Nearly one-quarter of the world’s population will be observing Ramadan, which began at sundown June 17 and lasts for 30 days.
Ramadan is a month of fasting, practiced as a spiritual discipline to demonstrate one’s devotion to God. As the rest of the world becomes familiar with this Pillar of Islam, questions arise as to how people of other faiths and even no faiths can enrich their experience of life.
There are five pillars of Islam that shape the life of every Muslim. They are the creed, prayer, charity, fasting and pilgrimage.
The creed (“Shahada”) is recited daily: “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” Prayer (“salat”) is practiced five times daily, facing Mecca, using words from the Qur’an while in a posture of obeisance; the Qur’an is recited in Arabic, while personal prayers can be said in one’s native language. Charity (“zakat”) requires the believer to share at least 2.5 percent of one’s assets with those in need. Fasting (“sawm”) includes forfeiting food, drink and sex between dawn and sunset; accommodations are made for those for whom this may be difficult—the young, aged, pregnant or ill. Pilgrimage (“hajj”) encourages every Muslim to travel to Mecca at least once in a lifetime as they are physically and financially able.
Since the Muslim calendar is based on the lunar cycle, Ramadan (as well as the time for the hajj) moves around the Gregorian calendar, which is used by most of the world. This means, whereas Ramadan begins in June this year, in 2010 it began in August and in 2020 it will begin in April. There are years when it will occur in the fall and winter.
When it occurs is not as important as observing a lengthy time of fasting. This provides ample opportunity to demonstrate one’s devotion to God, which can then be remembered and rendered throughout the year in other ways. It also helps one become sensitive to the needs of those who do not have ample food and drink as one experiences hunger and thirst especially, which are not immediately satisfied. This discipline can open one’s heart to more readily give zakat.
The feast of Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, whereby one can once again enjoin the joys of life on a regular basis with renewed appreciation, having deepened one’s communion with God (Allah is the Arabic word for God.) through the fast.
What disciplines, dear reader, are you committed to that deepen your spirituality and broaden your humanity? What is it that uniquely defines you and how you relate to the mystery, the majesty and the meanness of life? What are you able to appreciate from other traditions that may help enlighten your experience and nurture appreciation in your heart for others?
In Surah 49:13, the Qur’an says: “O mankind! We created you from a single soul, male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another.” Let us use our brief time on earth wisely in getting to know one another, especially the beliefs, rituals and disciplines that nurture our faith and shape the ethics by which we live—so that we may live together in peace with understanding and compassion as the many who were created by the One.
Article source Wisc News