Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. The root of the word in most of the dictionaries refers to strong heat or burnt earth. Some commentators use this meaning to refer to the heat and hardship that people endure during Ramadan fasting. However, there is another meaning for the root of the Arabic word “Ramadan” which refers to the clouds and the rain at the end of summer and beginning of fall.  Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) says: “Indeed, it is called Ramadan because it burns the sins”.  In this narration both meanings can be adopted, since based on the first meaning it burns the sins, and based on the second meaning, it quenches the fire that is the consequence of sins.
Contemplating on the verse of the Quran “The month of Ramadhan is one in which the Quran was sent down as guidance to mankind, with manifest proofs of guidance and the Criterion…” (2:185), one can conclude that the second meaning that was mentioned for the word “Ramadan” is more suitable to describe this month; a month in which blessings and bounties of Allah (SWT) shower on His servants. One of those blessings as mentioned in the above verse is the Holy Quran which was revealed in Ramadan on the greatest night of the year: “Indeed We sent it down on the Night of Ordainment” (97: 1). In another verse, Allah (SWT) mentions, “We sent it down on a blessed night.” (44:3)
The three mentioned verses have some points that can help us think and discover if the month of Ramadan became a holy month after Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) brought Islam, or was it always a holy month throughout history?
As mentioned in the above verses and other verses of the Quran, Allah (SWT) tells us that:
1- The Quran was revealed in the Holy month of Ramadan. (2:185)
2- The Quran was revealed on the night of decree. (97: 1)
3- The night of decree is so high in a position that no normal human being can understand its status and value: “And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree? The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months.” (97:2-3)
4- According to verse 44: 4, every firm ruling is dispatched on that night. These rulings are the decrees concerning the way the affairs of the world should run until the same time next year. Such a concept which is related to the creation should have been an eternal matter and could not have come about just by the advent of Islam.
By doing simple math on the above verses, we can conclude that before the Quran was revealed, the night of decree existed as a blessed night, and by Allah’s will the Quran was revealed in this blessed night. Therefore, Ramadan always existed as a blessed month in which the night of decree has always been a prominent night.
The word fasting is mentioned a few times in the Quran when Allah orders Prophet Zachariah (PBUH) and Saint Mary to avoid talking to people: “Then if you see any human, say, ‘‘Indeed I have vowed a fast to the All-beneficent, so I will not speak to any human today.’’ (19:26)
The above verse shows that there have been different traditions of avoiding specific things, which has been called fasting. However, the verse of the Quran that makes fasting an obligation on Muslims says: “O you who have faith! Prescribed for you is fasting as it was prescribed for those who were before you, so that you may be Godwary.” (2:183)
The commentators of the Quran have disagreed about the purport of this verse. Some argue that the phrase as it was prescribed for those who were before you is referring to the concept of fasting only. It means that the previous nations were told to fast like you are told, however, the verse is silent about the time or the way of their fasting. Others, say that as it was prescribed for those who were before you means that the fast of Ramadan was prescribed for them exactly in the same way that it is prescribed for you.
Looking into the rules and descriptions of fasting in Christian and Jewish traditions would certainly support the first view since neither of these religions have fasting in Ramadan as part of their traditions. However, some commentators, quoting Hasan al-Basri have argued that the verse refers to Christian fasting which was originally ordained to be in Ramadan but they changed it over time. They say that fasting during the Lent season which in Christian tradition is related to the testing of Jesus in the wilderness is not the original concept of fast in Christianity. Rather, what was originally prescribed for them was the fast of Ramadan, but since as a lunar month it circulated over different seasons, the leaders of the church decided to fix it in the spring and add ten days to it as an atonement for such a change. It was then called Lent and related to the 40 days of Jesus’s tests in the wilderness.
However, we have to regard this as an odd view, since nothing in history can support such a development. Thus, as most of the commentators say, as it was prescribed for those who were before you, means that people of previous Scriptures were also told to fast, although not exactly in the month of Ramadan.
However, there is a third view here which can be regarded as a combination of the above two views, and as a view that makes the sanctity of Ramadan of a primordial nature. It is narrated from Imam Sadiq (AS) that “Allah (SWT) has not made fasting of Ramadan compulsory on any nation before Muslims.” He was asked about the interpretation of the verse “as it was prescribed for those who were before you”, where he replied: “Allah had made fasting of Ramadhan compulsory on the Prophets before you, but He prioritized this nation by it and made fasting an obligation on the Prophet and his followers.”  This means although fasting of Ramadan was not prescribed for previous nations, the past prophets used to honor Ramadan by fasting during the month. Something similar to this is reported about Hajj too. It is narrated that although Hajj is an exclusive obligation of the nation of Islam, however, prophets of the past nations including Moses and Jesus performed Hajj.
It is also narrated that the first Prophet who fasted was Prophet Adam: “when Adam ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, that fruit remained in his stomach for thirty days, and it was then that Allah made the thirty days of fasting obligatory on Adam and his generation.” 
In conclusion, what could be firmly said, is that fasting is not an obligation specific to Muslims only. All nations who received Scriptures were also told to fast like Muslims are told to fast, although the details about how and when they must fast may have been different.
- Mizan al-Hikmah, Hadith No. 7441
- Man- la- Yahzuruhul faqih, vol. 2, p. 99
- Man- la- Yahzuruhul faqih, vol. 2, p. 74
- Imam Fakhr-e Razi, Tafseer Surah Al-Baqarah, P. 59
Islam considers Praying (Salat) five times a day  as one of the most important practical principles. The more times one does something, the more it becomes part of him/her and his/her character; so does prayer. Also, if there were just one prayer a day, people would be more at risk of skipping it by telling themselves: it is only one! Let’s do it tomorrow! But, essentially, why should Muslims perform the daily prayers? Here are some of the answers to this question.
Of the prerequisites of the prayer is the purity of the body from major impurities [i], minor ones [ii], and the purity of clothes and place. These conditions need a state of physical and spiritual cleanliness to stand before God. So, praying five times a day bounds Muslims to take a bath regularly, wash the face and hands at least five times a day.
These are the practices of personal and public hygiene. According to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), the prayers act like a river passes nearby one’s house: “If there was a river at your door and you took a bath in it five times a day, would you notice any dirt on you? That is the parable of the five prayers by which Allah removes sins from one’s soul.”.
Moreover, several narrations recommend wearing perfume and brushing the teeth before ablution (Wudu) and prayers (Salat) [2,3,4]. These and other narrations, emphasize the importance of appearing clean in public and private.
Muslims, all, should pray in the same uniform way, and manner, facing the same direction. No matter what their social position is, where they are on this planet, and what language they speak. This, particularly, means that all human beings are the same before God. Moreover, all the identical acts and words during prayer and positioning towards the same direction, are the practices of promoting solidarity among Muslims, especially when repeated at some times every day.
Praying five times a day at certain intervals is an important tool. Since it allows a Muslim to organize his/her day, be aware of time, practice and take the control over his/her daily life.
Much of what we say in our prayers is actually asking for divine help to be righteous in our decisions and actions. And, God has promised in the Quran to respond to whoever that calls him (40:60). This gives a good feeling. Knowing that a kind, wise and superior power hears us and will help us through the hard moments. He also makes us more confident and determined in our decisions.
Just as we need food to meet our physical needs, Islam teaches us to pray and worship to get the food for our souls. That is inner peace and tranquility.
One of the main objectives of daily prayers (Salat) is to remember God. It also helps to purify ourselves and keep away all the evil thoughts and actions. "Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing ... And Allah knows that which you do." (29:45).
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said that Satan is afraid of the faithful Muslim who performs the prayers (Salat) in their right times. Once a Muslim forgets to do the prayer at the right time, Satan becomes encouraged to tempt him/her to do great sins .
If we once do wrong to someone, we will be ashamed of him/her, or we do not even dare to face him/her the next time we meet. Prayer has the same effect. It is the confrontation of one's conscience, knowing that nothing can be hidden from God, whether manifested or concealed. Then, it becomes more difficult to commit evil deeds when we have to stand five times a day in front of God who knows every detail about us.
Another purpose of prayer for a Muslim is to remember. At fixed intervals, no matter how busy a Muslim is, he/she might ask himself, “OK, why am I here, what do I do in this world?” Also, prayer helps Muslims to be accountable for their daily actions which greatly change their perceptions of life.
On top of everything, worshiping God is the purpose for which the humankind was created: “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (51:56).
Last but not least, what do we usually do to one who has done a favor to us? The answer is: try our best to compensate, or at least to thank him/her even several times. Now, how can we compensate the blessings that God has given us? It is not possible! Then, we pray to thank Him for all the wonderful, beautiful blessings that He has given us. Although we do not deserve many of them.
[i] Can be removed by ritual bathing (Ghusl)
[ii] Can be removed by ablution (Wudu)
- Ibn Babawayh, “Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih”, vol.1, p. 316.
- M. al-Kulaynī, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 5, p. 511.
- M. al-Kulaynī, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 5, p. 515.
- Ibn Babawayh, “Al-Khisal”, p. 481.
- Ibn Babawayh, “Uyun akhbar al-Rida”, ch. 30, T. 21.
Feminism is a movement of the modern times and may not have been heard at the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Issues like feminism that belong to the new era should be considered from different aspects to see if they are compatible with Islam or not. In most of the similar issues, Islam has some common views and some contradictions.
To find out if Islam accepts feminist theories and ideas, and advocates of feminism, we should first understand what feminism is and when and why it arose?
The first feminist movement started, to gain some rights for women. These include “guardianship of infants, property rights, divorce, access to higher education and the medical professions, equal pay and protective legislation for women workers - many of which women are still campaigning for today!” 
As I mentioned, these issues are not restricted either to western countries or countries with a majority of Muslim population. Even in Muslim countries, there were unfair social and family treatments toward women. We will later discuss the fact that it is not the Islamic rulings that subordinate women, but the traditions of those countries who embraced Islam within years.
Thus feminism, which started in 1848 in America, gradually spread over the world. Women and some men who were in favor of women’s rights became feminists without having a real knowledge of feminism .
Although I mentioned that in Muslim countries, women were not treated fairly and some of them became feminist, it never means that the unfair treatments toward women were because of Islamic rules. The fact is that the unjust treatment of women is sometimes due to different cultures and traditions. This unjust treatment existed at the time of pagans even before the birth of Islam.
It was a common act between pagans of Arab peninsula who used to be ashamed of their girls and prefer boys over girls. They used to bury their infant daughters alive, as they used to consider them inferior to men.
Quran describes the attitude of pagans toward their baby girls clearly; “When one of them is brought the news of a female [newborn], his face becomes darkened, and he chokes with suppressed agony. He hides from the people out of distress at the news he has been brought: shall he retain it in humiliation, or bury it in the ground! Behold! Evil is the judgment that they make.” (16: 58 -59)
In these conditions, where women were inferior to men, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) came with the Quran which gave women a high position and value.
It is narrated in history that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had a few sons who all died at a young age. Then he was granted a Daughter. Pagans used to humiliate him for not having a son to keep his family lineage. Then this chapter was revealed to him:
“Indeed We have given you abundance. So pray to your Lord, and sacrifice [the sacrificial camel]. Indeed it is your enemy who is without posterity.” (108: 1-3)
And from his only daughter, his generation continued until now which is an honor for a large group of Muslims.
Most of the rights that feminists are campaigning for in this era were mentioned in the Quran 1400 years ago;
“To men belongs a share of what they have earned, and to women a share of what they have earned.” (4:32)
According to Islam, women have a complete right to have an earning. They also have the right to use their earnings in any way that they desire. Besides, men have the obligatory responsibility to pay for women’s daily expenses;
“Men are the managers of women, because of the advantage Allah has granted some of them over others, and by virtue of their spending out of their wealth.” (4: 34)
At the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), there were many women who used to work in the market to earn money for their living. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) not only encouraged them for their job but also taught them the right Islamic rules of business and commerce. The most significant example was Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself who used to trade for Lady Khadijah (AS).
According to Islam, gaining knowledge is obligatory for both men and women and knows no time limit in one’s life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) says: “Gaining knowledge is an obligation upon all Muslim men and women.” 
Women have the right to choose their husbands. They have the right to ask the court for separation as well if for any logical, reasonable purpose they do not wish to continue their married life.
“Whoever acts righteously, [whether] male or female, should he be faithful, We shall revive him with a good life and pay them their reward by the best of what they used to do.” (16:97)
All the above points and what will follow in this article is emphasizing on the point that according to Islam, men and women do not have the same rights, but their rights are equal.
Murtaza Mutahhari argues that for having equal rights in the society, is it necessary to have the same rights too? He gives an example of a father who would like to divide his wealth between his children. He has a farm, a piece of land and a business company, the price of them, moneywise, is the same but they do not look the same.
The father knows his children, their talents, and interests. So, he gives each of his properties to each child based on his knowledge of the child’s potential. In this example, while the price of the properties is the same, but they are not equal for all children. 
The same is with the rights of men and women. They have equal rights according to their talents, potential, and biological features, but their rights are not the same.
Although Islamic treatment of women is fair and for the benefit of women, family, and society, still there are feminist campaigns that try to show Islamic rules are against women’s rights. Some of the Islamic rules that are usually mentioned by feminists are as follows:
The Islamic Dress Code
It is acceptable that wearing the Islamic dress code may cause some hardship for Muslim women, but nothing can be reachable without accepting its difficulty. Just like a mother who can never enjoy the sweetness of having a baby, unless she goes through nine months of pregnancy.
Thus, wearing the Islamic dress code that will lead to better family life and a safer society is worth its difficulty. Same is with the right to have free relationships with the opposite sex, which is forbidden according to Islam without specific conditions. This applies to both men and women to strengthen the base of family.
The authority that Islam gives to men over their wives is the authority of family management. It does not mean that they can be oppressive towards women.
Polygamy is also an Islamic rule that can take place under certain conditions. But it does not give the right to all Muslim men to marry more than one wife. So, neither men should misuse this Islamic rule for their own benefit, nor it should be taken as a tool of undermining Islam without enough knowledge about the issue [i].
According to Islam men have a twice a share of a woman in inheritance: “for the male shall be the like of the share of two females.” (4:11)
Imam al-Sadiq (as) was asked for the reason of this ruling in Islam, and he replied “that it was because Islam had exempted woman from armed combat, and moreover that dower and maintenance had been imposed upon man for her benefit. What is more, in certain cases of doubt, in which blood relatives had to pay ransom money, a woman has been exempted from sharing with others in the payment.
These are the causes why the share of a woman is less than the share of a man.” Thus, it is “the special situation of woman in inheritance is the effect of dower and maintenance is the effect of dower and maintenance and exemption from armed combat and paying ransom money.” 
According to Islam men and women do not have the same rights, but they have equal rights, which differ from each other according to each person’s biological, physical, and spiritual differences. An example is that Muslim women are not allowed to become judges, which is because of their high level of emotions which is required for a wife and a mother.
The love that a wife and a mother provide for the family is what makes the base of a family firm. While men are more logical to support the family by reason and making tough decisions at critical points. So, it has become an obligation on men to supply for the family or go for defense in war situations. There is no obligation over women in these cases.
This does not mean that women cannot put enough effort to strengthen their reason for their emotion. But if they do so, they have changed their nature, and their life path will be totally changed, in a way that they may never reach the safety and comfort that a woman requires.
If Muslims act according to the Islamic rules and commands, they will not need any of these feminist ideas. Since many of those rights that feminists are trying to gain are already given to Muslim women according to Islamic law.
It is good to keep in mind that the ultimate goal of every human in this life is to reach safety and calmness. This is easier and faster to gain by obeying the rules of Islam, simply because these rules have been ordained by the creator of human beings.
Thus, we can conclude that Islam is not completely compatible with feminism. Islam accepts those points of feminism that is for the best of human beings and the society. And will reject the rights that feminism defines for women while they would harm the woman, family and the society.
[i] Find information about Islamic rules on polygamy here: https://www.salamislam.com/content/why-does-islam-allow-polygamy-part-1/3
- Amali Al-Sadouq, p. 419.
- Mutahhari, Murtaza, The rights of Women in Islam, p. 115
- Mutahhari, Murtaza, The rights of Women in Islam, p. 225