The month of Ramadan has a sublime rank in the hearts of all Muslims due to its abundant merits and diffuse attributes. Therefore, the Companions and the Tabi`in (the generation after the Prophet) were keen on making the best of every moment in that sanctified month in order that their good deeds are increased and their degrees are elevated. Hence, it is beneficial to pursue and survey how the righteous Salaf (early Muslims) would act in such a venerable month, to follow their example and to seek inspiration through them.
Qur'an Recited All Day Long
The righteous Salaf used to seize Ramadan as a precious opportunity to recite the Qur'an abundantly, day and night in and out of Prayer. Below are some motivating examples:
Sufyan Al-Thawri. When Ramadan approached, Sufyan would abandon all (voluntary) acts of worship and would engage in the recitation of the Qur'an.
Abu Muhammad Al-Labban. Al-Hafiz Al-Dhahabi mentioned that in AH 427 Ramadan approached when Abu Muhammad Al-Labban was in Baghdad. Then, he led the people in Tarawih Prayer throughout the whole month. Whenever he finished Tarawih, he would continue to perform (night) Prayer (on his own) in the mosque until dawn (when Fajr Prayer was due). Hence, after performing the Fajr Prayer, he would give religious lessons to his fellows.
Qatadah Al-Sudusi. Although Qatadah ibn Du`amah Al-Sudusi was a blind man, he would always recite the whole volume of the Qur'an every seven days. Moreover, in Ramadan, he would recite the whole volume of the Qur'an every three days. However, in the last ten days of Ramadan, he would recite the whole volume of the Qur'an every night.
Abu Bakr ibn Al-Haddad. Abu Bakr ibn Al-Haddad said, "I tried to accustom myself to what Al-Rabi` reported from Al-Shafi`i that he would recite the whole volume of the Qur'an sixty times outside Prayer other than the times he would recite it in Prayers. Yet, the best I could do was to recite the whole volume of the Qur'an fifty nine times, but in months other than Ramadan, I would manage to recite it thirty times (every month)."
Zubayd Al-Yami. When Ramadan approached, Zubayd Al-Yami would bring a copy of the Qur'an and gather his companions around (to recite it).
Waki` ibn Al-Jarrah. Waki` ibn Al-Jarrah would recite the whole volume of the Qur'an and one third of it every night in Ramadan. He would pray 12 rak`ahs (units of Prayer) in Duha Prayer (supererogatory forenoon Prayer) and would continue to perform Prayer in the time between Zhuhr and `Asr Prayers.
Ibn Abu Melkiyyah. It was reported by Nafi` ibn `Umar ibn `Abdullah that he said that he heard Ibn Abu Melkiyyah saying, "I would lead people in (Tarawih) Prayer during the month of Ramadan and would recite Surat Fatir (that opens with "Al-Hamdulillah") and the like in every Rak`ah. However, I would not hear that anyone deemed that as overburdening."
Abu Rajaa'. Abu Al-Ash-hab said, "Abu Rajaa', who was leading us in (Tarawih) Prayer in Ramadan, would recite the whole volume (of the Qur'an) every 10 days."
Ibn Sirin. Hisham is reported to have said, "Ibn Sirin would spend the night performing the acts of worship (Prayer and recitation of the Qur'an) in Ramadan."
Al-Ma'mun. It was reported from Dhu Al-Riyasatayn that he said, "Indeed, Al-Ma'mun recited the whole volume of the Qur'an thirty three times in the month of Ramadan. Did you not notice his hoarse voice?"
Abu Al-`Abbas ibn `Ataa'. It was reported from Abu Al-`Abbas ibn `Ataa' that he would recite the whole volume of the Qur'an once every day. However, in Ramadan, he would recite the whole volume of the Qur'an three times every day and night. Besides, he went on in a contemplative recitation, as if it were his last one, for over ten years in order to get the essential meanings of the Qur'an, yet he died without completing it.
Zuhayr ibn Muhammad. It was reported from Muhammad ibn Zuhayr ibn Muhammad that he said, "My father would gather us during the time of the final session for reciting the whole volume of the Qur'an in Ramadan three times every day and night; that is to say ninety times."
Sa`d ibn Ibrahim. It was reported from Ibn Sa`d that he said, "On the nights of the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th, and 29th (of Ramadan), Abu Sa`d ibn Ibrahim would break his fast after reciting the whole volume of the Qur'an. He would frequently send me to bring poor people so that they would have break their fast with him (may Allah have mercy upon him)."
Moreover, one of the Salaf people was dying and then his children sat around him crying. Hence, he said to them, "Do not cry, for, by Allah, I would complete recitation of the whole volume of the Qur'an in this mosque ten times at each pillar, in Ramadan (knowing that there were four pillars in that mosque."
However, it might be claimed that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) forbade reciting of the whole volume of the Qur'an in less than three days. Well, in this context, Ibn Rajab said, "The forbiddance to recite the whole volume of the Qur'an in less than three days refers to assuming it as a constant practice. However, regarding doing so in favorable times, such as the month of Ramadan and in favorable places, such as Makkah for those who visit it rather than its inhabitants, it is recommended to frequently recite the Qur'an as a means of benefiting from the privilege of witnessing such a place and a time." This is also the opinion of Ahmad and Is-haq and other Imams.