflect that perhaps we might feast ourselves during the days and fast from distractions during the nights to help us grow our soul.
- Ramadan acts are more holy
Ramadan fasting is one of the many gifts given to us from God. But it does not mean that any religious acts such as Salat and Zakat during this month makes them more special than doing them during the rest of the year. Giving Zakat and establishing Salat only during Ramadan do not give our soul any boast than if we did them throughout the year — as they are required to be done. It is also a wrong belief that during Ramadan the soul is built up so strong that it will help overlook our sins through the rest of the year.
- Sadaqa al-Fitr
The Sadaqa al-Fitr also known as Zakatul-Fitr is a small amount to be given in charity in the form of food at the end of Ramadan before the congregational Eid Salat prayer. The Sadaqa al-Fitr is to be paid equally by every Muslim man, woman and child at the end of Ramadan. Each person should give away in charity an amount equivalent to one sa’a of grain. A sa’a is an ancient measure of volume, and various scholars have struggled to interpret this amount in modern measurements. However, the most common understanding is that one sa’a is equivalent to 2.5 kilograms (5 pounds) of wheat. Each individual Muslim is to give away this amount — man or woman, adult or child, sick or healthy, old or young. The senior member of the household is responsible for paying the amount on behalf of the family. Since the Quran has clearly explained both obligatory charity (7:156, 6:141, 70:24, 2:215 etc.) and optional charity (2:219, 2:261, 9:60, 2:177, 2:273 etc.), and there is no doubt that this charity is man-made and if we follow such man-made teaching, we would be idol worshippers.
- Shawwal fasting
Traditional Muslims fast several days sometime in the month of Shawwal followed by Ramadan fast despite the details of both obligatory and optional fasting are found in the Quran. They believe that Shawwal fasting serves as a witness of Ramadan fasting to help their Ramadan fasting to reach to God to be rewarded by Him. It does not conform to His teaching given in the Quran as He knows whatever we conceal and whatever we declare i.e., nothing is hidden from Him whatever in the earth nor in the heavens (2:77, 14:38), even we cannot conspire secretly without the presence of Him (58:7). Thus, there is no doubt that this is manmade and if we follow such manmade teaching, we would be idol worshippers.
- Menstruating women prohibited from Ramadan fast
The menstruating women are prohibited from observing the Salat prayers, fasting and even touching the Quran. This false prohibition about women is made based on the verse (2:222) claiming that women are unclean during menstruation, therefore, they cannot pray or fast or even read the Quran during menstruation:
[2:222] And they (male) ask you (Muhammad) about menstruation: say, “It is harmful, so you shall keep away from the women during menstruation, and do not approach them until they are clean. Then when they are clean, then you may come to them in a way as designed by God. Indeed, God loves the repenters, and He loves those who are clean.”
In this verse God is clearly teaching us about personal hygiene, and there is no law being dealt with the religious practices of the women in the verse. Since it only refers to personal hygiene, the husbands are not allowed to approach their wives during their menstruation. However, this verse or any other verses in the Quran have not been directed to the menstruating women to forbid them from practicing their religious duties. Hence, the menstruating women can pray, fast and read the Quran what they can do at their normal living except having sex with their husbands.
God has commanded us to observe Ramadan fasting in 4 very straightforward verses of the Quran with appropriate details including objectives and alternatives. He has told us that He has decreed it to help us achieve righteousness as it was decreed before us. So it is best for us to fast during the month if it is possible but if not, then to fast the equal number of days in other times. If it is not at all possible for anyone, then he/she can feed a poor person for each day of breaking fast. Everyone should fast from the dawn until the sunset refraining from drinking, eating while sexual relation was permitted during nights for those who do not stay in the masjids for commemoration of God.
The misconceptions and innovations found around the precise commandment of Ramadan fasting can be summarized as (1) Ramadan is a sacred month, (2) observance of laylatal Qadr, (3) Salatul Qadr, (5) Tarawih prayer, (6) Ramadan feasting, (7) Ramadan acts are more holy, (8) Sadaqa al-Fitr, (9) Shawwal fasting and (10) Menstruating women are prohibited from Ramadan fasting.
Ramadan is a very significant as well as a blessed month as confirmed by the verses (97:3) and (44:3) respectively. If it is called a sacred month then it would be confused with the four sacred months as designated by God in the verse (9:36). The blessed month is connected to the Ramadan fasting while the sacred months are connected to Hajj (2:197) when fighting is a sacrilege (2:217).
Observance of laylatal Qadr through Salatul Qadr or any other form that handed down to us is a traditional mess. This has infiltrated in our well defined religion due to misinterpretation of the two verses of the sura 97 (97:3 and 97:4), which has described the completion of inspiration process of the whole Quran into the prophet’s soul. In fact, 97:3 has stated the significance of the night to give our proper attention to this unique event as well as to what has been given us as our guidance, clear proofs of the guidance and the statute book to find and stay in the straight path while 97:4 has described the completion of inspiration process involving the angels and the Gabriel. In some cases, verses, 2:187 and 89:2 are referred to support the practice of staying in the masjids during the last ten nights of Ramadan, which have no connection to the event of inspiration.
Tarawih prayer during Ramadan and Eid prayer after the end of Ramadan is introduced even there are no hints about these two rituals in the commandment of fasting. While there are no extra Salat prayers beyond 17 units (15 units on Friday) of Salat prayers in 5 times a day (4:103, 20:130) and there is no more or no less in the religion given by God as He has not authorized anyone to add or remove any rituals from His religion (6:115).
The congregational Eid prayer is a practice introduced by tradition, so is the Sadaqa al-Fitr while both obligatory and optional charity are clearly explained in the Quran mentioning the recipients as well as when and how much we have to pay out from our income or savings,
Ramadan is a month of spiritual gain while in most cases it becomes a month-long social time for hosting and feasting in many masjids that turns the Ramadan Fast to the Ramadan Feast. For such distractions, the practice does not contribute to grow our soul and we end up the Ramadan fast without spiritual gain.
God has designed the religious rites for us to serve specific purposes towards growing our souls and any rituals that we observe during the Ramadan has the same impact on our souls if we do in the rest of the year as required to be done but there is no boast when we do in the Ramadan. Hence, there is no doubt that any Ramadan acts are more holy than the rest of the year is a misconception.
We cannot do anything without the presence of God as He is closer to us than our jugular vein (56:16), and a few days of Shawwal fasting requires to witness the Ramadan fasting is just another innovation while we know that even two of us cannot conspire without His presence (58:7).
Menstruation is a part of the female reproductive system and God is aware of it, and He has not prohibited the menstruating women to practice any of His rituals except having sex what is related to their personal hygiene while men and women are equal according to His law (33:35).
The commandment of Ramadan fasting is very specific to be grateful to God for giving us the Quran in a great night (97:1) but it is unfortunate for us that for which the night is so great being better than a thousand months (97:3), we pay little or no attention to it; even if someone invites us to it, we become arrogant. While we are fascinated to many misconceptions and innovations to stay with the majority to make us losers in the Hereafter (6:116) being motivated by words, voices and dresses of the so called scholars as inspired by the Satan to implement his mission (6:112-113, 121).
Peaceful Friday, salaam and God bless.