History of RAMADHAN
The origin of "Ramadan", the sacred Muslim occassion, can be traced partly to historic accounts as well as the various holy Islamic texts. A great part of the history of Ramadan depends on ancient Islamic folklore.
According to the Islamic texts, Ramadan began with Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam who was born in 570 CE in the Arabian city of Mecca. Orphaned at a young age, Muhammad was reared by his uncle Abu Talib. The boy grew up to be a merchant, as well as a shepherd. He was first married by age 25.
Gradually Muhammad began to be dissatisfied with his life in Mecca. Having an idealistic and religious temperament from his very early days, he retreated to the caves in the surrounding mountains of Mecca for meditation and reflection.
According to Islam, one night during the month of Ramadan in the year 610 A.D. when Muhammad was 40 years of age and was passing the month in meditation in Mount Hira, he had a vision of an angel appearing before him. This angel introduced himself as Jibril and revealed that Muhammad was the messenger of Allah and was born to be a prophet to his people. The angel asked Muhammad to recite what he said:
"Recite in the name of your Lord Who creates.
Creates man from a clot.
Recite: And your Lord is the Most Bountiful
Who teaches by the pen,
He teaches man what he does not know."
With a confounded mind, Muhammad descended from Mount Hira and told everything to his wife Khadijah. He feared that he had had an encounter with an evil spirit. But Khadijah allayed his fears reminding him of his good conduct until then and that it was impossible for him to be visited by a demon. She took him to her old cousin Waraqa ibn Nawfal and told the latter everything about Muhammad's meeting with the angel. Waraqa ibn Nawfal was a much learned man and was well-versed in various sacred texts concerning different religion. The lettered man convinced Muhammad that he was indeed a messenger of God and the angel who visited Muhammad was the same divine messenger Gabriel who had also visited the Hebrew prophet Moses.
In the following twenty-three years, Muhammad was visited many times by Jibril who taught him the holy knowledge in verses. This sacred knowledge consists of the code of conduct that Allah wants his people to maintain on earth. It is inscribed in verses which are compiled in the holy Qur'an, the most sacred book in Islam.
It is said that the sacred knowledge was revealed to Muhammad during the month of Ramadan. "Laylat al-Qadr" - a night of the month is symbolically regarded as the same night on which the holy knowledge was gifted to Muhammad and mankind. The followers of Islam consider "Laylat al-Qadr" as the "Night of the Power", the holiest night of the year.
As a mark of respect to Allah and to show gratitude to him for the true knowledge that he gifted to his sons and daughters, the prophet asked his followers (and therefore the followers of Islam) to pass the month of Ramadan in fasting, prayers and other austerities and end the month-long non-indulgence with festive celebrations.
The Quran instructs us:
"Ramadan is the month during which the Quran was revealed, providing guidance for the people, clear teachings, and the statute book. Those of you who witness this month shall fast therein. Those who are ill or traveling may substitute the same number of other days. Allah wishes for you convenience, not hardship, that you may fulfill your obligations, and to glorify Allah for guiding you, and to express your appreciation." [Surat Al-Baqarah 2:185]
Thus was born the sacred occassion called Ramadan, a month-long period of austerity that sees devout Muslims across the world keep themselves away during the entire daytime, offering prayers and abstaining from almost every kind of enjoyment including drinking and abstaining from sex. For Muslims all over, it is a very special time - of introspection, meditation, self control, charitable activities, and spirituality and of course, devotion to God.