In the face of ongoing conflict, it’s time for Christians and Muslims to come together and pray for grace and peace. And Ramadan, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, a time for self-examination, devotion and reading the scriptures, which starts Saturday, gives us a perfect opportunity to come together. In my latest book of Christian-Muslim reflections, entitled ‘Ramadan’, I show how through fasting and reflecting we can focus on the priorities of loving God and loving neighbour, and bring our Christian and Muslim friends together for mutually encouraging interfaith conversations.
I have written three sets of Christian-Muslim reflections during Ramadan. These books are not an apologetic for one religion against another – of Christianity over against Islam or Islam over against Christianity. These books are simply a series of reflections by a Christian in conversation with Muslim friends, which I would hope could bring Christians and Muslims together.
Over the last few years during Ramadan, I have shared a single reflection each day with my friends on my Facebook page. The positive and appreciative response of so many Muslims, Christians and Jews prompted me to offer the reflections for publication with Morning Star Publishing as a companion volume to my earlier books on Isa and the Bismillah.
I don’t know a lot, but let me tell you the little bit I have learnt about Ramadan over the last few years. Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. It is a period of prayer, fasting, reflection, solidarity, accountability and charity.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars (religious duties) of Islam. It is a time of self-examination and increased religious devotion. Fasting occurs during daylight but meals can be eaten when the sun is down. It is common to have a pre-fast meal (suhoor) before sunrise and an evening meal (iftar) after sunset during Ramadan. Groups of people, including the chronically ill, mentally challenged, and the elderly who cannot participate due to health reasons, are exempt from fasting.
Muslims are encouraged to read the Qur’an often during Ramadan. Some Muslims recite the entire Qur’an by the end of Ramadan through special prayers known as Tarawih, which are held in the mosques every night of the month, during which a section of the Qur’an is recited. I have one Muslim friend, MK, who knows the whole of the Qur’an by heart and can recite it all by himself.
Muhammad Nazreen says ‘Ramadan has created a stream consciousness for us to rethink the system. For instance, consumerism becomes a major hindrance for the development of the marginalised poor. Ramadan gives us chances to sober up on how the poor are mistreated by the inequalities of the economic system. During this fasting month, we are encouraged to give more and get less. Perhaps, this might be an implicit message that we can learn from Ramadan.’
Ramadan is a time for Muslims to remember the hungry as they go hungry and many Muslims donate to charity by participating in food drives for the poor, organising a collection or charity event, and other voluntary activities. Over the last seven years during Ramadan, our friends from AMARAH (Australian Muslim Advocates for the Rights of All Humanity) join us in our community meals with the ‘marginalised poor’.
The Islamic academic, Tariq Ramadan, says: ‘Human beings must undertake the fast in a spirit of seeking nearness to the Unique, of equality and nobility among their fellows, women and men alike, and in solidarity with the downtrodden. The core of life thus rediscovered is this: to return to our hearts, to reform ourselves in the light of what is essential, and celebrate life in solidarity.’
Order copies of my recently released book now for Christian and Muslim friends in Oz & NZ from http://morningstarpublishing.net.au/product/ramadan/ and OS in the US & the UK etc from http://wipfandstock.com/ramadan.html