A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ramadan: The Month and the Book

This post is old news to all my Muslim readers, but it occurs to me that it may not be so well known among non-Muslims, and may be worth discussing briefly: the important links between the month of Ramadan and the Qur'an, which plays a central role in the ritual of the month of fasting.

Muslims believe that the first revelation of the Qur'an to Muhammad took place during the month of Ramadan,  on a night the Book itself calls the Laylat al-Qadr, the Night of Power of Night of Destiny. The Qur'an says this of it:
We have revealed this [Qur'an] on the Night of Power.
And what will explain to you what is the Night of Power?
The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.
Therein come down the Angels and the spirit
By God's permission, on every errand:
Peace! This until the rise of morn!
— Qur'an, Sura 97 (Al-Qadr)
A. Yusuf Ali translation
As I noted in an earlier Ramadan post on Laylat al-Qadr, it is believed to fall in the last ten days of the month, on an odd-numbered night, but the exact date is unknown (though some Shi‘ites observe it on the 23rd), so most Muslims mark the last ten days as a group.

But the Qur'an is part of the entire month's observance. I live just down the road from one of the biggest mosques in Northern Virginia, and each night since Ramadan began, the local police have been out directing traffic due to the numbers of people going to the mosque at night. These Ramadan prayers, known as Tarawih, are not obligatory, but are considered strongly recommended as the Prophet himself performed them. In conjunction with the prayers, it is customary to recite one juz', or thirtieth part, of the Qur'an. Most copies of the Qur'an show the text divided into 30 parts, so that the entire book is read by the end of Ramadan. Although the Qur'an is, of course, read throughout the year, its links with Ramadan are particularly deep,

No comments: