Ramadan begins today, and I am embarrassed that I don’t know more about it – especially since I lived in Saudi Arabia for a number of years and saw Ramadan up close and personal. As a kid, Ramadan simply signaled the time when the public drinking fountains were turned off and we were told as Westerners not to eat outside; camp security would even patrol making sure we weren’t breaking the rules. As an adult, I am sad that I didn’t use my time in Saudi to understand my Muslim friends’ commitment to their faith.
Some things I didn’t know:
- Ramadan is more than fasting, it’s a time of spiritual reflection and abstaining from bad habits, including lying, swearing, and gossiping. Saeed Saeed writes “The fast is not simply about denying your body food and water, it also involves arguably the more taxing challenge of avoiding ill speech, arguments, loss of temper and malicious behavior. The whole point of the fast is to demonstrate submission to God and keep the mind focused on a spiritual plane.”
- Despite the self-denial, Ramadan is also a time of celebration and joy, to be spent with loved ones.
- Lailat ul Qadr, The Night of Power, is the holiest night in the Islamic calendar. Muslims believe that on this night, the Quran was sent down from the heaven to the Earth and that praying on this day is better than a thousand months of worship.
- During Ramadan, Muslims attempt to recite as much of the Qur’an as they can. Mosques often recite one thirtieth of the Qur’an each night.
- Even though fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, there are exceptions for children, adults who are ill, elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, menstruating or traveling. If they can, Muslims may choose to either make up the fast at a later date or pay fidiya (feeding one person in need for each day they have missed fasting).
As a Christian, I hope that I can be sensitive to my Muslim brothers and sisters and considerate of their dedication to their faith. Wishing you all the blessings of the holy month!
Information for this piece came from The Huffington Post