It was during Ramadan when the Quran was first revealed, which signified the beginning of Prophet Muhammad’s mission as the last messenger.
FOR Muslims, Ramadan is special because it is during this month that the Quran was revealed for the first time.
This event is known as Nuzul al-Quran (descent of the Quran) and it happened 13 years before the Prophet migrated (Hijra) to Medinah. He received the revelation while he was in one of his frequent retreats in the cave of Hira’ in the outskirts of the city of Mecca.
This first revelation is important to Muslims because it is fundamental in the formation of the individual Muslim’s notion of his identity as a believer and as one who submits to the will of the Creator, and Islam does mean “submission to the will of God”.
The Nuzul Quran meant that the Prophet’s mission as the last messenger had begun.
The most fundamental principle of belief that the Muslim has to understand is that he is created by a Creator whose existence is without any beginning nor any end.
This Creator is full of mercy, love and compassion and He only has to utter be (kun) and something comes into existence.
Another reality is that, without such an idea being taught in the Quran (ie without the Quran), Muslims/mankind cannot ever know what needs to be known about the God who governs the whole universe, the seen and the unseen and all that there is.
Muslims also believe that before its appearance on earth, the soul had already acknowledged its Creator as God. However, upon his entry into this world from its mother’s womb, its previous awareness is veiled.
That is why the whole of his life is regarded as a schooling process (madrasah) where he learns through life’s events which are not only tests of faith but also the means to strengthen and purify him, in order to retrace his pure state also known as the state of fitrah/fitr.
This is why the end of Ramadan is called eid-al-fitr or returning to one’s fitrah, and this event is also commonly called Hari Raya which literally means the Big Day.
It is in such a context that Ramadan is like a focused/intensive period wherein Muslims try to purify themselves as much as possible holistically, ie physically emotionally and psycho-spiritually.
In Bahasa Malaysia, fasting or puasa comes from the Sanskrit upavasa which interestingly means, among others, to refrain from eating and drinking for the sake of drawing near to God.
In Arabic, the word saum (fasting) means “to refrain” or “to stop”, for example, with regards to desires for eating, drinking and several other types of desires which at normal non-fasting times are allowed.
At a deeper level, fasting requires the person to be careful and to abstain from all negative elements be it in their intentions, thoughts, words and actions.
In effect, saum teaches a person to refrain himself from his own will so as to allow acceptance of God’s will which is by definition the best and most appropriate.
Fasting/saum is prescribed in the Quran as all Muslims know (Surah al-Baqarah: 183-185). But what is even more significant is the fact that the Quran is proof of the miracle representing/symbolising the truth of his prophethood.
If prophets before him were given miracles such as curing the blind (Jesus/Isa), understanding the language of animals (Solomon/Sulaiman) turning walking sticks into snakes (Moses/Musa) etc, for Prophet Muhammad, the Quran is the miracle as proof, because amongs other characteristics, it contains facts/data of events that took place before, during and after his time all at once.
In the third category are included events and facts that belong to the world of science.
Some of these scientific, information included those that could not have been known to the Prophet who was illiterate, 1400 years ago and that it was only in the last 100-200 years that modern scientist have discovered and described them.
The Quran contains more than 500 ayat (statements) regarding science and technology, for example, more than those that touch on other topics. One of the verses which was the first verse revealed to the Prophet was the chapter or Surah al-‘Alaq (The Clot).
Read in the name of your Lord, who has created (call that exists), He has created man from a clot (of congealed blood); Read and your Lord is the Most Gracious, who has taught man by means of the pen, He has taught man what he did not know (al-‘Alaq: 1-5).
The embryology of human life was only known about 150 years ago, yet to Muslims the fact that the phenomenom is already described in this verses as well as in other verses in the Quran (Surah al-Mu’minun: 12-14) attest to the Quran being authentically revealed.
The verse also reminds the believer that despite what he has been taught, man still trangresses limits as he often relies upon his own desires even while knowing that such limits do exist and that they are empirically provable by/via science ie the chapter actually describes the condition where even when they know what is right, some still choose to make the wrong choices.
In the context of climate change and its relation to the unguided/misguided use of scientific and technological knowledge via extreme capitalism for example this reminder is a pertinent one.
For Muslim scientists at least, the objectives of the Syariah (guidance set out in the Quran) or Maqasid Shariah are not unlike some principles that are currently listed in the Ethics of Science and Technology Principles outlined by Unesco for example.
It is not difficult to see how without guidance/ethics/regulations even as mundane a technology as the facebook can come to be the cause of a lot of problems/issues.
To err is human and Ramadan is the time to get back on course.
> Prof Datin Dr Azizan Baharuddin is the Deputy Director-General of IKIM.