A Ramadan message from a friend of the Forum
- Created on Sunday, 21 June 2015
As-salaam-alaikum and Peace to you.
Thursday was probably a normal day for many in the UK, but for me (and a few other billion people) it was the first day of Ramadan. This means I fasted from sun up to sun down - so nil by mouth for 19 hours. Like many other Muslims I intend to continue this for a month, Insh'Allah (God willing).
This year, in addition to wishing my Muslims friends 'Ramadan Mubarak', I decided to send a special 'Ramadan message' out to all those non-Muslim friends in my social circle. If our Prime Minister is sending out a Ramadan message then surely I should be encouraged to do so right? I notified my friends of my intention to observe this month and in particular I invited them to ask any questions about fasting and Ramadan. Alas, like many I am no scholar on the subject but I have wanted to do my best to reach out and encourage/facilitate dialogue and understanding.
So far I've had a positive response, and I think it would be a great idea if all those who are observing the holy month could also reach out as I'm aware that (like many other Muslims) although I'm good at telling people I am fasting, I'm probably not very good at discussing why I do it or what benefit it brings. There's also the fact that many people don't fully understand why someone would take on such a committed and daunting task during these long summer days, but are too polite to engage further. Or perhaps some think they have nothing to learn from asking and so there isn't much discussion that goes on.
In any case, given the worrying recent polls on attitudes towards Muslims, I think the time is right for us all to go beyond our comfort zone and encourage discussions around Ramadan and fasting. Therefore perhaps mentioning these few very basic points can help to eliminate misconceptions and ignorance about Ramadan:
· During the day light hours Muslims abstain from worldly/bodily desires such as eating, drinking and having sexual relations and try to refocus ourselves on matters of spiritual improvement
· It is not just a fast of the body, but also of the mind, the fasting Muslim needs to refrain from any act that doesn't improve their character e.g. using bad language, telling lies, back biting against others, hurting others etc.
· During this time Muslims are encouraged to increase their intellectual knowledge and landscape on theological matters, e.g. reciting and reflecting on scripture and its relevance
· Muslims are also urged to increase their acts of charity e.g. giving to the needy, helping others, but also 'even a smile is charity' (Hadith).
· Also encouraged is regular prayer and intensifying worship to gain further blessings.
In a nutshell fasting during Ramadan is to focus the mind and body on improving one's spiritual state, enhancing one's character and generally being a better human.
Aside from the fasts having benefits for self-control/restraint and detoxifying one's system, it is also a form of worship in itself. It's quite an 'old' form of worship that isn't very common in Western Europe these days (aside from within minority communities) so I'm sure this in itself is a good starting point for any discussions.
Peace to you and your loved ones :)
Mariam Hakim (Communications consultant & Friend of the Forum)
Here are some great inter-faith projects that are open to all and encourage dialogue and sharing in the spirit of Ramadan - the first two are Iftar events (breaking of fast):