A short history of Fasting the month of Ramadan, by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

This is a true account of the mercy of Allah be He Exalted and Glorified, to the believers. Fasting the month of Ramadan was prescribed in the early years after the hijra of the Prophet (SAWS) from Mecca to Medina. However, the rulings regarding fasting were not all revealed at once; there were several incremental updates from Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala that were sent down to the Prophet (SAWS) as revealed texts, and appearing in verses in the Quran.

For example, when the Prophet (SAWS) first came to Medina, they used to fast three days out of every month and they use to fast the day of Ashooraa. After that, Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala made it incumbent upon them to fast Ramadan, by revealing the verse: “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint, (Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (Should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (With hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will,- it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.” [2:183-184] observing the month of Ramadan became incumbent, but they had a choice; they could either fast, or they could ‘ransom’ their fast by feeding a poor person for every day instead of fasting. “For those who can do it, is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent.” [2:184] Still it was better for them to fast, by the verse; “But he that will give more, of his own free will,- it is better for him”. [2:184] Despite the choice of either fasting or feeding, fasting was deemed the better of the two options; “And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.” [2:184] In either case, it was better for them to do extra, such as feeding more than one person for each day or by fasting and feeding a person based upon the verse; “But he that will give more, of his own free will,- it is better for him”.

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This Ramadan, our dear sister Aisha is homeless. Spend you sadaqa in helping her get an apartment of her own.

After that, another verse was revealed which made fasting incumbent (fard) upon everyone; “So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting”, but if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful. [2:185] After this verse was revealed, it was incumbent on every person who was present when Ramadan came, to fast the month except for who was sick, or travelling.  The dispensation of being able to ransom by feeding, instead of fasting, remained for the frail and the elderly, until this day.  Anas ibn Malik when he became a very old man, would have a big feast during Ramadan and feed thirty people at a time.
The companions of the Prophet (SAWS) used to, if a man was fasting, and the time of iftaar came but he fell asleep, or prayed ishaa before he ate a meal; he wouldn’t eat for the rest of the night and continue to fast until Maghrib the next day. So one day Qais ibn Sir’ma al-Ansaari was fasting and when the time of iftaar came, he said to his wife; do you have any food? She said: no but let me go and see if I can get some for you He had been working that day, so he ended up falling asleep (while he was waiting). She finally came and when she saw him asleep, she said: ‘you missed it’.  It was reported in another narration that when his wife came to him with the food, he said to her: “I feel asleep”, she replied: “no you didn’t” and he insisted that he did. Nevertheless, he slept that night without eating anything, and the next day, when he got up in the morning, he was fasting.  By the middle of the day, he lost consciousness. This incident was mentioned to the Prophet (SAWS) and then the verse was revealed: “Permitted to you, on the night of the fasts, is the approach to your wives. They are your garments and ye are their garments. Allah knoweth what ye used to do secretly among yourselves; but He turned to you and forgave you; so now associate with them, and seek what Allah Hath ordained for you,” [2:187], when this verse was revealed,  the Muslims were extremely happy because as they understood it now, they were able to continue to eat, drink or have relationships with their wives throughout the night without restriction, whereas before, if they happened to fall asleep, or if they prayed ishaa, they wouldn’t eat afterwards until sunset the next day.

Right after that, the versed was revealed: “and eat and drink, until the white thread appear s to you distinct from the black thread; then complete your fast Till the night appears”. [2:187] However, the words; (of the dawn) were not revealed yet. So the companions of the Prophet (SAWS) updated their fasting according to what was revealed and would consider it permissible to continue to eat, drink, or have relations with their wives throughout the night until the dawn came, and many of them would tie a black and white thread around their leg.

It was reported about Sah’li ibn Sa’d, who said: the verse: “and eat and drink, until the white thread appears to you distinct from the black thread”, and the words; (from the dawn –min al-fajr) were not revealed. So when men wanted to fast, they would tie a black thread and a white thread around their leg, and continue eating in the morning, until they could distinguish one from the other. After that, Allah revealed the words: (of the dawn) and they knew then that what were meant were (the threads of night) and day. This is how Allah showed his mercy to the companions of the Prophet (SAW) and heralded in the fast of Ramadan as we know it today, step by step.

Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, a Philadelphia native, is a writer, a researcher and the weekly khateeb at the Islamic Society of Folsom, in Northern California. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation (NAIF), and the CEO of ‘Mosque Without Borders’, an organization that address Muslim the challenges and issues related to American Muslim converts in the United States. He is also and the author of the book, “Double Edged Slavery“, a critical and authoritative look at the condition of African American and convert Muslims in the United States, and the book: “The Devil’s Deception of the Modern Day Salafi Sect “, a critical look at the ideological underpinning of modern Salafist extremism. He blogs at imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

 

CAIR’s ‘Sharing Ramadan’ Campaign: Well intended? Maybe. Bad Idea? Definately!

The national campaign suggested by the Council on American Islamic Relations [CAIR] to “Share Ramadan”, although perhaps well intended, is ill-conceived, misleading, and quite frankly, borders upon sacrilege. The concern of some American Muslims about the increase in anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment in America is, understandable. Albeit overblown and hyperbolic, nevertheless, it is a legitimate concern. However, sharing Ramadan, inviting people to fast for a day, sprucing up our behavior for the benefit of the media, or thinking that a non-Muslim will somehow vicariously experience what a believing Muslim feels when he or she breaks their fast, will do little to stem the rising tide of islamophobia or change public opinion about Islam and Muslims except to demonstrate the degree of ostentation (riyaa) which we are willing to embark upon to get someone to like us. It gives the impression that we are a disingenuous and desperate people. Such actions breed more contempt and suspicion than sympathy, or a warm and fuzzy feeling towards Muslims.

Ever since 9/11, American Muslims have been on the defensive, and more often than not, we are over-defensive. Many times, acting at the behest of American Muslim political and advocacy organizations, we will leave no stone unturned in prostituting various foundational aspects of our faith in order to influence public opinion. True Islam belongs to Allah; we don’t need to defend it, we only need to practice it. Not surprisingly, ten years of spin doctoring Islam, have netted very little tangible results. To this day, we’re till complaining how much they don’t like us.

Consider that acting under the unhealthy influence of islamic political organizations, American Muslims have already changed, (may Allah help us) for the benefit of public consumption, the meaning of Islam from submission to peace, we’ve established the despicable precedent that Friday prayer (Salaatul Jum’ah) does not have to be performed for Allah only but can be done on a state capitol lawn in order to make a political statement, and we’ve asserted that it really makes no difference whether you are Muslim, Christian or Jewish, it’s really just one religion. Now, as we approach the holiest month of the year, our ambitiously bodacious political Islamic leaders at CAIR, are asking us to share one of the most personal acts of devotion; the observance of the month of Ramadan, with our non-Muslim neighbors and associates!

 The ‘Sharing Ramadan’ campaign inaugurated by CAIR suggests that we do group spectacle and mockery of our own faith during the holiest month of the year, and that we invite partners with whom we will share our devotion to Allah, and then, as suggested in CAIR’s ‘Sharing Ramadan’ resource guide, film it all, and send it to CAIR.

Increasing righteous acts during Ramadan is a Sunna of our Prophet (SAWS). Make your non-Muslim friends, neighbors or family member a plate of food if you want, or spend some of the money you save during the month in charity.

However, your fast, your iftaar, your worship, and your devotional observance of the month of Ramadan, is  between you and Allah. It’s not for sale, it’s not for public relations and it’s not to impress and it’s not for show. We cannot share or magically transfer our experience of fasting Ramadan because each persons fast, is known only to Allah, Judged only by Him, and accepted or rejected, by Allah be He Exalted and Glorified. Your fast is not yours to share. If you share it, you have associated partners with Allah. 

 Fasting, iftaar, taraaweeh, qiyaami lail, are all for Allah only, and He imparts, the blessings, the joy, the spiritual bliss and the reward of Ramadan, to whomever He pleases and in whatever measure He wants.. When we invite guests to the Masjid to ‘share’ Ramadan, we should realize that they cannot share in the blessing or reward since in order to be rewarded for fasting the month of Ramadan, you must first be a Muslim, after that, you must observe the fat, and it’s applicle rules and conditions according to the Quran and sunna.

CAIR suggests that a person can fast without belief, and break the fast without fasting, and that we should thank them for it.  [Please do not forget to send “thank you” notes to the religious, political and civic leaders who attended the iftaar;][1]

Ramadan is a pillar of faith, and should in not be prostituted as part of a public relations campaign initiated by a national political Islamic organization, to alter perceived public opinion about Islam. If we allow that, then we are corrupting the very foundations of what we believe sacred, which is the unique oneness and devotional exclusivity of, and to the Almighty God, Allah (tawheed and ikhlaas). Without tawheed and ikhlaas, the essence of righteous and devotional acts of worship is rotted and devoid of any spiritual value.

Observance of the month of Ramadan is considered ritual worship (ibaadah) according to sacred law. The unanimous opinion of Islamic legal orthodoxy, is that ritual worship and devotion (including observance of Ramadan) is invalidated by partnering [shirk]; It may still look good on the outside. However, on the Day of Reckoning, when it counts, it will be worth nothing.

The slogan of CAIR’s campaign; “sharing Ramadan” suggests a compromise in devotional exclusivity (ikhlaas) to Allah, and it goes downhill from there. Although that may not be the intention behind the campaign, the slogan ‘sharing Ramadan’ is a misnomer to say the least and only adds to the confusion that a non-muslim may already have about Islam. Sharing food or sharing a meal is considered one of the noblest acts of faith, and something that every Muslim should do when he or she is able. However, feeding food is best when done for the sake of Allah, and not for the purpose of the cameras, public relations, or Muslim image making;

إِنَّمَا نُطْعِمُكُمْ لِوَجْهِ اللَّهِ لَا نُرِيدُ مِنكُمْ جَزَاء وَلَا شُكُورًا 76:9

“[Saying, in their hearts,] “We feed you for the sake of God alone: we desire no recompense from you, nor thanks:”

Taking iftaar is a devotional act that is part of the observance of Ramadan; you can’t share that with anyone. Iftaar to a Muslim is a very special moment that is part of the observance of Ramadan. Iftaar, to a non-Muslim, it’s just a meal just like any other meal. The only way for a person to experience Ramadan, is to first, believe in the Lord who commanded it, and second, observe the month according to the rules and ordinances of the Quran and prophetic tradition (Sunna). It is the divine right of God that worship should be done exclusively for him and him only.

فَمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو لِقَاء رَبِّهِ فَلْيَعْمَلْ عَمَلًا صَالِحًا وَلَا يُشْرِكْ بِعِبَادَةِ رَبِّهِ أَحَدًا 18:110

Whoever expects to meet his Lord, let him work righteousness, and, in the worship of his Lord, admit no one as partner. 18:110

Fasting is a special type of worship and devotion to Allah. Even though every act of worship is done for devotion to Allah, and for the benefit of one’s soul, fasting is particularly for Allah in ways that are beyond our comprehension. Allah has said, “All of the actions of mankind are done for his own sake except for fasting; it is done exclusively for me, and I reward it accordingly[2]

Although it frequently resorts to hyperbole and fear tactics to elicit support, CAIR is arguably a necessary organization and occasionally does good work on behalf of people who need support. The local people whom I know at CAIR are passionate, hard working people who I admire and respect, but like us all, they make mistakes, and the ‘Share Ramadan campaign is one of them.

Islamic Political organizations should not be in the habit of setting agendas for what are supposed to be religious based initiatives. It is for this reason, many Americans regard Islam as a political ideology bent on takeover instead of a god centered religion that leads to salvation for the human soul. Public relations are important, and have a place in Islam. However, islamic public relations is accomplished by going out amongst the people who live amongst you, and serving them, feeding our poor, helping the elderly shut in, who lives down the block, protecting our children from drugs, gangs, keeping an eye out for criminals, predators and violence in the neighborhood. That’s how you are neighborly in Islam, and that’s how people understand neighborliness in America.

You don’t reach out to your neighbors by sending formal invitations to politicians and religious leaders, to a controlled, choreographed, dry scripted event at the place where you worship, in an environment that is totally foreign to them. There is no spontaneity in that, no sincerity, and no personal interaction with everyday people. As far as most Americans are concerned, such events are fake, and disingenuous. Our mothers and grandmothers who weren’t Muslim, taught us better than that. I grew up on America as a Muslim, and lived next door to folks for years and we interacted with our neighbors all the time, as Muslims. We played football in the street, shared food, utensils, shoveled each other’s snow off the sidewalk, picked up each other’s mail when we went on vacations, and watched over each other’s houses. If you look out for your neighbors, they will look out for you. That’s the way things are done in America, and for Muslims who are tired of people looking at you like you don’t belong here, it’s important that you understand that.

Being a good neighbor is part of the Islamic way and it is part of the American way. Every Muslim family in America has the opportunity on a daily basis to get to know their neighbors. You don’t need a national political Islamic organization, to puppeteer you through it, step by step like you are a robot. Americans can see right through that.

Being a good neighbor is not something that you do once a year, at a staged event, with the cameras rolling and with flash cards, talking points and press kits. You can be a good neighbor and reach out to them simply by walking a few feet to the next door on either side of you with a bag of groceries, or by shoveling the freshly fallen snow off your neighbors pavement as you shovel your own, or offering to feed their dog while they are on vacation. Being a good Muslim is to worship Him alone in the proper manner, without associating partners with Him. Trying to please politicians will not bring us closer to Allah, and it is not the basis for success in this life or the hereafter. American Muslims need to rediscover tawheed and ikhlaas, and not let our worship and duty to our Lord be compromised by partnering our worship with political objectives a public relations imagery whether it is orchestrated by CAIR or anyone else.

Restricting CAIR’s unhealthy and destructive influence in our nation’s masaajid (mosques) and Islamic centers will do more to change public opinion about Islam, than a thousand camera ready iftaars and open houses. It will also open the door for American Muslims to practice Islam and interact with our neighbors in faith, sincerity, and without political or public relations consideration, all of which are detrimental to our disposition of our souls when we stand before Allah subhaanahu wa ta’ala. Islam is a religious journey, not a political campaign. If we concentrate on practicing our faith, instead of trying to control the image of it in the public eye, people might start to believe that Islam is indeed a religion based upon truth and godliness, and not subterfuge and deception. Ramadan only comes around once a year and we are not promised to see the next one.

The sad part about this is that CAIR actually does good work on behalf of Muslims in certain areas of advocacy, and since they recruit their volunteers from within the nation’s Muslim congregations, the people who work with CAIR are usually hard working, god fearing conscientious. I love our local CAIR Director here in the city that I live, and I support him in the good work he does for our community, and he does a lot. May Allah reward him and strengthen him.

This is the United States of America and people are free to do as they want. We all have to answer to Allah for our actions when we meet Him. For that reason, we should not allow our mosques, Islamic centers and congregations to be manipulated and our great to be politicized by a few people to serve their organizational self-interests. All criticism of Islam and Muslims cannot be summed up as a case of islamophobia; there are elements that come into our masaajid and politicize and take advantage of ordinary, unsuspecting Muslim Americans, using fear tactics, hyperbole, and spiritual blackmail, and we need to put an end to it so we can go about or lives, being productive while practicing Islam as a religion and not as a political ideology Let’s keep politics, public relations, and pandering to media and public opinion out of this Ramadan, and the Ramadans to come. May Allah accept our observance of the month, forgive us for our sins, and purify our intentions. Wa Allahu al-Musta’aan wa bi hi tawfiq.

Imam Luqman Ahmad



[1] CAIR brochure ‘Sharing Ramadan Resource Guide’

[2] Collected by Bukhaari

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