How Ramadan Was First Observed

By Aisha Mir

Ramadan was introduced through holy scripture of the Qur’an which is believed by Muslims to be God’s revelation. The Qur’an was one of the ways Prophet Muhammad and God communicated. Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims by fasting from sunrise to sunset. Since fasting was first prescribed to Muslims in Prophet Muhammad’s time, this article will be going over the traditional practices in the month of Ramadan, including narrations about Prophet Muhammad’s way of life during this holy month.

Fasting was first observed two years after Prophet Muhammad migrated to Madinah, which is a city in modern-day Saudi Arabia. It was believed that Prophet Muhammad was forced to flee from Mecca because paganists were harming believers of God. Thus, he and his followers fled Mecca and sought refuge in Madinah, where people expected and welcomed him upon his arrival. The following verse was revealed by God to Prophet Muhammad in regards to fasting while in Madinah: “O believers! Fasting is prescribed for you—as it was for those before you—so perhaps you will become mindful ˹of God˺.” (2:183).

Prior to this, fasting was done irregularly throughout the year by Prophet Muhammad, but never for a set period of 29 or 30 days like Ramadan. Depending on the moon sighting, fasting would be prescribed each year for either 29 or 30 days. The moon sighting would also decide when Eid (the after celebration of Ramadan) would occur. When Ramadan was first prescribed, the Battle of Badr, a fight between Muslims in Madinah and paganists in Mecca simultaneously occurred. This meant that capable and healthy people would be fasting while fighting to prevent Islam’s extinction. The purpose of fasting was established in Qur’anic verses. It was not to keep a human starving for their Lord, but to be a better Muslim and atone for wrongdoings. A person would also be abstaining from their worldly desires. Therefore, it is important to establish the purpose of fasting as more than abstinence from food.

Now, moving on to the sayings of Prophet that demonstrated the practices of Prophet Muhammad and surrounding Muslims during Ramadan. Compiled saying of Prophet Muhammad translate to hadith in Arabic. The first hadith is Prophet Muhammad’s instruction of when to stop eating (to fast) and break your fast. It relates to the calling of one of his companions, Bilal. “Samura b. Jandub reported Muhammad (may peace be upon him) as saying. “The call of Bilal may not mislead anyone of you (and he may, under the wrong impression gathered from it, refrain) from taking meal before the commencement of the fast (for the streaks) of this whiteness (which are vertical indicate the false dawn and the true dawn with which the fast commences is that when the streaks of light are) spread”.

Sometimes Muslims today will eat up until their bedtime to avoid waking up and eating before dawn. However, it is preferred to eat before dawn. “Anas (God be pleased with him) reported God’s Messenger (peace be upon him) as saying: Take meal a little before dawn, for there is a blessing in taking meal at that time.” Anas was reportedly a companion of Prophet Muhammad. There were also times when believers were rewarded for their fasts even when they did not keep it due to another religious duty, or if followers of Prophet Muhammad were too tired to keep the fast. “Anas (God be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of God (may peace be upon him) was journeying (along with his Companions). Some of them had observed the fast whereas the others had broken it. Those who did not fast girded up their loins and worked, but the observers of the fast were too weak to work. Upon this he (the Apostle of God) said: “Today the breakers of the fast have gone with the reward.”

Finally, one of the practices upon breaking a fast that is still practiced today is eating a date. This is because Prophet Muhammad would eat a date upon breaking his fast. However, if there were no dates around, then breaking a fast with water would be the next best option. Life was lived very minimalistically for Prophet Muhammad. He would share dates with others, sometimes not having enough for everyone to go around. This Prophet has influenced many practices of modern-day Muslims and is remembered belovedly by Muslims. So during this time in Ramadan, Muslims are encouraged to reevaluate their relationship with God and strengthen it through reading scripture, praying, and abstaining from sinning. Ramadan Mubarak!


Mazza, EliseHow Ramadan Was First Observed