In the Spirit of the Gracious and Compassionate
Creator of the Heavens and the Earth
Ramadan, the ninth month of the lunar calendar, is the month of daily fasting from dawn until sunset for Muslims. This year (2019), Ramadan is expected to begin on Sunday, May 5, or Monday, May 6, at sundown — depending on whichever evening the new lunar crescent is first seen. The Muslim calendar consists of twelve lunar months, with no adjustment to accommodate the solar year. The year 1440 A.H. (“after Hijrah”) of the Muslim calendar runs from September 11, 2018, to August 30, 2019, of the Christian calendar.
The Muslim calendar begins the year of the Hijrah, the migration from Makkah (Mecca) to Madinah (Medina) of Prophet Muhammad and his followers; they were persecuted in Makkah for serving the Creator of the heavens and the earth (called “God” by English-speaking Christians, and called “Allah” by Muslims, Arabic-speaking Christians, and ancient Israelites) instead of serving idols. (The ancient Israelites did not call the Creator “Jehovah” or “Yahweh”; these words were invented by modern Christian and Jewish scholars, based on a fanciful interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures.)
Ramadan will last 29 or 30 days, depending on the visibility of the new lunar crescent at the end of the month. The first day of the next month, Shawwaal, is a day of observance called “Eid-ul-Fitr”. This day is expected to coincide with Tuesday, June 4, 2019. Muslims observe this occasion by gathering for a special congregational prayer in the early morning, and spending the rest of the day (and perhaps the next two days, as well) socializing and feasting.
The reason we fast during the month of Ramadan is because this is the month in which the revelation of the Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad began, 14 centuries ago. Prophet Muhammad is acknowledged — by Muslim and non-Muslim historians — as the most influential single human being in recorded history. (The influence of Jesus Christ is shared with St. Paul, who spread Christianity to more people and did much to establish Christian doctrines; there is no “St. Paul” of the Muslims.) The global influence of Prophet Muhammad is a result of the Qur’an.
Fourteen centuries ago, most human beings lived in ignorance and slavery. Sixty percent of the people in the Roman Empire were outright slaves, and religious freedom and human rights were unknown even for so-called “free” people. More Christians were persecuted and killed for their faith under the Christian leaders of the Roman Empire than under the previous pagan leaders. Under the Muslim leaders, who freed the countries of Africa and the Middle East from Roman domination, Christians were free to serve God according to their faith.
Because of the message of the Qur’an, we have a civilization today in which literacy is taken for granted (the first word of the revelation was the command, “Read!”), human rights and religious freedom are global concerns (“No compulsion in religion” says the Qur’an), a scholarly and scientific revolution has taken place, and slavery has been widely abolished (the Qur’an says, “Free the slave”). You might want to read The Influence of Islam on Medieval Europe, by W. Montgomery Watt (Edinburgh University Press). Muslims have been far from perfect, but the message and legacy of the Qur’an is, literally, a Godsend.
O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may practice righteousness.
The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion (of right and wrong).