Religious authorities in most of the Middle East have declared Monday to begin the holy month of Ramadan, a period devoted to dawn-to-dusk fasting, prayers and spiritual introspection.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which lasts 29 to 30 days. It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours and is intended to teach Muslims about patience, spirituality, humility and submissiveness to God or Allah (the Muslim word for God).
Ramadan is a time of reflecting, believing and worshiping Allah. The people are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam and to avoid obscene and irreligious sights and sounds. During fasting, intercourse is prohibited as is eating and drinking; one is also encouraged to resist all temptations while fasting. Purity of both thoughts and actions is important.
The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. It also teaches Muslims to practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate, thus encouraging actions of generosity and charity.
Ramadan is a time when Muslims are to slow down from worldly affairs and focus on self-reformation, spiritual cleansing and enlightenment; this is to establish a link between themselves and Allah through prayer, supplication, charity, good deeds, kindness and helping others.
Muslims also are encouraged to read the entire Qur’an by the end of the month. Muslims revere Ramadan as the time Allah revealed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad the first verses of the Qur’an, who in turn related them to humankind. The tantalizing and mysterious question is how did Allah reveal the Qur’an to Muhammad?
Revelation in Islam, as in other religions, is from Allah to man via the prophets. The most important revelation, according to Islam, is the Qur’an. It was revealed to Muhammad between 610-632 CE by the angel Gabriel using a process known as Nazil, which implies a word-for-word transmission.
A sura is a chapter in the Qur’an. According to Sura 85:21-22, the tablets upon which the Qur’an exist were never created, but instead eternally inscribed. This means the Qur’an which we possess today is and has always been final and pure, without possibility of textual corruption.
Since Allah is infinite and transcendent, it stands to reason that His revelation and Word are also infinite and transcendent. This revelation, given through Muhammad, is divine and therefore beyond the realm of human conjecture or criticism. It remains a mystery to mere humans.