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How Ramadan and Eid became sacred Muslim rituals

By Muhammad Hussain - posted Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims observe a dawn-to-dusk fast by abstaining from all kind of food, drink and even smoking, is coming to close. It will culminate in the celebration of Eid, the greatest Muslim festival of feasting and fun. This is an opportune time for the curious readers to find out the origin and significance of these two major Muslim rituals.

Muhammad's childhood

Muhammad, the noble Prophet and founder of Islam, was born in the Arabian city of Mecca in 570CE in the clan of Quraysh. Mecca housed the most sacred temple of Arabia, the Ka'ba, which housed 360 idols and was the centre for worship and pilgrimage for people of many beliefs in the entire Arabian Peninsula.

The Prophet lost both his parents by the age of five and was raised by his grandfather and later his uncle, Abu Taleb. Like all people of the city, Muhammad, until his marriage, followed the idolatrous religious customs.


Marriage and prophetic mission

Muhammad, aged 25, married a 40-year-old wealthy merchant lady, Khadija. Khadija had exposure to Judeo-Christian messages through her cousin Nofal, who had converted to Judaism and later to a Christianity. He had translated a few chapters of the Bible into Arabic.

After his marriage, Muhammad stopped idol-worship, showed more interest in monotheism and started meditating in cave in the mount of Hira in the month of Ramadan, a tradition common amongst hanifs, a monotheistic sect of Mecca. Sometimes his wife and Nofal accompanied him.

After 15 years, at the age of 40 (c. 609CE), Muhammad claimed to have received revelations from God. His claim was readily affirmed by Khadija and Nofal. Yet Nofal never converted to Islam and died a Christian.

Muhammad started preaching his new religion, initially among close relatives, family members and friends. Then he came out publicly, preaching his messages from Allah. After about five years, he could muster only a few dozen converts. Frustrated, his messages became hostile, denigrating Meccan customs and the religion of idol-worship.

He called himself and followers of his creed the righteous: those who rejected it were liars, wrong-doers, inventors of falsehoods and he consigned them to the eternal fire of hell.

Despite such hostile messages, the idolaters of Mecca never protested or molested him. Those who wanted to converted to his religion freely.


Meccan opposition and sanctions on Muhammad

After those first five years he had about four to five dozen converts. They never faced any persecution from their family and other citizens, with the exception of a few slaves, belonging to pagan masters, who had converted.

Muhammad's messages became increasingly hateful, insulting and demeaning towards the religion, customs and ancestors of the Meccans, and they became annoyed. Islamic scholar and historian Baihaki, in his book, Proof of Prophecy, records a testimony of a disciple of Muhammad on the growing annoyance among Meccans:

“I was once present when the chief among the idolaters assembled at the Ka'ba. They were discussing about Allah's apostles (Muhammad) and said: ‘Nether have we had to tolerate from anyone what we have had to from this man. He slanders our fathers, criticises our religion, divides our people, and blasphemes our gods. Such grievous things have we tolerated from this man.’”

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About the Author

Muhammad Hussain is researcher and freelance writer.

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