The answer to the first question in the title of this article is no news. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said, 14 centuries ago, “fast, so that you may be healthy”; I will not get into the question of how authentic this Hadeeth is, assuming that it is at least recommendable to believe, being a virtue-Hadeeth.
So, prophet Muhammad (PBUH) associated fasting with having good health. Now, modern science proves that fasting prevents Alzheimer, reduces the chances of having diabetes and heart problems, and suppresses the growth of malignant neoplasms (cancer cells) as well as reducing the side-effects of chemotherapy. Also, fasting helps producing stem cells, and strengthens the immunity system.
1. Of course, fasting is not limited to Ramadhan; many Muslims fast on Mondays and Thursdays (the days on which human beings’ deeds are presented to Allah; also, prophet Muhammad was born on Monday), on the first day of the month of Shaban, on the ninth day of the month of Thul Hijjah (the day of Aarafah), and on the so-called ‘white-night’ days (13th, 14th, and 15th of lunar months, when the moon is full/almost full), as well as the recommended six days of the month of Shawwal.
However, it is only during Ramadhan that Muslims are ordered to fast, the-fasting-of-Ramadhan being one of the Pillars of Islam. So, why is that?
The answer to this question and the ones that follow are based on ijtihad (using discretion and logical reasoning to arrive at judgments), hoping to get at least one reward.
It is because Ramadhan is such a blessed month/time of the year. One important fact about Ramadhan that Muslims know is that Laylatu-Lqadr (translated as the-night-of-revelation, the-night-of-determination, and the-night-of-power) falls in its last ten days. What is special about this night is that the Holy Quran was revealed in it, which is why it is translated as ‘the night of revelation’. In fact, during this night, Quran was revealed in the sense that it was brought down from the seventh sky to the first sky, but it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) over 23 years, starting in Ramadhan, when the first five verses of Surat Al alaq were revealed.
Most Muslims (and probably scholars) believe that Laylatu-Lqadr became a special night in the Islamic calendar because Quran was revealed/brought down in it. However, Shaikh Muhammad Al Sharawi is reported to have claimed the opposite.
For him, Laylatu-Lqadr had been a great night (in the calendar of humanity or even this whole universe) before the revelation of Quran, which is why Allah chose it to be the night during which this great book/message of this great religion must be revealed, and later taught to this great prophet, sent to this great ummah (nation); Allah says “You are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah”, verse 110 of Surat al imran.
2 His evidence rests on the 3rd verse of Surat Al Dukhan, which says “We sent it (the Holy Quran) down during a Blessed Night: for We (ever) wish to warn (against Evil)”, indicating that Laylatu-Lqadr had been blessed before the Holy Quran was revealed. His view is also supported by the fact that the first verse of Surat Al Qadr, “We have indeed revealed this (Message/Book) in the night of Power”, does not necessarily mean that the night became great after Quran was revealed in it; that is, this verse also conveys the opposite interpretation.
Assuming Shaikh al Sharawi’s view to be on the right track, we understand that this night is so great as to make the nights and days of the month that it falls in (Ramadhan) and the nights and days of the preceding month (Shaban) and those of the following month (Shawwal) great, which is, probably, why Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to fast a lot in Shaban and encouraged his nation to fast six days in Shawwal, making this a blessed season.
This intuition about Laylatu-Lqadr is confirmed as a fact by Allah, when He says that “the Night of Power is better than a thousand months”, verse 3 of Surat Al Qadr. This has implications for why Ramadhan is the month during which fasting is obligatory.
Before discussing these implications, I will try to address the legitimate question of why Laylatu-Lqadr is so special that it is even better than 83 years, a life-time.
(To be continued)
Dr Rashid al Balushi
Dr Rashid al Balushi is an Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the Sultan Qaboos University. This is the first part
of the two-part series.