Fasting in Pre-Islamic Arabia

by amirabbas, Iran, Saturday, August 03, 2013, 13:18 (1478 days ago)
edited by amirabbas, Saturday, August 03, 2013, 14:51

A Google search regarding the existence of the Lunar Month "Ramadan" and practice of fasting in Arabia before Islam, guided me to some new material which i share here for others that are interested!

I cannot verify the accuracy of the sources but they allude to the existence of the practice of fasting and the month named "Ramadan" even before the advent of Islam.

Actually, i think the practice of fasting was well-known to the first Believers of Islam. However, those who assert that Islam has borrowed many of its ritual from the Pagans [rather than the people distancing themselves from the Qur'an gradually after its revelation!] maintain that fasting, and the month of "Ramadan", have been incorporated into Islam from the pagan practices.

I went through some of these sources and unfortunately, they are heavily reclining on Muslim tradition, hadith and history, which we know that are not really reliable!

The question remains that if the name "Ramadan" has been given for the first time in the Qur'an as to specify a hot and scorching situation, then, why its ambiguity has not been cleared supposing that it is not the name of a certain month in the lunar calender?!

Considering the context, "Ramadan" is easier understood if taken to be the name of a month, rather than what brother Damon is suggesting!

"Ramadan was a pagan ceremony practiced by the Sabians, whether they were Harranians or Sabians. From the writings of Abu Zanad, an Arabic writer from Iraq who lived around 747 A.D., we conclude that at least one Mandaean community located in northern Iraq observed Ramadan[ii][2].

Ramadan was Originally an Annual Ritual Performed at the City of Harran. Similarities Between the Ramadan of Harran and the Islamic Ramadan.

Although the fasting of Ramadan was practiced in pre-Islamic times by the pagans of Jahiliyah, it was introduced to Arabia by the Harranians. Harran was a city on the border between Syria and Iraq, very close to Asia Minor which, today, is Turkey. Their main deity was the moon, and in the worship of the moon, they conducted a major fast which lasted thirty days. It began the eighth of March and usually finished the eighth of April. Arabic historians, such as Ibn Hazm, identify this fast with Ramadan.[iii][3]

Ibn al-Nadim wrote in his book, al-Fahrisit, about various religious sects in the Middle East. He says in the month in which the Harranians fasted for thirty days, they honored the god Sin, which is the moon. Al-Nadim described the feasts they celebrated and the sacrifices they presented to the moon.[iv][4] Another historian, Ibn Abi Zinad also speaks about the Harranians, saying that they fast for thirty days, they look toward Yemen when they fast, and they pray five times a day.[v][5] We know that Muslims also pray five times a day. Harranian fasting is also similar to that of Ramadan in Islam in the fact that they fast from before the sun rises until the sunset, just as the Muslims do during the days of Ramadan.[vi][6] Still another historian, Ibn al-Juzi, described the Harranian fasting during this month. He said they concluded their fasting by sacrificing animals and presenting alms to the poor.[vii][7] We also find these things in Islamic fasting today.

Mythological roots concerning Harran’s celebration of the moon explained the disappearance of the moon after it joined with the star cluster, Pleiades, in the constellation of Taurus. It occurred during the third week of March. The people prayed to the moon, pleading for its return to the city of Harran, but the moon refused to return. This is thought to be the explanation for why they fasted during this month. The moon did not promise to return to Harran, but it did promise to return to Deyr Kadi, a sanctuary near one of the gates of Harran. So after this month, the worshippers of Sin, the moon, went to Deyr Kadi to celebrate and to welcome the return of the moon.[viii][8] According to Ibn al-Nadim, the historian mentioned earlier, the Harranians called the feast al-Feter عيد الفطر , the same name by which the feast of Ramadan is named[ix][9]"

http://religionresearchinstitute.org/ramadan/roots.htm

Here's a book named "The Development of Islamic Ritual" which appears to be discussing "Ramadan" and "Fasting in Pre-Islamic Arabia"!

http://books.google.com/books?id=oCvf76uT3wMC&pg=PA153&lpg=PA153&dq=fasting...

Fasting in Pre-Islamic Arabia

by Damon, Pennsylvania, USA, Sunday, August 04, 2013, 04:09 (1477 days ago) @ amirabbas

A Google search regarding the existence of the Lunar Month "Ramadan" and practice of fasting in Arabia before Islam, guided me to some new material which i share here for others that are interested!

I cannot verify the accuracy of the sources but they allude to the existence of the practice of fasting and the month named "Ramadan" even before the advent of Islam.

AmirAbbas, first of all brother but all present day information on present day Islam are based on the information coming from Ibn Ishaq, The Mufasareen and Bukhari & Co. Just because someone come out with a presentation in 2012 or 2013 doesn't mean that they are saying anything new or different.

Second of all, it doesn't matter if religious people fasted prior to The Quran. I am concerned with what The Quran says, not the rituals religious people practiced before The Quran.

Actually, i think the practice of fasting was well-known to the first Believers of Islam.

Do you have proof for this assumption? Also who and what do you consider to be a believer in Islam? What does Islam mean to you?


However, those who assert that Islam has borrowed many of its ritual from the Pagans [rather than the people distancing themselves from the Qur'an gradually after its revelation!] maintain that fasting, and the month of "Ramadan", have been incorporated into Islam from the pagan practices.

I do not assert that Islam has borrowed any rituals from pagans or relgions. It is my contention that PEOPLE have shoved these rituals upon The Quran and made claims that they are Islamic when they are not; whether they got them from religions or paganism. It doesn't matter.

I went through some of these sources and unfortunately, they are heavily reclining on Muslim tradition, hadith and history, which we know that are not really reliable!

Which is exactly why I shun them and reject them.

The question remains that if the name "Ramadan" has been given for the first time in the Qur'an as to specify a hot and scorching situation, then, why its ambiguity has not been cleared supposing that it is not the name of a certain month in the lunar calender?!

That is because The Quran is not naming a month called Ramadan. You are shoving a traditional viewpoint on the Quranic ayaat.

Considering the context, "Ramadan" is easier understood if taken to be the name of a month, rather than what brother Damon is suggesting!

It's not easier to understand, it'd easier to accept and go along with. You are satisfied with the religious interpretations we get from the Mullahs and wish not to question the status quo and do some hard and thorough research to ascertain the validity or invalidity of these interpretations.

"Ramadan was a pagan ceremony practiced by the Sabians, whether they were Harranians or Sabians. From the writings of Abu Zanad, an Arabic writer from Iraq who lived around 747 A.D., we conclude that at least one Mandaean community located in northern Iraq observed Ramadan[ii][2].

Information which comes from those who teach that Ramadan is a month of fasting. Circular Logic Bro.

Ramadan was Originally an Annual Ritual Performed at the City of Harran. Similarities Between the Ramadan of Harran and the Islamic Ramadan.

Proof for this please?

Although the fasting of Ramadan was practiced in pre-Islamic times by the pagans of Jahiliyah, it was introduced to Arabia by the Harranians. Harran was a city on the border between Syria and Iraq, very close to Asia Minor which, today, is Turkey. Their main deity was the moon, and in the worship of the moon, they conducted a major fast which lasted thirty days. It began the eighth of March and usually finished the eighth of April. Arabic historians, such as Ibn Hazm, identify this fast with Ramadan.[iii][3]

Ibn al-Nadim wrote in his book, al-Fahrisit, about various religious sects in the Middle East. He says in the month in which the Harranians fasted for thirty days, they honored the god Sin, which is the moon. Al-Nadim described the feasts they celebrated and the sacrifices they presented to the moon.[iv][4] Another historian, Ibn Abi Zinad also speaks about the Harranians, saying that they fast for thirty days, they look toward Yemen when they fast, and they pray five times a day.[v][5] We know that Muslims also pray five times a day. Harranian fasting is also similar to that of Ramadan in Islam in the fact that they fast from before the sun rises until the sunset, just as the Muslims do during the days of Ramadan.[vi][6] Still another historian, Ibn al-Juzi, described the Harranian fasting during this month. He said they concluded their fasting by sacrificing animals and presenting alms to the poor.[vii][7] We also find these things in Islamic fasting today.

Mythological roots concerning Harran’s celebration of the moon explained the disappearance of the moon after it joined with the star cluster, Pleiades, in the constellation of Taurus. It occurred during the third week of March. The people prayed to the moon, pleading for its return to the city of Harran, but the moon refused to return. This is thought to be the explanation for why they fasted during this month. The moon did not promise to return to Harran, but it did promise to return to Deyr Kadi, a sanctuary near one of the gates of Harran. So after this month, the worshippers of Sin, the moon, went to Deyr Kadi to celebrate and to welcome the return of the moon.[viii][8] According to Ibn al-Nadim, the historian mentioned earlier, the Harranians called the feast al-Feter عيد الفطر , the same name by which the feast of Ramadan is named[ix][9]"

http://religionresearchinstitute.org/ramadan/roots.htm

Here's a book named "The Development of Islamic Ritual" which appears to be discussing "Ramadan" and "Fasting in Pre-Islamic Arabia"!

http://books.google.com/books?id=oCvf76uT3wMC&pg=PA153&lpg=PA153&dq=fasting...

Again, any PROOF for this other than trusting the word of traditionalists?

Fasting in Pre-Islamic Arabia

by amirabbas, Iran, Sunday, August 04, 2013, 16:03 (1476 days ago) @ Damon

You said, "It's not easier to understand, it'd easier to accept and go along with. You are satisfied with the religious interpretations we get from the Mullahs and wish not to question the status quo and do some hard and thorough research to ascertain the validity or invalidity of these interpretations."

Dear Damon,

I, and many others, know that Islam and the Qur'an have been reduced to a man-made religion and a set of dogmas, rituals and false beliefs. We also shun away Mullahism and are willing to do research for acknowledging the truth and establishing the true Qur'anic messages and teachings.

You have suggested that, "Ramadaan is a state or condition in which someone or something is burning, on fire, bereaved with grief and suffering. Shahru Ramadaan is a state or condition that EVERYONE knows about because they are AFFECTED by this state/condition. It is something OUTSIDE of the people and yet it has a very dire effect on them and it is something that everyone knows about because since it is Shahr it means it is something that is apparent, well known, manifest, NOTORIOUS."

Further you said, "The significance is in the state or condition the people are in when The Quran is sent to them and THE SOLUTION(S) that The Quran offers the people to eliminate the condition in question. The Quran is to be implemented but in order to be implemented as it is intented to be it must be properly understood. So when those who strive to be Muttaqee are tired of the grief and sorrow and the anguish they seclude themselves for a certain period of time to devote themselves to the study of The Quran for the express goal of implementing it's values and principles in their respective societies and eliminate that which causes the burning anguish, sorrow and grief. The abstenence is abstaining for wrong doing, immoral deeds, evil doing, etc. It is these wrong doings, evil deeds, immoral behaviour that are the cause of the grief and anguish I spoke about and those who wish to live as Muttaqee are the ones who suffer the most from this because they seem to be outnumbered by those who glorify the immoral and evil behaviour."

Dear brother, out of the context, you are sounding right! I agree with what you are suggesting! But in the context, i understand something else from the Qur'anic verses. My understanding is that of QXP, Muhammad Assad, G. A. Parwez and other scholars.

And contrary to "salaat", which can be inspected in different places and contexts within the Qur'an, "ramadan" occurs only once. My reasoning goes that it's easier to understand "ramadan" as the name of a month rather than what you are suggesting! Because what you are saying can be very individual and plus, it cannot address the questions of those who cannot abstain or are on the journey. In addition, one can assert that its our everyday duty to abstain from the wrongs, immoral deeds, selfishness and etc.; it's our everyday task to study the Qur'an, teach the Qur'an, act upon the Qur'an. While upon a collective abstaining program in a month (RAMADAN) we can further practice and test ourselves, both physically and psychologically, for achieving the main purposes of the Qur'an.

Now, how can you prove that "Ramadan", in its Qur'anic context, is not the name of a specific month?

Fasting in Pre-Islamic Arabia

by Damon, Pennsylvania, USA, Sunday, August 04, 2013, 20:55 (1476 days ago) @ amirabbas

Dear Amirabbas,

Your question below is a key issue to our discussion, but I don't think you realize or fully appreciate what you are doing.

Now, how can you prove that "Ramadan", in its Qur'anic context, is not the name of a specific month?

Whatever difficulty I may have of proving from The Quran alone that Ramadan is not the name of a specific month is the same difficulty of proving (again, through The Quran alone) that it is the name of a specific month.

The difference is that you have been taught through sources outside of and contrary to The Quran Ramadan is the name of a specific month and you have "Accepted" that teaching from the N2I scholars and because you have, that makes my job of convincing you otherwise all the more difficult, NOT because I don't a strong foundation for my argument but because the idea that it is the name of a month has been thoroughly ingrained in your mind and the minds of millions of other people which will make it appear to be true.

But that is not a big issue for me because as I said in my last reply to Mr. Noman Waseem, the validity or invalidity of Ramadan being the name of a month is not the strength of my argument against fasting anyway. My argument against fasting does not rest on Ramadan being a proper name or not. The strength of my argument rests on the actual definition of Saum, the fact that no one in the N2I world has become a Muttaqee from engaging in this religious ritual, the issue of Maryam in 19:24-26, the fact that "Kul" and "Ashrab" are both used in The Quran to mean other than eating and drinking, the fact that no one can "Witness" a month (which I personally believe is good enough to prove that Ramadan is not a month in 2:185), the fact that we are told whoever "witnesses" it Falyasumhu which means he should restrain IT (that is, Shahru Ramadan) and not restrain or abstain In It or Part of It or whatever. I believe this too is a strong argument against the idea of Ramadan being the name of a month in 2:185. Also, the fact that the imperative "Laa Kuloo" is absent in 2:187 even though it does appear in 6:121. If it is easy, simple and straightforward to say in 6:121, then it would have been even more direct and straightforward to say so in 2:187 since Saum does not mean abstinence from food and drink by definition.

These are issues I have raised and they have so far gone unattended to and I have my suspicions as to why they have been ignored and not answered.

Fasting in Pre-Islamic Arabia

by amirabbas, Iran, Monday, August 05, 2013, 05:39 (1476 days ago) @ Damon

19:24 A voice came to her from beneath the palm-tree, “Grieve not! Your Lord has provided a stream beneath you."

19:25 "And shake the trunk of the palm-tree towards you. It will drop fresh ripe dates upon you."

19:26 "Eat then and drink, and let your eyes be gladdened! And if you see any human being, convey this to him, ‘Indeed, I have made a vow of silence for the Beneficent. So, I may not speak to any person today.’”

19:27 Later, she returned to her people carrying the child with her. They said, "O Mary! You have come with an amazing thing (breaking the rules of the shrine).”

Dear Damon,

once again, please, are you considering the context as well?

In 19:26 the message is clear! Mary was in anxiety and depression and she is told to relax! "Eat and Drink" is always both literal and metaphorical. Yet, one cannot render "eat and drink" only idiomatic and forget the physical and literal aspects of it! Mary is told to both eat and drink (be relaxed, and at ease) and further she makes a vow of silence!

Dear Damon,

Please consider that in the verse 19:26 we are not given all the information regarding Mary!

فكلى واشربى وقرى عينا فاما ترين من البشر احدا فقولى انى نذرت للرحمن صوما فلن اكلم اليوم انسيا

What if Mary fasted after eating and drinking and the abstinence had also "not speaking" included?

We all know that the Jews had strict laws regarding their rituals! What if she was supposed to be fasting on that day but couldn't bear the pain and had to break her fast? And further because of removing the suspicions she was ordered not to speak with anyone? Everyone can speculate! We are only supposed to understand the lesson...

If they had "vows of silence" in their times, then she could simply convey to another person that she was observing "a vow of silence"!

Dear Damon, one cannot reject all the history and tradition so easily to prove their points! Fasting, vows of silence, going on without food and water or little of them, have always been considered sacred and spiritual and i believe they are spiritual acts even today no matter if we are not getting the right results from it!

So, in the context, i can only agree with what the scholars and the Qur'an explanations have to say!

Regarding what you say that "SAUM" is not making anyone righteous: first of all we cannot judge everyone! Secondly, we all know that until we don't have a truly Islamic Government we cannot get all the benefits from the Qur'an, it's commandments, laws and their results!

In my opinion, your thoughts and ideas regarding "SAUM" and "Shahru Ramadan" are very beautiful outside the context and they are applicable and i really ponder upon them and try to understand them. But, in the Qur'anic context, there are so many scholars that are giving their opinions that, to me, sound closer to the truth.

Now, please consider what i highlight from the context that i believe are not compatible with you definition of "SAUM" and "Shahru Ramadan":

2:184... But if any of you is sick or he is on a journey, he may make up the same number of days later. For those who can go through Abstinence only with hardship, there is a way of redemption: the feeding of an indigent. Any additional charity will bring additional reward. However, going through the training program of
Abstinence is better for you, if you only knew.

2:185 ...this collective training... But if any of you is sick or on a journey, let him practice Abstinence for the same number of days later.

2:187 You may eat and drink until you can discern the white streak of light against the black streak of night at daybreak. Then complete the Abstinence until sunset.

2:189 (Self-control is a life-long commitment extending beyond the month of Ramadhan.) They ask you (O Messenger!) about the phases of the Moon. Say, “They are calendars to help mankind determine certain seasons such as Hajj.”

In the context, it all makes sense!

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