My first Ramadan

»  mark    31 Aug 2008 @ 08:58    

For many years, I have wanted to participate in the annual Muslim observance of Ramadan. This might have been a whole lot easier 8 years ago when I lived in predominantly Muslim Central Asia, but I wasn’t prepared then. Some might think of this as a marathon run or maybe a slow ascent of a high peak, an event you can’t just decide to do the following day. I think the comparisons are apt. This year I’ve been watching the calendar studying up on general practices and the purpose of the ritual and I feel ready to give it a go.

Many are familiar with the 30-day fast associated with Ramadan. I’ve had to reassure people that the fast is not an abstinence from food and water for 24 hours, but just while the sun is up. Muslims will typically eat a half hour before the sun rises (sahur) and again shortly after sunset (iftar). As the timing of Ramadan depends on the lunar calendar, it could fall during the long summer months or the shorter winter months. This year, Sept. 1 – Oct. 1 means each day’s fast will be between 13 and 12 hours.

Why would anyone want to do this voluntarily?
Any religious observance is done for a variety of reasons. For Muslims who take it seriously, Ramadan is a time to evaluate their life, try to overcome bad habits, and get closer to God. Traditionally, this month is considered to be holy and a time of great revelation and purifying. The gates of Hell are said to be closed and the gates to Heaven open. So one has greater help from above while temptations of evil spirits are not present. The Qur’an, the sacred writings of Islam was also revealed during this season.

Okay, but you aren’t Muslim
True enough, so my observance will be a little different. Here are the guidelines I will follow:

  • Fasting
    The same. I intend to keep the fast each day.
  • Charitable donations
    One of the purposes of the fast is to help believers understand what it is like for the poor who are often hungry. Muslims are encouraged to be generous with charitable donations at this time. I plan to donate to humanitarian causes during this time.
  • Prayer
    An increase of prayer is expected during this month. While I won’t be praying in typical Muslim fashion, I will strive to pray more frequently.
  • Worship at local mosque
    I don’t think I will attend the local mosque to recite the Qur’an and pray, but I will make an effort to worship at the temple, the holiest place for members of my faith.
  • Reading the Qur’an
    I might read some of the Qur’an. I’ve read the first two “chapters” in preparation and find the common ancestry Muslims share with Jews and Christians (through Abraham) very interesting. I was also somewhat surprised to see so many references to Isaac (Isaaq), Jacob (Yaqoub), Moses (Musa) and other Israelite prophets. While many Muslims will try to read or hear recited the entire Qur’an during the 30 days of Ramadan, I will attempt to completely hear the scripture unique to my faith, the Book of Mormon, which came to light at the time of a different celebration of revelation, September 1827.
  • Refrain from worldly influences
    Many advocate limiting television, movies, and music to give time to more prayer and worship. I agree with this in principle. I don’t know if I will be 100% free, but I will greatly reduce media consumption during this time.

I would hope Muslims would not take issue with my choices. While my methods may be different, my intent is the same: course corrections in life and greater spirituality and closeness to God.

Does your wife know about this?
Of course. She has committed to support my decision, though she will not be participating. It shouldn’t impose too much strain on our family. I often eat breakfast by myself before I go to work in the morning and our family tends to eat late, often after dark (kind of a European thing). The fun begins tomorrow. Ramadan Mubarak!

Additional Reading:

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Little changes

»  mark    24 Aug 2008 @ 23:36    

Haven’t written anything in what feels like a very long time. I can give a dozen excuses, but rather than read those, I thought y’all would rather read a little about what’s new around our house.

  1. Vita Mix blender
    Olya has been looking at these for quite some time and we decided to go for it. I think Elijah has already had more fresh fruits and vegetables (in blended form) than he ate in 2007. Simply amazing. When is a blueberry not a blueberry? When you blend it into a thousand little pieces. Then it is yummy!
  2. Ju-dah
    Not to be outdone by mama, Elijah has adopted our old blender and calls it “Ju-dah” which I think comes from “juicer”, but I don’t know its exact origin. He carries it around and pretends to mix just about everything: crayons, puzzles, etc. Tonight he took the wooden shapes from a shape sorter puzzle and announced that he was making a “shape smoothie.”
  3. Exercises
    For the past year at least Maya has complained about not being able to go to school. I think she wants to ride the school bus that comes down our street each morning and afternoon. But having just turned 4 in April, school is a ways off. We’d thought of introducing her to pre-school, but although the social interaction would be good, I think she would be bored to learn shapes and colors and letters.

    Maya is a quick learner and has been reading for several months. We picked up a workbook of supplemental “exercises” for kindergartners less than a month ago and she has probably completed half the 400 pages already. I was amazed today to see one of the exercises where she wrote the numbers from 1 to 20 freehand. She completes mazes and color-by-numbers with ease. I hope we can keep her interest going for another year.

  4. New phone service
    After years of paying local phone companies between $25 and $35 per month for basic land-line service (without even long distance), we finally found a service that works through our DSL line and hooks into our regular telephone. The service is called MagicJack and you pay $20 for the device that hooks your phone into the computer. Then you pay $20 per year subscriber fee. They gave us a local phone number, unlimited calls within US and Canada, and when we have the jack unplugged or the computer is off, the phone rolls to voice mail. We’ve had it a few weeks already and find it to be more than adequate. Goodbye, local phone bill.
  5. “Hit the hay”
    We have successfully passed this phrase that my grandfather used all the time to another generation. Although it is easy for the kids to say, and they think it is funny to talk about going to bed with such a phrase, we still haven’t figured out how to get them to close their eyes once they are in bed. Elijah routinely looks at books until 11p.m. or later. Maya comes up with a hundred and one reasons why she can’t stay in her bed. Anya rarely sleeps 3 hours in a row day or night.

    And mama and papa? Well, after finally finally getting the kids to bed, we spend a few moments tidying the house, checking e-mail, and having a cup of herbal tea before calling it a day. Of course, why “hit the hay” when Anya will be up in 15 minutes, right? *yawn*

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