I want to know the status and significance of Ramadan and sawm before the time of Muhammad ﷺ. For example, in one hadeeth (reported by Wathilah ibn al-Asq’a):

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has told us about the history of its revelation, as it was narrated from Wathilah ibn al-Asq’a that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: The Scriptures of Ibrahim (peace be upon him) were revealed on the first night of Ramadan, the Torah was revealed on the sixth of Ramadan, the Gospel was revealed on the 13th of Ramadan, and the Quran was revealed on the 24th of Ramadan[Ahmad 16370].

Similarly, is there any significance of Ramadan and fasting during the time of prior Prophets? At the time of jahiliyyah, did people still fast?

I would appreciate secondary sources as references.

  • Can you or someone improve the reference "Ahmad"? I dont see what or where this reference is from. Related by Wathilah ibn al-Asq’a but where?
    – user13203
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 16:10
  • 1
    @Jason "Ahmad" typically refers to Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal; I've seen this hadith cited as both 4/107 as 16370, not sure which (if either) citation method is "standard".
    – goldPseudo
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 7:12

3 Answers 3


Well before the fasting of Ramadan was revealed the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to fast 'Ashura' and 3 days of each month.

Narrated `Aisha: The people used to fast on the day of 'Ashura' before fasting in Ramadan was prescribed but when (the order of compulsory fasting in) Ramadan was revealed, it was up to one to fast on it (i.e. 'Ashura') or not.

[Sahih al Bukhari]

Ramadan رَمَضَانَ as a month was called in the jahilya at first taatal تاتل (means a person who gets/tufts water from a source or a well) (Here's my Arabic source other names are also quoted there see also in Wikipedia) ... then about 200 years before Islam they renamed it Ramadan according to a proposal of Kelab ibn Murra كلاب بن مرة because Ramadn then was at the beginning of the summer heat which explains the relationship to the word "ar-Ramdaa'"الرمضاء so in Arabic it's still said رمض الصائم يرمض if one's stomach gets "hot" because of the big thirst while fasting!

According to some ahadith (hadiths) mentioned in Tafsir ibn Kathir about the Verse in Surat al-Baqara (2:185) all the holy books of the other prophets have also been revealed in Ramadan.

About fasting before Islam i found the following

'Abdullah bin 'Amr (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, "The Salat which is dearest to Allah is that of (Prophet) Dawud; and As-Saum (the fasting) which is dearest to Allah is that of (Prophet) Dawud. He used to sleep half the night, get up to perform Salat for one-third of it, then sleep through the remaining one-sixth of it; and he used to observe Saum on alternative days."

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

According to this article some people in Jahliya used to fast A'shura' and used to do good things during Ramadan it also pretends that the sabi-a (mentioned in for example in Surat al Baqara (2:62) see below) used to fast one lunar month as we do (moonsighthing, duration, and rules of fast)

Rest assured that whosoever from among the Muslims or the Jews or the Christians or the Sabaeans believes in Allah and the Last Day, and performs good deeds, he will have his reward with his Lord and he will have no cause for fear and grief

And Allah knows best


In the Qur'an it says fasting is prescribed to you as it was to the people before. From this we can tell that fasting was prescribed before the time of Muhammad (saw). Jews have many days during the year that they fast and Christians too fast for 40 days. From this we can see that fasting was ordered in the Torah as well as the Bible and may have been ordered in other scriptures that were sent down By Allah through the Angel Jibrael.


I don't think so, fasting in Islam is a way to get closer to Allah and to feel for the poor and hungry who suffer the same pain Muslims do during Ramadan, except they feel that pain on a daily basis.

People during the 'jahiliyyah' time, they worshiped pagan gods (their way of getting close to their gods was by offering sacrifices and money and gold, not by fasting) and did not care much for people nor their suffering, so I would only presume they didn't fast.

P.S: I'm not entirely sure, this is my personal view on the matter.

  • this is not just a forum site. If you claim something, we expect some references to back your claim.
    – nim
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 11:33

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