HOT RAMADHAN

by Noman Waseem, Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 11:55 (1544 days ago) @ Damon

Dear Br Damon,

I have found your posts rather interesting for the opportunity they provide for introspection. I had written what was meant to be a constructive critique of your original post (or the first one I encountered anyway), but I should have posted it as a direct reply to one of your comments so you would see it. So in case you missed it, here it is:

http://www.ourbeacon.com/cgi-bin/bbs60x/webbbs_config.pl/page/1/md/read/id/314123119191980

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Now, I want to follow up with a couple of points starting with the following (this is a long one for sure). I did some digging on the history of the word Ramadan, and found somethings that I found interesting (if you aren't already aware of). First, from Wikipedia:

"Origin of the word Ramadan

Ramadan, as a name for the month, is of Muslim origin. However, prior to Islam's exclusion of intercalary days from its calendar, the name of this month was Natiq and, due to the intercalary days added, always occurred in the warm season.[36]"

I should mention that the source for this comes from an Ahmadiyya website, so take it for what it's worth. I also considered this reply to a question about the Hijri calender not making sense on Yahoo Answers:

"the lunar islamic year IS NOT INTENDED to be in coincidence with solar year , it is less 11 day than the solar year and that make it move round it every 33 year , so that ramadan and haj are not always in either summer or winter according to your place in this earth , this a sort of mercy from god otherwise some muslim nations will have ramadan in the winter all the time others in summer all the time, ramadan yes mean the very hot month and this name was given to it before the islam , but i have to add to u that arabs was used to shift the months as they wish for example they was used to exchange rajab with other months in the year but islam forbidden shifting and stabilized the lunar year as it is now , what is your objection ?"

I can't speak to the reliability of the sources, but they do agree with each other about this pre-Islamic month of Natiq that happened to always fall on summer because the pre-Islamic Arabs used to add 11 days to the lunar calendar to affix it to the solar calendar apparently. If it's true, then this at least provides a partial explaination for why Ramadan would refer to something hot or scorching.

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My second point comes from verse 2:183:

2:183 (Creating an ideal society requires discipline and self-restraint among the individuals.) O You who have chosen to be graced with belief! Abstinence (from sex and free indulgence in food and drink during the daytime) is prescribed for you AS IT WAS PRESCRIBED FOR THOSE BEFORE YOU so that you get empowered against evil.

And now consider this:

"The "acceptable fast" is discussed in the biblical Book of Isaiah, chapter 58:6–7. In this chapter, the nation of Israel is rebuked for their fasting, and given this exhortation:

(verse 6) “Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
(7) Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?"

This passage indicates that the acceptable fast is not merely abstinence from food or water, but a decision to fully obey God's commands to care for the poor and oppressed." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fasting#Christianity

and this:

"The third purpose in fasting is commemorative gratitude. Since food and drink are corporeal needs, abstinence from them serves to provide a unique opportunity for focus on the spiritual. Indeed, the Midrash explains that fasting can potentially elevate one to the exalted level of the Mal'achay HaShareyt (ministering angels) (Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer, 46). This dedication is considered appropriate gratitude to God for providing salvation. Additionally, by refraining from such basic physical indulgence, one can more greatly appreciate the dependence of humanity on God, leading to appreciation of God's beneficence in sustaining His creations." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fasting#Judaism

You can perhaps guess what my point is. Applying Occam's Razor here, it is diffcult for me to accept your rather exotic explanations for what is meant by 2:183. Couldn't it simply mean that God had enjoined upon us to fast, as He had for our believing ancestors (when they originally received and followed God's message)?

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My third point is that yes, Ramadan is in fact the name of a lunar month, as it is a replacement for the month named Natiq mentioned above. But perhaps that is precisely the point: it replaced the word Natiq. Why do so? Why was Natiq not used directly in the Qur'an to become Shahru Natiq? I mean a perfectly good word for the name of this month already existed. Why invent a new one? Couldn't it be that, to the believers, it was meant to symbolize something far more than merely the month named Ramadan. That it was perhaps meant to be a month-long training period for believers to practice abstinence, as had been practiced by believers before?

You have repeatedly mentioned that this dictionary or that reference does not mention that Ramadan is a proper noun. While I can't comment on the validity of the sources you might have used, or your process of source selection (even if I knew what they were), please consider this: is it possible that you are referencing sources from, perhaps western, authors who, in ignorance of the above mentioned understanding, have reduced Ramadan down to the month, just as Muslims today have reduced Ramadan down to a set of rituals to be followed for a 30 day period? It's like reducing Christmas down to a 12 day shopping spree. Ramadan is more than the month. It is meant to be a well-recognized event for all believers that has a name: Ramadan. Couldn't it, then, refer to both the month and the event?

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Now, I've gone to great lengths in my life to free myself from the chains of senseless culture and tradition, so I don't question your intentions. However, following my question about whether we would eat pork even if it were deemed senseless to prohibit doing so from a purely scientific perspective, there is a caveat: the Qur'an is loaded with clear commands that even a reasonable, educated person could not completely confirm with present knowledge.
Do we then consider it senseless and grounds for assuming that there is probably some grammatical/linguistic misunderstanding of the original Arabic? Why is a human only fully mature at age 40? Why not 41? Why is a baby fully dependant on their mother for 30 months? Why not 25 or 40? Why is there four months of grace for men and women who are thinking of divorcing their spouse? Why not 5 or 6 months? At what point do we accept that God knows and we do not know? That where our knowledge ends, we should trust that God ordains on us to do what is beneficial for us?

Perhaps my biggest contention here is this: there is a millenia of historical tradition involving fasting and Abrahamic religions and non-Abrahamic religions. Even if this is a huge misunderstanding of the original Arabic, it is quite an oversight for you to not explain the very similar traditions or at least commands to that effect that have gone on for thousands of years. One does not simply overturn a millenia of historicity on grounds of a single instance of a grammatical/linguistic nuance without some tremendous evidence explaining why this prevailing understanding of God's message has been misunderstood for the last many thousand years in all these religions.

Finally, you find fasting to be ritualistic. I have been fasting (well practicing abstinence) almost throughout so far. I mostly do computer programming in an air conditioned room so it is easy for me to do the full fast now that I'm several weeks in, though someone engaged in more physically demanding work would benefit more from the "disciplined eating and drinking" route. But that's hardly the full story of course. I have done my level best to remind myself of the Qur'anic message and actively implement them. It has helped me to not engage in time-wasting or addictive activities, and made me more disciplined at work. I missed yesterday's fast and immediately caught myself getting lazy with ease again. "How ungrateful" I thought. Fasting has been done for mellenia and reflecting on my personal experience, I can only assume that it has helped those who sincerely wanted to change themselves for the better. Perhaps the seemingly ritualistic act of fasting is meant to bind us temporally with our ancestors so we don't find ourselves getting too proud of our modernity all of a sudden. A ritual is as ritual does. So perhaps what we need to do is to humbly remind ourselves that ultimately it is about intentions, and not our physical acts, that are important.


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