Ramadan is first mentioned in the Quran as the month in which the Quran was sent, literally “sent down.” Thus its significance as a month of fasting (and other forms of abstention) is very closely related to the Quran. After all, the Quran is central to Islam; it is the sourcebook for the religion, for everything from jurisprudence to inspiration to wisdom of a more intellectual nature. It is a guide to life, in essence whose language and presentation is often allegorical or via parables or metaphor, all this being expressed in one Arabic word mathal.
Prophet Mohammad was prepared for the “sending down” (tanzeel) of the Quran by a period of fasting and sequestration from his community, going to a particular cave where he could be apart to contemplate and purify himself, drawing closer to Allah, who “inspired” (a much more physically and spiritually powerful guidance than we usually associate with this word) the prophet to do so. When Muslims fast and purify themselves in Ramadan (by abstaining from such things as conjugal relations or the use of foul language as well as paying the zakat charity), they are in a sense also preparing themselves to receive the Quran and its message as well as participating in some of the actions of the Prophet, thus both following his example and getting a sense of the power and uplifting of his life.
The focus on the Quran obviously also requires reading and studying the Quran during Ramadan. The admonition sin the Quran about reading and studying it are so frequent and emphatic that one would be advised to consider studying the Quran a “sixth pillar” of Islam. Certainly in this most sacred month we would benefit by focusing on the book which is the gift of Allah to humankind for guidance and enlightenment. It is the only divine revelation still in existence in its original language in its entirety. It is also the last such book, and merely thinking about that fact — this is the genuine Message from God in the original! Unchanged! And the very last one…— boggles the mind with its import. Here we can see and understand what God’s messages are really like, how they were actually revealed, what is different about them from other books we’ve seen, what does it mean to us that the Supreme Power sends a book to humans on this little planet earth in His unfathomably vast and complex universe of which we are a seemingly infinitesimal part.
Sometimes we act as if we have no Mind or senses and cannot grasp the most obvious facts. We get caught up in petty issues, not even of survival but side issues such as entertainment or minute decisions. And we forget that we were created and will die, and in that brief lifespan have a purpose which is not in the domain of what popular culture tells us it is. We have a place beyond the mundane, in the realm of the sacred, of things with eternal value and significance. What we do and say, even what and how we think, are important and consequential. Not because of our egos or pride, not because of some intrinsic greatness for which we don’t need to make an effort that is both painful and arduous. No, we are here to struggle and the consequences are both eternal and extreme. These are the issues addressed in the Quran , and for these and more issues we need a month to reflect, to get out of the small mindset of our lowest common denominator and raise our sights to what is transcendent and our higher purpose. We need to physically purify ourselves. Even if money. We need to engage with what really counts. For this we have Ramadan and all its limitations and struggles. We leave our habits and routines in this month and leave our comfort zones and self-satisfaction to struggle with the questions we were created to ask.
For the Quran was sent to all humankind, prophet Mohammad was sent to all people, as a mercy to “all the worlds.” Why not open the book and see the questions we wanted to ask but didn’t, or simply break through that wall of obliviousness between us and everything that matters?
From Surat Yunus 10:37
وَمَا كَانَ هَٰذَا ٱلْقُرْءَانُ أَن يُفْتَرَىٰ مِن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ وَلَٰكِن تَصْدِيقَ ٱلَّذِى بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ وَتَفْصِيلَ ٱلْكِتَٰبِ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهِ مِن رَّبِّ ٱلْعَٰلَمِينَ ﴿٣٧﴾
37. This Qur’an is not such as can be produced by other than Allah; on the contrary it is a confirmation of (revelations) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book – wherein there is no doubt – from the Lord of the worlds.