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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3 comments

  1. Wow Mark this is quite something that you are taking on! I hope you will be able to accomplish your goal for the month. I would have a hard time if it was me but then again it might change some bad habits I have. Good luck and may the force be with you!

    ann    31 August 2008 @22:16

  2. I find other cultures and religions fascinating. I commend you for trying this. It would be difficult for me at this time in my life, because I am so active each day. But maybe one day I will give it a whirl. Do you fast each day for a whole month???

    Denise    1 September 2008 @22:05

  3. Fasting lasts a whole lunar month, which is 29-30 days.

    Level of activity could definitely be a hindrance to keeping the fast. With over 1 billion Muslims in the world, I’m sure there are many who have active lifestyles that have to face this challenge. But living one’s religion is often most rewarding when it requires personal sacrifice and making the tough choices.

    /mark

    mark    1 September 2008 @23:33

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