The History of Ramadan

  • The month of Ramadan is the most important in the Islam calendar.
  • The history of Ramadan dates back several thousands of years to the seventh century.
  • Several historically significant events in Islam occurred during the month of Ramadan.

The ninth month of the Muslim calendar, also known as the month of Ramadan, is the most significant and holiest in Islam. During this month, Muslims observe a holy fast lasting from sunrise to sunset and spend time on spiritual reflection and devotion. 

Over 1 billion Muslims worldwide partake in this spiritual exercise. They are not allowed to eat or drink anything between sunrise and sunset. They also refrain from having sexual intercourse and from speaking or acting in sinful ways during this time.

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is one of the fundamental principles that every Muslim is expected to follow, making Ramadan a mandatory doctrine. We will be discussing the history of Ramadan and how it came to be very significant in Islam.

The Birth of Islam

To understand the history of Ramadan, we need to briefly discuss the origin of Islam. In the year 610 A.D., an Arabian named Muhammad (SAWS) was visited by the angel Jibril, who revealed the first lines of the Qur’an – the Islamic Holy Book – to him. He was meditating in the cave of Hira, which is located in the Jabal an-Nour mountain range near Mecca, when this revelation occurred. Angel Jibril then informed Muhammad (SAWS) that these utterances came directly from Allah (SWT), the sole all-knowing God. 

Muhammad (SAWS), who could neither read nor write, could correctly recite the words revealed to him when the angel Jibril instructed him to do so. The angel then explained to Muhammad (SAWS) that he was the last of the prophets that Allah (SWT) had sent to spread the teachings of the religion of Islam. The night of this event is also known as Laylat al-Qadr or “the Night of Power.” Many Muslims believe that Laylat Al-Qadr occurred on the 27th night of the ninth lunar month, while others believe it occurred on the 23rd night. This is the most important day of Ramadan for Muslims since it commemorates the night when the Holy Qur’an was first revealed. We have revealed it (Quran) in the night of power. And what will explain to you what the night of power is? The night of power is better than a thousand months.” (Quran 97:1–4).


The History of Ramadan: How Did Ramadan Begin?

The name Ramadan was derived from the Arabic word, Ar-Ramad, which means scorching heat. It is thought that the name came from the scorching weather at the time the Qur’an was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad (SAWS). 

Ramadan has a long history, dating back to roughly 622 A.D., when the prophet Muhammad (SAWS) was revealed the teachings of Sawm (and thus Ramadan). The ninth month of the Islamic calendar was chosen as the month for Ramadan fasting since it was the month when the Qur’an and the teachings of Sawm were first revealed to the prophet Muhammad. 

It is believed that at the very first observance of Ramadan, the Prophet Mohammad (SAWS) broke his fast with dates and a glass of water, and as a result, Muslims eat dates during suhoor and iftar. Dates are a Middle Eastern staple that is highly nutritious, easy to digest, and offers glucose to the body after a long day of fasting.

Ramadan ends with a festival known as Eid-ul-Fitr, in which Muslims congregate to offer prayers of thanksgiving after the month of Ramadan has completed. 

During the last years of his life, Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) began to do Taraweeh, or extra night prayers, during Ramadan. As his associates began to join him in the mosque, the Prophet became worried that they might consider it a duty, so he continued to pray alone at home. Caliph Umar, the Muslim leader ten years after the Prophet’s death, witnessed Muslims conducting additional night prayers in various groups surrounding the mosque and instituted a communal prayer to unite their worship. Since then, congregational Taraweeh has evolved into a distinguishing element of Ramadan, during which the entire Quran is read.


Other Historical Significance of Ramadan

In addition to being the month of revelation of the Qur’an, the month of Ramadan also holds historical significance.

One major event is the Battle of Badr. Under the leadership of Prophet Muhammad (SAWS), Muslims won their first significant victory against adversaries who controlled Mecca, the city where Muhammad (SAWS) was born, during the month of Ramadan in the year 624 A.D. 

Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) led the Muslims to finally conquer and capture the city of Mecca during the month of Ramadan in the year 630 A.D.

During the month of Ramadan, in the year 711 A.D., the Muslim General Tariq ibn-Ziyad successfully landed on the coast of Spain. This marked the beginning of the expansion of Islam into Europe.

Ramadan has been a time for deepening one’s relationship with Allah since its inception in the seventh century. Muslims accomplish this throughout Ramadan by fasting, reciting the Qur’an, and performing selfless good actions.


The month of Ramadan is the one in which the Qur’ān was revealed as guidance for mankind, and as clear signs that show the right way and distinguish between right and wrong. So those of you who witness the month must fast in it. But the one who is sick, or is on a journey (should fast) as much from other days (as he missed). Allah intends (to provide) ease for you and does not intend (to create) hardship for you. All this is so that you may complete the number (of fasts as prescribed) and proclaim the Takbīr of Allah for having guided you, and (so) that you may be grateful.” – Qur’an 2:185


Ramadan possesses a rich history and holds a significant place in the practice of Islam religion. Ramadan is celebrated worldwide by Muslims from different cultural backgrounds and ethnic groups.

Scientific Information

  • Sawm – this is one of the five pillars of Islam. Ramadan draws inspiration from this pillar, which simply means ‘to fast.’ 
  • Taraweeh – this is a special prayer where long portions of the Qur’an are read and is seen as a special form of Islamic meditation.
Written by:
Dr. Susan Adeosun, MPH, MD
Public Health Physician



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