Saturday, 21 July 2012

Ramadan




Since today is the first day of Ramadan, please allow me to share to others about what it’s like to be a Muslim and fasting in Ramadan is all about.

By understanding the other person’s cultural and religious background in this way we can build bridges that cross cultural and religious differences.

The idea of fasting for a whole month is quite alien to most people in the world. Cutting down on food for a while to lose weight is perhaps the nearest you guys have ever got to fasting. Doing so for God's sake will be quite outside their experience. 

First, I’ll start with some easy basics.

Ramadan is the name of the ninth lunar month on the Islamic Calendar. We go by the 12 lunar months; one purpose behind this is that it facilitates our seasons of worship based around the four seasons of the year. Since it’s a lunar calendar each year goes backwards by 11 days, as the lunar calendar is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar. Every 33 years or so it does a full rotation around the four seasons so, wherever you live on Earth, everyone will have their fair share of long or short days and hot or cold weather.

Many people have never fasted, at least not for spiritual reasons. For many religions, fasting for a day is sometimes considered to mean not eating or drinking for a full 24 hours but for Muslim, we fast from before dawn to after dusk. Essentially, while the sun is in the sky – there is no eating and drinking. Once the sun goes down, you’re able to do all of these things again.

It allows one to build a sense of self-control and willpower, which can be beneficial throughout life in dealing with temptations and peer pressure. Through fasting, Muslims learn to control their natural urges such as hunger and thirst, and thus are able to better resist temptations for things which are not necessary, such as drugs or other unhealthy or harmful substances and behaviors.

Although energy levels might be low, the point of fasting is not to slack off from our other duties and responsibilities. We believe that we are rewarded for continuing to work and produce during our fasts. Fasting is not a reason to push meetings, clear schedules, or take a lighter load on projects. 

Our fasting in Ramadan gives us the chance to feel how hungry those who are less fortunate than us would feel. We often take food and water for granted that give us life and health. Feeling the absence of those things during a fast makes us more aware of those who do not have enough food, clean water to drink or shelter overhead. Being aware of these things simultaneously brings us a feeling of gratitude for our health and happiness and allows compassion to grow in our heart.

Ramadan is also a time for renewal, to re-dedication of yourself to live a good life and leave the mistakes of the past behind you. Ramadan is to remind everyone just how wonderful it would be if everyone in the world was given the chance to start over again, to forget the mistakes of the past, and to begin a new. There are not many people who would turn down such an opportunity. All of us have made mistakes. We also deliberately do things we know to be wrong. 

During Ramadan, Muslim are encourage take part in community and charity. There are iftar dinners held at mosques every night (you are welcome to join the fun – even if you’re not fasting!) and night time prayer vigils throughout the month. We give charity in abundance and make an extra effort to partake in community service.

Anyhow – throughout the month Muslims will invite families, friends, neighbours and sometimes even strangers (not so much in Australia, but it happens quite often in Malaysia) for a dinner to break the fast.  Sharing this meals with others is a great blessing and thus, there are plenty invitations. 

Once the month is over, there is a celebration day – special prayers are offered, gifts are given to children and there are sweets a to be had for everyone.  It’s fantastic.  This is called the “Eid Al-Fitr“ (meaning Celebration of the Breaking of the Fast) and is most commonly abbreviated to just “Eid.”  It’s a time for visiting family, neighbours and friends.

I think that’s about as basic as I can get it — but if you have questions – ask!  I’ll answer! 

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