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The Arab-Israeli War in 1973, besides the Jewish Holiday, also took place during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, during which practicing Muslims observe mandatory daytime fasting. Did this affect the performance of the Arab (Egypt and Syrian) armies? I'd think hungry or dehydrated soldiers may not fight or think as well as when they're well fed. Why did the Arab leaders decide to attack during this period?

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+1 and looking forward to an answer. In my present state of ignorance on this matter I would assume that Arab (perhaps religious) leaders can declare exception from the normal rules restricting e.g. food intake during Ramadan in cases of emergencies such as war. –  Drux May 16 '13 at 18:39
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@Drux Indeed my (very limited) understanding of Sawm is that it isn't absolute. You are permitted to break it if medically advisable, very incovenient (eg: if you're traveling. Invading would count as "traveling", right?), and apparently even on a whim if you're willing to perform compensory service. I could see where some Imams might consider militarily taking back a Palestinian muslim's homeland for him (from their point of view) sufficient. –  T.E.D. May 16 '13 at 19:03
    
they thought tet was cool –  user2296 May 16 '13 at 23:56
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@T.E.D. it is mandatory. It can't be cancelled on whim, and the only valid excuse are sickness or travel (note the Battle of Badr in Muhammad's era were fought during Ramadan) Additionally The Arab armies didn't really invade or travel to Israel, at most they only advanced to their home territories taken by Israel in the 1967 war (the Sinai and Golan peninsula). But this is just trying to guess, I'm sure there are records as to whether they really fasted, why they chose Ramadan and that can explain whether it impacted their performance –  ASandhiyudha May 18 '13 at 7:49
    
@ASandiyudha IslamiCity seems to state that in multiple traditions Mohammed told his men not to fast. This isn't good evidence to whether it was true (or whether it is a "correct" interpretation of the Koran), but it does suggest at lot of muslims think that it's okay to break fast during wartime. –  Nathan Cooper May 20 '13 at 11:05

2 Answers 2

As said by bhau, the main impetus for the day of the attack was to coincide with a religious festival of the Israeli side, for advantage.

In my reading on this war, the issue of Ramadan did not come up as a significant factor, nor did the Arab side show signs that would indicate severe supply or troop quality issues. The initial attacks, especially on the Egyptian side, were expertly performed and the first engagements were a rude surprise for the IDF. It took time and hard fighting for Israel to finally gain the upper hand, cross the canal and force an armistice in about 30 days. Syria also made gains in the Golan before being driven off.

The earlier 6 Day War was a stark contrast. Then Israel used a holiday as a cover for a preemptive attack on the Arab side. The initial defeat and confusion did separate many Arab troops from food and water in the desert and the suffering was intense. The Arab armies essentially fell apart in days. Not having water is a serious issue in the Sinai Desert.

The mixed results gave both sides some pause for thought. While Egypt showed themselves they could contend for a time, the quick end to the war did save them from an embarrassing surrender of an entire Army. Israel had suffered worrying losses and their enemies were performing better. Sadat parlayed his relatively good showing into a more secure rule at home which in the end gave him the status to be able to gain the Sinai back at the peace table.

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Reasons for Arabs starting the war during Ramadan:

Arab attacked Israel on October 6, 1973. That year, October was the month of Ramadan. But the main reason for attack on this day was Yom Kippur festival, which was on this day. Yom Kippur also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people.

Arabs were defeated in all previous wars with the Israel.

So, Arab (Egyptian and Syrian) military forces launched an attack knowing that the military of Israel would be participating in the religious celebrations associated with Yom Kippur. Therefore, their guard would temporarily be dropped.

The other reason may be Battle of Badr, which was fought by Muhammad himself in the month of Ramadan. This may have considered by Arabs as a good precedent. (I am just speculating this, as the plan to attack Israel was code-named Operation Badr).


Ramadan fasting and Performances:

I tried lot for getting some authentic sources and information on this part of Yom Kippur war or Ramadan War, but yielded no positive results.

So, I am just drawing some conclusions, or you may called it speculations, based on the circumstantial evidences :

  1. Egypt was planning for war. So, during planning soldiers may have been following normal routine which is followed before war. The holy month of Ramadan started from September 27 in 1973, nine days before the war. So, choices may have been given to soldiers to fast or not to fast.

  2. Even if Arabs soldiers were fasting, there was no significant or decisive impact of their performance on the war. As it is not discussed as the reason for their defeat.

Authentic Sources: (as internet is not yielding any results)

In my opinion the most authentic sources, on this part, will be

  1. The Arabic memoir of the soldiers which describes their days of war.

    Such as Al -Nasr Al-Waheed (The Only Victory) which collects the memoirs of five Egyptian generals who planned and fought the 1973 Yom-Kippur War, was published in 2000. It is written by Dr. Mohammed Al-Jawadi. Or Saad el-Shazly's war memoir: The Crossing of The Suez

    But go for memoir of the soldiers, who were actually present in the battle field and fighting. It may be available in the local markets in Egypt or Syria.

  2. Directly meeting the Arab soldiers who fought this war.

  3. Contact the professors of history in any Arabic university.

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At least the information conveyed in the last sentence ("contact the professors of history in any Arabic university") cannot be true as it stands :) I am sure there must be some diversity of opinion also in this population and on this topic. Anyway, thanks for your effort. –  Drux May 21 '13 at 8:12
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Arab "historians" are the least reliable in matters like this... Main reason was Yom Kippur as you say, it being Ramadan was a nice extra as they may have thought the "stupid jews" would not expect muslims to launch a war during ramadan (false of course, it's commonly used to preach jihad in mosques around the world). –  jwenting May 19 at 9:31

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