Question: If Ramadan was a pagan festival in pre-Islamic Arabia, why was it included in Islamic rituals by Allah in the Qur’an?
Answer: First things first; Ramadan is not a festival. Was never a festival. It is and traditionally was an entire month dedicated to fasting in one form or another, always aimed at spiritual purification. Earliest references to fasting in authentic tradition are from Moses (Musa alayhissalaam) and Mary (Bibi Maryam alayhissalaam) and David (Dawud alayhissalaam). This fasting was not limited to Ramadan, though.
Secondly, many Quraysh, the pre-Islamic nobles inhabitants of Makkah were known to fast during Ramadan. Many Arab tribes had similar tradition. This shows that fasting has been observed there since the time when Abraham (Ibraheem alayhissalaam) made Ishmael (Isma’eel alayhissalaam) to settle in the Arabian peninsula and it also proves that fasting is the practice of the Prophets and has nothing to do with Paganist Philosophies, its rather the pagans who had adopted the practice of fasting from the monotheistic teachings.
So, we agree that,
1. Fasting is antique and not unique to one faith or region.
2. Fasting during Ramadan was observed by Pre-Islamic Arabs and Jews and Christians.
Qur’an prescribed Ramadan as month for obligatory fasting for believers, thus giving us a time and protocol for fasting. Clear orders were revealed in Chapter 2: Verses 183
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous
The verse clearly says, “Al-Lazeena – Those people before you” not people of any particular faith. This indicates that Qur’an recognized the existence of fasting before Islam. Of course, Islam gave fasting a clear goal – To Become Righteous
As an additional point, pagans; the pre-Islamic people in Makkah also observe Hajj, they prayed in their own way to the Ka’abah and did many charitable deeds. Islam did not come to abolish a culture. Islam gave humanity a clear direction for every action and deeds.
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