Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ready To Ramadhan

It's time again, in the Muslim world, to turn all attention to God by laying aside food and drink during the sunlit hours of the day. This holy month of fasting, called Ramadhan, unites the Muslim people not only with God but with each other. They may suffer some grumbly tummies during their hungry daytime hours, but they all do it together. And at night, when the sun goes down, they gather far and wide, in homes, restaurants and stalls, to share the evening meal in fine style.

 Putra Mosque, Putrajaya, Malaysia. Photo by Azam Alwi
This element of community is what fascinates me about Ramadhan. Although my heart, mind and soul are fully committed to my Christian faith, I find myself wanting to be a part of this event, to share it in particular with my Muslim friends from Malaysia.

So as I have for the past several years, I will joining in the Ramadhan fasting and feasting. I wake up early for a quick breakfast, and then schedule my dinner for late in the day. Is it hard to fast for the 14 hours between those meals? Not really. I stay busy, and when I am tempted, I think of all my dear friends, near and far, who are just as hungry as I am. Not so bad.

Buying food for the evening meal in Kuala Lumpur. Photo by Chong Voon Chung/ Chong Voon Chung/XinHua/Xinhua Press/Corbis
By the way, fasting is also a long-standing Christian tradition. Jesus used the same rationale of laying aside earthly pleasures to focus on God directly after his baptism, when he spent forty days in the wilderness. The devil tempted him sorely to break the fast, but he stayed strong. And since that day, Christians have chosen to follow in Jesus' fasting footsteps.

The most significant difference between Ramadhan and Christian fasting is freedom. In the Muslim world, fasting during the holy month is not an option, and the rules are steadfast. For Christians, fasting is always a voluntary expression of faith, and each person is free to set the conditions of the fast as she wishes.

My friends breaking bread together after sunset. I am with you in spirit! Photo by  Mohd Yuzairie
So it is out of this freedom that I choose to fast with my Muslim friends. I want to be a part of their community, even from a distance of 9300 miles, and if denying myself a few meals will draw me closer to this group, then I am glad to go hungry. And that is why I am ready to Ramadhan.

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