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Ramadan and War

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2001 – A great debate is ongoing about whether the United States and its coalition allies will continue the campaign against terrorism during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

U.S. and allied officials won't say what they will do, figuring the enemy doesn't need to know the campaign plan. But what is Ramadan and why would people think it's a good idea to stop a war during it?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The lunar-based calendar figures the start of the month from the first sighting of the crescent moon. This year, calculations say Ramadan starts Nov. 16.

Ramadan is a month of fasting for Muslims. One of the five pillars of the faith, fasting is compulsory for every Muslim adult. The word "fasting" is a loose English translation -- the Arabic word, "sawm," literally means "to refrain," but in Islam means refraining from food, drinks and sexual activity from dawn to sunset. The month will end Dec. 16 with the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr.

The people of the Arabian Peninsula practiced fasting during Ramadan before the Prophet Mohammed. Jewish and Christian prophets, most notably Abraham, Moses and Jesus, practiced fasting. The Koran says, "O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint."

Muslims during Ramadan are encouraged to do good deeds, refrain from habitual and reprehensible deeds. The Koran says Allah, the Almighty, ordains special rewards for good actions and thoughts during this month.

The virtues of fasting and other recommended actions by the Prophet Mohammed teach Muslims how to appreciate those virtues and get nearer to Allah, and put an end to vices, bad habits and character faults.

Mohammed received the Koran from Allah during Ramadan. It is called the Night of Power (Lailat-ut Qadr) or the Night of Blessing (Lailat-ul Mubarak). This was the night when the Koran was revealed to mankind. Prophet Mohammed recommended Muslims search for this night of power in the odd nights of the last 10 nights in Ramadan.

Some leaders of Muslim countries have called for a suspension of the campaign against terrorism during Ramadan. But Islamic history is rife with instances where wars and conflicts continued during Ramadan. The Prophet Mohammed himself participated in some of the campaigns.

The most famous instance was the Battle of Badr, which took place on the 16th day of Ramadan. The Prophet and 313 of his companions set out to intercept a caravan from Mecca. They were met by a well-equipped army of the nobility of Qurayish. The Qurayish ruled Mecca, and Mohammed considered them idolaters. Though outnumbered. Mohammed and his followers fought to a draw.

The final campaign against the Qurayish was also during Ramadan. Mohammed led a great army from Medina to Mecca to take and purify the Ka'aba, the holy shrine built by Abraham and Ishmael. Seeing the power of the army, the Quyarish surrendered Mecca without a fight. Following the city's occupation, Mohammed sent detachments to outlying areas, where Muslims destroyed the idols of al-Lat, Manat and Suwa.

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