Three Steps to Ramadan: How the early Muslim community learned to fast
Muslims today wake up before dawn to prepare for the fast, they fast all day, and then they break fast at the setting of the sun. Did you know the rulings for fasting went through a few changes during the ministry of the Messenger of God? Read on to learn the gradual stages that fasting went through in the early days of Islam.
To fast, or not to fast? That was a question!
“You who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be mindful of God. Fast for a specific number of days, but if one of you is ill, or on a journey, then on other days later.” 2:183
The final stage was to obligate fasting except for those who have valid excuses not to fast.
Big consequences for Missing the Breakfast Meal
If the Muslims did not break their fast at sunset, however, they could not eat until the following pre-dawn meal. One of the early Muslims came home on a day he was fasting, and fell asleep before breaking his fast. He also missed the next morning’s early meal, and then passed out in the middle of the next day.
Some of the Muslims admitted to the Messenger of God that they had relations with their wives in the nights of Ramadan.
When this story about the man passing out, and these admissions were made, God revealed, “It is permissible for you to lie with your wives during the night of the fast: they are as close as garments to you, as you are to them. God was aware that you were betraying yourselves, so He turned to you in mercy and pardoned you..” 2:187
The early Muslims were delighted that they were allowed to have intimacy during the nights of Ramadan and not have to fast until right before dawn.
The Fast we Know
After that, another verse was revealed which made fasting an obligation for everyone, and paused fasting all night until the pre-dawn meal. God revealed, “..So any one of you who sees in that month should fast, and anyone who is ill or on a journey should make up for the lost days by fasting on other days later. God wants ease for you, not hardship. He wants you to complete the prescribed period and to glorify Him for having guided you, so that you may be thankful.” 2:185
Every person who was present when Ramadan came was to fast the month. Those who were sick or travelling at the time could make up for the days later, and the rule remained that the weak and the elderly could feed people instead of fast.
It’s enlightening to know about the gradual stages of the revelation of the Quran and the gradual rulings about different aspects of Islam. God willing, this will motivate you for the rest of this blessed month.