a christian does ramadan
Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting (the ninth month in the Islamic calendar) whereby Muslims cease eating, drinking and sexing it up between dawn and sunset. It is both an act of devotion and good exercise in patience and humility.
Our aim in doing Ramadan was primarily that we would be able to use it as a means of having contact with local Muslims that we might become friends and also that we might engage in some form of inter-religious dialogue. Such dialogue is, in my view, extremely important, given the perception of Islam in much of the Western world over the past decade, and particularly its perception in my neck of the woods (Cronulla… remember the riots, anyone?).
But having crossed the halfway mark late last week, I realised that Ramadan is teaching me more than I bargained for. Maybe it’s best if I just list some of the things I am learning and experiencing:
1. Fasting is great for my prayer life. I already knew this, but Ramadan has brought the point to the fore.
2. Fasting has led me into a small sense of solidarity with the poor. Someone recently questioned such an assertion, saying that it was faulty because whereas I had chosen to go without the basics, the poor did not have that choice. This is of course true, though I think it misses the point – whether I have chosen hunger or been forced into it is irrelevant, I have a greater sense than I did before about what it is like to lack basics as I go about life. For example, trying to get work done in the afternoon after you haven’t eaten for the entire day is challenging; fatigue sets in, and food is constantly on the mind as you feel hunger and dehydration affecting you.
3. Religious celebrations are powerful communal experiences. I think many contemporary streams of Christianity have done away with festivals and feasts (does anyone remember what Lent is?). But there is something powerful about fasting or feasting together, as my friend and I have probably both found, even in regards to one another.
4. You can learn important lessons from the celebration of another religious tradition. Once again this is something I already believed, but nonetheless many religious people believe their religion has an absolute monopoly on the truth. While I am a Christian, and believe that it is the religion that presents the most truth, that does not mean that I must necessarily believe other religious traditions hold no truth at all. The fact that I can learn from the Islamic tradition means that God is acting through it in ways that I can’t understand to push me and grow me. God is certainly bigger than we know…
There are probably other lessons I’ve learnt, but it’s almost sunset…