Ramadan:Day 1

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by Imran H. Khan

Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim “In the name of God, most Gracious, most Compassionate”

Today is the first day of the Islamic month of Ramadan. It is the ninth month of the lunar based Islamic calendar and has a special place, as it is in this month the Holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammad PBUH (Peace Be Upon Him). It is also the month when all Muslims fast from dawn to sun set.  Ramadan is a time of reflection, practice of greater self-discipline, self-control,  sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and charity.  I have for many years taken time to read the meaning of the Quran in order to understand what God was trying to convey. To my surprise I uncover new meanings every time I read it. One year I decided to approach the Quran as an engineer, and to make things more interesting, as a non Muslim. So this year I am going to write, what I understood as a non believing engineer, about the  Quran for both Muslims and non Muslims; Believers and Non-Believers. Since this blog is also about human affairs, there could be nothing more relevant than covering this month, as 1.4 billion humans will be fasting during the long days of summer in the Northern Hemisphere.

God says in Qur’an 2:185

“The month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was revealed, a guidance to men and clear proofs of the guidance and the Criterion. So whoever of you is present in the month, he shall fast therein, and whoever is sick or on a journey, (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days. Allah desires ease for you, and He desires not hardship for you, and (He desires) that you should complete the number and that you should exalt the greatness of Allah for having guided you and that you may give thanks.”

Fasting in America is considerably more difficult than in a Muslim country as the system is not setup to mitigate the changes in regimen required in it. It continues to amaze me how young American Muslims go out of their way to practice this tenet of Islam.  Muslims believe that the words written in the Quran are the words of the Almighty God as revealed by angel Gebrail to Prophet Mohammad PBUH.

The Quran is not organized in the same way it was revealed. The Quran is composed of 114 parts or chapters of unequal length.  Each chapter is called a surah in Arabic and each sentence or phrase of the Quran is called an aaya, literally ‘a sign.’  Like the Bible, the Quran is divided into discrete units, referred to as verses in English. These verses are not standard in length or meter, and where each begins and ends was not decided by human beings, but dictated by God.  The shortest of the surahs has ten words, and the longest surah, which is placed second in the text, has 6,100 words.  The first surah, the Fatihah (“The Opening”), is relatively short (twenty-five words).  From the second surah onward, the surahs gradually decrease in length, although this is not a hard and fast rule.  The last sixty surahs take up about as much space as the second.  Some of the longer aayahs are much longer than the shortest surahs.

Since the various chapters are of various lengths, the Quran was divided by scholars of the first century after the death of the Prophet into thirty roughly equal parts, each part is called a juz’ in Arabic.  This division of the Quran was done in order for people to memorize or read it in a more organized fashion, and it has no influence on the original structure, as they are mere marks on the sides of the pages denoting the part.  In the Muslim month of Ramadan, one juz’ is usually recited every night, and the entire Quran is completed in the thirty days of the month.

Broadly speaking, the Message of God in the Quran can be categorized into three categories. The first category  has to do with the past Messengers and Prophets. These verses emphasize the claim that there has in reality been only a single consistent message through the multitude of Prophets and Messengers over the course of human history, starting from Prophet Adam.  There are a large number of verses dedicated to Prophet Abraham, Prophet Isa (Jesus Christ) and Prophet Moses. For those Muslims who believe that  the Jews and Christians are not Muslims, I find it ironic that such a large percentage of their text is concerned with these “non Muslims”. As I said earlier, I am merely interpreting the word of the Almighty int the Quran as a non believing engineer.

The second category has to do with events happening at the time of the revelation. Some verses in this category have tangential relevance to our times, but the bulk had to do with guidance to Prophet and his followers to specific events happening then.

The third category is the message for All Mankind and for All Times. And it is this category that fascinates me the most as Prophet Mohammad PBUH is supposed to be the Last Messenger.

“Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets: and Allah has full knowledge of all things.” — Quran 33:40

There will be no more guidance for Mankind for the rest of the human history in this Universe. That make the Holy Quran an incredibly powerful book for the Muslims. I think it might just be useful to the non believers to also try to understand what guides 1.4 billion beings that share this Planet Earth with them.

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One Response to “Ramadan:Day 1”

  1. inam h khan on August 11th, 2010 3:41 am

    An interesting brief description of Holy Quran as understood by an assumed ‘non-believer’