The difference between pre-Islamic Ramadan and Islamic Ramadan is, pre-Islamic Ramadan was practiced by a Pagan tribe in Arabia, and Islamic Ramadan is practiced by Muslims all over the world.
During Ramadan, Pagan Arabs used to abstain from food, water, sexual contact etc. Muslims practice the same Pagan Ramadan rituals.
It is a well-known fact that Islam adapted the Pagan practice of fasting. There is a Hadith in Sahih Bukhari that mentions the ritual.
Bukhari 5:58:172 – Narrated Aisha: ‘Ashura was a day on which the tribe of Quraish used to fast in the pre-lslamic period of ignorance. The Prophet also used to fast on this day. So when he migrated to Medina, he fasted on it and ordered (the Muslims) to fast on it. When the fasting of Ramadan was enjoined, it became optional for the people to fast or not to fast on the day of Ashura.’
The fasting for Ashura (10th of Muharram) originated from a Quraish Pagan practice. Ramadan fasting came later from Sabian tradition. Sabians are mentioned in several verses of the Quran [al-Baqarah 2:62], [al-Hajj 22:17] , [al-Maa’idah 5:69] along with Christians and Jewish. Sabians, a non-Muslim Iraqi tribe, believed in monotheism, observed fasting 30 days a year, and prayed 5 times a day.
Not only Ramadan fasting, other Pagan rituals were also Islamized. The Ka’aba in Mecca was a center of idol-worship. 360 idols were kept in the Ka’aba. According to Hadith Bukhari 3:43:658 Narrated Abdullah bin Masud: The Prophet entered Mecca and (at that time) there were three hundred-and-sixty idols around the Ka’aba. He started stabbing the idols with a stick he had in his hand and reciting: “Truth (Islam) has come and Falsehood (disbelief) has vanished.”
The Black-stone or al-Ḥajar al-Aswad of the Ka’aba became the central shrine object in Islam. It was one of the many stones and idols venerated by pre-Islamic Pagans. The Black Stone was kissed by people during pre-Islamic pagan worship. Muhammad did not completely abolish Idol worship, he made the Black Stone stay and allowed people to continue the practice of kissing the stone. It is the same pre-Islamic Pagan stone that Muslims kiss today during Hajj and Umrah. The Islamic historians believe that the black stone was a pagan deity called ‘Al-Lat’, one of the three daughters of Allah, the Pagan moon-god. She was once venerated as a cubic rock at Ta’if in Arabia.
Hisham ibn-Al-Kalbi (819 CE) in his ‘The book of Idols’ wrote that ‘Al-lat stood in al-Ta’if, and was more recent than Manah. She was a cubic rock beside which a certain Jew used to prepare his barley porridge (sawiq). Her custody was in the hands of the banu-‘Attab ibn-Malik of the Thayif, who had built an edifice over her. [...]She is the idol which God mentioned when He said, “Have you seen al-lat and al-Uzza?” (Surah 53:19)
Muslims in the 21st century believe that the Black Stone fell from the heaven during the era of Adam and Eve. They also believe that the stone was originally white, but it turned black because of absorbing human sins.
Pre-Islamic Pagans prayed five times a day facing Mecca. Persian Zoroastrian tribe prayed five times a day too, in the direction of the Sun or fire temple. Before prayers, Zoroastrians cleaned themselves or practiced ablution. Ablution and the prayers for 5 times are not something Islam invented. The Hadith [Sahih Bukhari Book 8, no. 345] tells us that when Muhammad met Allah in heaven, Allah demanded 50 prayers per day. But with the help of Moses, Muhammad bargained with Allah and finally he was successful to reduce 50 prayers per day to 5 prayers per day. Even the Quran (4:28) says, ‘God wishes to lighten your burden, for the human being is created weak’.
During Hajj, Muslims walk between two mountains seven times. It is also a pre-Islamic practice. Let’s see what the Quran and the Hadith say about the special mountain walk.
Hadith Bukhari. Volume 2, Book 26, Number 710: Narrated ‘Asim: I asked Anas bin Malik: “Did you dislike to perform Tawaf between mountain Al-Safa and mountain Al-Marwa?” He said, “Yes, as it was of the ceremonies of the days of the Pre-lslamic period of ignorance, till Allah revealed: ‘Verily! Al-Safa and Al-Marwa are among the rites (or symbols) of Allah. It is therefore no sin for him who performs the pilgrimage to the Ka’ba, or performs ‘Umrah, to perform Tawaf between them.’ ” (Quran 2.158)
Many non-Islamic Pagan rituals are now known as Islamic rituals. Pagan’s crescent moon: the symbol of the moon god, circumambulation, Ihram etc. were taken or stolen by Islam. Muslims now begin their Ramadan fasting after seeing a crescent moon in the sky. Ramadan is a kind of a month-long food festival for Muslims. It is supposed to be a month of sacrifice and Muslims are expected to eat less. But in reality, Muslims eat more in Ramadan than any other month. Some people call Ramadan the holy month of feasting, instead of the holy month of fasting. They make sense.
There are some unscientific, nonsense verses in the Quran about Ramadan.
Quran.Sura 2:187: “Eat and drink until white thread of dawn appears to you and then complete your fast till the night appears.”
Quran.Sura 18:83-86:“Zulkharnain reached the setting place of the sun. He saw that it set in a pool of black muddy water.”
Quran.Sura 67:3-5; 37:6-9: “We created 7 heavens one above the other and decorated the lowest heaven with lamps – The Stars. We made such lamps as missiles to drive away Satan, who try to listen the conversation of the higher group — i.e., Conversation between Allah and his angels.”
There are many Hadith on Ramadan too. The most interesting ones are the ones about Muhammad kissing his wives and the way he permitted old men to embrace their young wives but prevented young men from embracing their young wives. Needless to say, Muhammad was old.
Hadith. Bukhari, Vol.3:149: narrated Aisha, ‘Muhammad used to kiss and embrace his wives while he was fasting and he had more power to control his desires than any of you.’
Hadith.Bukhari, Vol.3:151: Narrated Zainab: (daughter of Umme Salma) that her mother said, The prophet and I used to take a bath from one water pot and he used to kiss me while he was fasting.”
Hadith. Book 13, No.2381: Narrated Abu Hurayrah: A man asked Muhammad whether one who was fasting could embrace his wife and he gave him permission; but when another man came to him, and asked him, he forbade him. The one to whom he gave permission was an old man and the one whom he forbade was a youth.
Hadith. Book 13, No. 2380: Narrated Aisha: Prophet Muhammad used to kiss and suck her tongue, while he was fasting.