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The Timing of the Fasting Month of Ramadan (2): The Lunar Calendar as the Basis of the Islamic Acts of Worship, Including Fasting during Ramadan

 

The Timing of the Fasting Month of Ramadan (2): The Lunar Calendar as the Basis of the Islamic Acts of Worship, Including Fasting during Ramadan

Published in September 28, 2017

Translated by: Ahmed Fathy

Firstly: pilgrimage as an example of acts of worship and rituals performed as per the lunar calendar, within the four sacred months:

1- Human beings live within the spatiotemporal dimensions of existence; God has made a temporal sanctuary for Himself: the four sacred months of pilgrimage within the lunar calendar (Zu Al-Hijja, Muharram, Saffar, and Rabei Awwal) and a locational sanctuary which is the Sacred Kaaba Mosque in Mecca: "God has appointed the Kaaba, the Sacred House, a sanctuary for the people, and the Sacred Month, and the offerings, and the garlanded. That you may know that God knows everything in the heavens and the earth, and that God is Cognizant of all things." (5:97). 

2- Within the temporal sanctuary of the four sacred months, people are to feel secure and safe and never to suffer aggression, attacks, or any types of injustices, so that pilgrimage is performed in safety, and these sacred months are lunar ones ordained by God to all humanity since the time when He created the heavens and the earth: "The number of months, according to God, is twelve months-in the decree of God-since the Day He created the heavens and the earth, of which four are sacred. This is the correct religion. So do not commit injustices against yourselves during them...." (9:36). Thus, injustices and military aggression are absolutely prohibited within this temporal sanctuary of pilgrimage, except self-defense fighting when attacked: "The sacred month for the sacred month; and sacrilege calls for retaliation. Whoever commits aggression against you, retaliate against him in the same measure as he has committed against you. And be conscious of God, and know that God is with the righteous." (2:194). When Arab asked Muhammad about self-defense fighting during the four sacred lunar months of pilgrimage, God has provided this answer: "They ask you about fighting during the sacred month. Say, "Fighting during it is deplorable; but to bar others from God's path, and to disbelieve in Him, and to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and to expel its people from it, are more deplorable with God. And persecution is more serious than killing. They will not cease to fight you until they turn you back from your religion, if they can. Whoever among you turns back from his religion, and dies a disbeliever-those are they whose works will come to nothing, in this life, and in the Hereafter. Those are the inmates of the Fire, abiding in it forever." (2:217). Thus, we infer that religious persecution (or fitna, in Quranic terminology) is worse than fighting, and one is permitted to engage into self-defense fighting when necessary when attacked during the four sacred months. Attacks here include repelling people away from Mecca and driving believers away from it and from the Sacred Kaaba Mosque.  

3- The locational sanctuary is the Sacred Kaaba Mosque, and one must feel secure upon entering it: "...Whoever enters it attains security..." (3:97), as this is the first House ordained by God to all humanity: "The first house established for the humankind is the one at Bacca; blessed, and guidance for all people." (3:96); "...and circle around the Ancient House." (22:29). The command to provide security includes those traveling toward Mecca and even the sacrificial animals ornamented for the purpose of offering them after rituals of pilgrimage: "O you who believe! Do not violate God's sacraments, nor the Sacred Month, nor the offerings, nor the garlanded, nor those heading for the Sacred House seeking blessings from their Lord and approval. When you have left the pilgrim sanctity, you may hunt. And let not the hatred of people who barred you from the Sacred Mosque incite you to aggression. And cooperate with one another in virtuous conduct and conscience, and do not cooperate with one another in sin and hostility. And fear God. God is severe in punishment. " (5:2).

4- Both the temporal and the locational sanctuaries are for all people, whether they reside in Mecca or coming to it after a journey; this is why repelling people away from Mecca and committing injustices there are acts of sacrilege penalized by God: "As for those who disbelieve and repel from God's path and from the Sacred Mosque-which We have designated for all humankind equally, whether residing therein or passing through-and seek to commit sacrilege therein-We will make him taste of a painful torment." (22:25). Thus, all peaceful people are welcome to Mecca, who are overtly peaceful regardless of their beliefs, while aggressive persons are never to be allowed to enter into Mecca, as their aggression renders them as polytheists and impure, since they carry weapons into Mecca to commit aggression and transgression: "O you who believe! The polytheists are polluted, so let them not approach the Sacred Mosque after this year of theirs. And if you fear poverty, God will enrich you from His grace, if He wills. God is Aware and Wise." (9:28).      

5- The performance of pilgrimage to Mecca is ordained by God to all of the humankind: "...Pilgrimage to the House is a duty to God for all people who can make the journey. But as for those who refuse-God is Independent of the worlds." (3:97). Pilgrimage combines both the temporal and the locational sanctuaries, and therefore, pilgrims are to adhere to highest levels of piety: "The Hajj is during specific months. Whoever decides to perform the Hajj-there shall be no sexual relations, nor misconduct, nor quarrelling during the Hajj. And whatever good you do, God knows it. And take provisions, but the best provision is righteousness. And be mindful of Me, O people of understanding." (2:197).

6- This universality of the temporal and the locational sanctuaries within pilgrimage means that people must observe the lunar calendar, even in countries never using it, if they desire to perform Hajj/pilgrimage. This applies to fasting during Ramadan; the solar calendar has nothing to do with fasting and pilgrimage, then. Thus, the lunar calendar is the only one linked to Islam acts of worship.     

 

Secondly: fasting during Ramadan is linked to the lunar calendar:

1- Performing pilgrimage to Mecca is an act of worship inherited from the religion of Abraham by Arabs and the People of the Book (both gentiles and Jews): "We showed Abraham the location of the House: "Do not associate anything with Me; and purify My House for those who circle around, and those who stand to pray, and those who kneel and prostrate." And announce the pilgrimage to all humanity. They will come to you on foot, and on every transport. They will come from every distant point." (22:26-27). 

2- This applies to the religious duty of fasting during Ramadan; it is inherited from the religion of Abraham and was observed by the ancient nations, centuries before the descent of the Quran: "O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become righteous." (2:183). Thus, Arabs (and others) before the Quran used to fast during the lunar month of Ramadan and seek to attain piety through it, as it is imposed by the Lord Allah in the same way; but the Quran comes with new legislations linked to fasting and tells us how Ramadan is sacred because the Quran descended in it: "For a specified number of days. But whoever among you is sick, or on a journey, then a number of other days. For those who are able: a ransom of feeding a needy person. But whoever volunteers goodness, it is better for him. But to fast is best for you, if you only knew. Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed. Guidance for humanity, and clear portents of guidance, and the Criterion. Whoever of you witnesses the month, shall fast it. But whoever is sick, or on a journey, then a number of other days. God desires ease for you, and does not desire hardship for you, that you may complete the number, and celebrate God for having guided you, so that you may be thankful." (2:184-185).

3- We infer from 2:184-185 that Arabs knew this lunar month of Ramadan and fasting in it, as they inherited this from the religion of Abraham through Ishmael. This is why God does NOT explain how to fast, nor when Ramadan comes in the lunar calendar as a special month, because these pieces of information have been known to all.

4- God mentions that the Night of Decree falls in Ramadan each year, as per the universal lunar calendar, with angels led by Gabriel carrying the fates ordained on people: birth, death, earnings, and calamities: "We sent it down on the Night of Decree. But what will convey to you what the Night of Decree is? The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months.  In it descend the angels and the Spirit, by the leave of their Lord, with every command. Peace it is; until the rise of dawn." (97:1-5).

 

Thirdly: the lunar calendar within other Quranic legislations of Islam:

1- It is obvious that the Quran focuses on the lunar calendar, and God has referred to it with emphasis in this verse more than the solar calendar: "It is He who made the sun radiant, and the moon a light, and determined phases for it-that you may know the number of years and the calculation. God did not create all this except with Truth. He details the verses for a people who know." (10:5).

2- God also mentions that people are guided by the stars at night as well as by the lunar and solar calendars: "It is He Who breaks the dawn. And He made the night for rest, and the sun and the moon for calculation. Such is the disposition of the Almighty, the All-Knowing. And it is He Who created the stars for you, that you may be guided by them in the darkness of land and sea. We thus explain the revelations for people who know." (6:96-97).

3- Of course, in the clear skies of Arabian deserts, stars can be used for guidance when traveling and this places emphasis as well on the importance of the lunar calendar as Arabs watch the moon all the time, unlike river-side civilizations that care more for the solar calendar because of agriculture and so on. 

4- This is stressed the more as Arabs asked Muhammad about crescents (i.e., the phases of the moon), and he typically waited till the answer is provided in the Quran: "They ask you about the crescents. Say, "They are timetables for people, and for the Hajj."..." (2:189). Thus, the lunar calendar is directly linked to Islamic acts of worship and Arabs used it in secular aspects of their lives as well.

 

Fourthly: deviating from God's sharia legislations:

1- The above points tell us what should be; yet, reality in actual life is nothing but disobedience and disregarding of God's Quranic commands. The Qorayish tribe used to distort tenets and features of the religion of Abraham and to repel people away from the Kaaba, and they meddled with the lunar calendar months and this is deemed by God as acts of disbelief: "Postponement is an increase in disbelief-by which those who disbelieve are led astray. They allow it one year, and forbid it another year, in order to conform to the number made sacred by God, thus permitting what God has forbidden. The evil of their deeds seems good to them. God does not guide the disbelieving people." (9:37). Thus, they meddled with the timing of sacred months of pilgrimage to allow themselves the chance to commit military aggressions and bloodshed. After the death of Muhammad, Qorayish attacked and invaded many countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe, killing thousands of people outside and during the sacred months. Sadly, the Muhammadans of today never stop violence and aggression during the sacred four months.     

2- Shortly before the death of Muhammad, after he entered Mecca peacefully without fighting, Qorayish breached the peace treaties and attacked the early believers who returned to Mecca; the Quranic Chapter 9 has given them the duration of the four sacred months as a chance to repent or else they would be fought relentlessly: "A declaration of immunity from God and His messenger to the polytheists with whom you had made a treaty. So travel the land for four months, and know that you cannot escape God, and that God will disgrace the disbelievers. And a proclamation from God and His messenger to the people on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage, that God has disowned the polytheists, and so did His messenger. If you repent, it will be better for you. But if you turn away, know that you cannot escape God. And announce to those who disbelieve a painful torment. Except for those among the polytheists with whom you had made a treaty, and did not violate any of its terms, nor aided anyone against you. So fulfill the treaty with them to the end of its term. God loves the righteous. When the Sacred Months have passed, fight the polytheists wherever you find them. And capture them, and besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every ambush. But if they repent, and perform the prayers, and pay the alms, then let them go their way. God is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful. " (9:1-5).  

3- After the death of Muhammad, Qorayish committed the crime/grave sin of conquering other nations and violated the Quranic laws of peace, freedom, and justice as well as never to coerce people to change their faith. This grave betrayal and violation of the Quran included the fact that the caliph Omar expelled the People of the Book from Arabia, making laws against their ever coming to Mecca and the Kaaba. Centuries later, people wrongly assume till now that pilgrimage to Mecca is confined to the Muhammadans, though God ordains it for all human beings as universal rituals.   

4- Omar made another grave error by making the lunar month of Muharram as the first one of the Hijri year; this was not the case before this cursed Omar was born. We infer from the Quran that Zu Al-Hijja was the first month of the lunar calendar (now made as the 12th month!), as lunar years were called before the revelation of the Quran as (pilgrimages). This is inferred from the words of the father-in-law of Moses: "He said, "I want to marry you to one of these two daughters of mine, provided you work for me for eight pilgrimages. But if you complete ten, that is up to you. I do not intend to impose any hardship on you. You will find me, God willing, one of the righteous."" (28:27). This means that centuries before the Quran, the lunar year begins with the month of Zu Al-Hijja that marks the beginning of the pilgrimage season that lasts for four months (Zu Al-Hijja, Muharram, Saffar, and Rabei Awwal), as per the religion of Abraham. This was known to Arabs before and during Muhammad's lifetime; it is a grave sin to confine pilgrimage to Mecca only to the first ten days of Zu Al-Hijja; this is only the opening of the season: "So travel the land for four months..." (9:2); "And a proclamation from God and His messenger to the people on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage..." (9:3); " When the Sacred Months have passed, fight the polytheists wherever you find them..." (9:5).

5- The lunar calendar has retained its months (i.e., their names and chronological order) before and after the revelation/descent of the Quran; likewise, Ramadan is the month of fasting before, during, and after Muhammad's lifetime. Because the lunar fasting month of Ramadan is linked specially to the Night of Decree, it remains to be a special month to Arabs, and this is reflected in the history of the Muhammadans.  

6- We continue this topic in the next article. 


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