Can Non-Muslims Learn From Ramadan? Part 1

30 April, 2018
Q What can people of other faiths learn from Muslims during Ramadan?


Salam (Peace) Wilson,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

Please find part one of the answer to your question below. Please find the second part here. 

Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar calendar (Hijri calendar) followed by Muslims all over the world.

Every month in the lunar calendar begins with the sighting of the new moon; but thanks to the revolution in the fields of communication and transportation, contemporary Muslim scholars and intellectuals realize the need for a common calendar.

But most Muslims would insist even today on the traditional method of the physical sighting of the moon to mark the start of a Hijri month.

Consequently, the months related to religious festivals such as Ramadan, Shawwal, and Dhul-Hijjah are practically marked each year on the actual sighting of the crescent moon on the horizon, and not only the basis of astronomical calculations.

One consequence of following the lunar calendar is that the Hijri months, unlike the solar months, do not fall on the same season each year. For this reason, each year’s Ramadan begins and ends at a different time of the solar year.

The meaning of Ramadan goes back to the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It was during one Ramadan that God revealed to the Prophet the first verses of the noble Quran.

For this reason, in the Quran itself, God commands the Muslims to honor the revelation of the Quran by observing a month’s fast during Ramadan:

{Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Quran, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting […]} (Quran 2:185)

For this reason, Ramadan is a time when Muslims usually connect with the teachings of the Quran. For one whole month, they not only fast during daytime, but also spend as much time as they can reading and studying the Quran. But of course, the most obvious aspect of Ramadan is the fasting.

Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said:

When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained. (Al-Bukhari)

This means that Ramadan opens up a number of opportunities for believers to do good deeds and earn immense rewards from God. Also, fasting helps them to avoid bad deeds by suppressing all inclinations towards evil. That is what is signified by the “closing of the gates of hell” and the “chaining of the devils”.

Fasting in Ramadan is one of the pillars of Islam, along with the testament of faith, ritual five daily prayers, obligatory charity, and pilgrimage to Makkah, called the hajj.

We can see that fasting is practiced in other major religions as well. It is mentioned in the Torah and Gospels, as well as in Hindu scriptures. Observant Christians, Jews, and Hindus fast on certain days of the week or on holidays.

But the Islamic fast of Ramadan is unique. It lasts for one whole month; and it is observed from dawn to dusk when Muslims abstain from food, drink, and intimate relations.

Muslims use this opportunity for the purification of the soul by the practice of self-restraint. They focus their attention on God and strive to live a life quite in obedience to God’s commandments in the noble Quran.

For this reason, Ramadan is not just keeping away from food and drink; it is a time when Muslims re-evaluate their lives in the light of Divine guidance and the example of the Prophet.

Muslims use Ramadan as a special time to grow closer to God through their faith and deeds. It is also a time for reflections upon the numberless blessings God has showered on mankind.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

Whoever fasts during Ramadan with faith and seeks his reward from Allah alone, will have his past sins forgive. (Al-Bukhari)

So during Ramadan, Muslims seek God’s forgiveness while forgiving each other by settling differences that arose during the past year. And in this month, believers not only deny themselves food and drink during daytime, but also check all impulses for mutual rivalry and conflict.

Indeed, they strive to be kind and considerate to all, and to overlook people’s faults and forgive them for their lapses. This is because they know that their fasting would be of no avail if there is no improvement in their dealings with the people around them. The Prophet taught:

If a person does not avoid false talk and false conduct during the fast, Allah does not care if he abstains from his food and drink. (Al-Bukhari)

Please find the second part here.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Atheist Finds Islam Through Fasting Ramadan

How Fasting Sets Higher Standards