Welcome to Rethinking Ramadan. Your task for today is to decide what your level of commitment is going to be. How much time do you have each day – five minutes, ten minutes, half an hour? It would be great if you could set aside a realistic amount of time each day to read through the content and think about it. Some posts will be more reflective than others, but we hope each one will challenge you in some way.
In this first post, we’re looking at the most obvious subject… Ramadan! Maybe you already know the basics, but it’s good to refresh your memory every now and then. Afterwards we’ll pray, so ask the Holy Spirit to highlight something as you read, or use the suggestions at the bottom.
The fundamentals of Ramadan
Ramadan is both the name of an Islamic month and the name of a very important fast. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, which means it is an absolute must for a Muslim. In fact, it is the most observed practice of the five – even more so than daily prayers!
Ramadan begins at the sighting of the crescent moon, but fasting only takes place in the hours of daylight. In Muslim countries, the mosque helpfully signals the beginning and end of each day’s fast. A meal called Sahur is eaten before sunrise and a meal called Iftar is eaten after sunset.
Ramadan is hugely significant to Muslims because it takes place around the time that their prophet, Muhammad, supposedly received the first verses of the Qur’an. Fasting is done to make room for spiritual reflection and to divert attention from worldly desires. Muslims are encouraged to spend more time reading the Qur’an and in prayer.
During Ramadan, Muslims must not eat, drink (not even swallowing their own saliva), smoke or have sexual relations during the hours of daylight. Certain groups are exempt, including pre-pubescent children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, the sick, the elderly and travellers. However, some of these will be expected to make up missed time at a later date.
The Islamic calendar is ten days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, which means Ramadan moves forward each year. This year it falls in May and June, meaning the days will be long and hot in the Arab world.
Ramadan is an important time for us to pray for Muslims because it is such an all-consuming event. It unavoidably impacts every Muslim’s daily routine. While in practice it is something that some Muslims just endure, for others there is a great sense of achievement in getting through each day. Muslims do not have the assurance of heaven, but they believe they are pleasing God by depriving themselves in this extreme way. They feel closer to being the person God tells them to be.
What to do now
We suggest you use this information to pray. Pray as you feel led or go with these suggestions…
- Pray that for many Muslims the emptiness of going without food and drink would reflect to them the emptiness of this ritual. As Christians, we believe that it is only Jesus who makes us right with God. Salvation only comes through him and works are only a reflection of our love for our Father.
- Lift up Muslims who already doubt the claims of Islam. Pray that the fast would drive them to look elsewhere. Pray that Arab World Media’s Arabic ministry website would be a key resource for many seekers.
- Pray that fruitful conversations would take place between Christians and Muslims. There are national as well as expatriate Christians in the Arab world. They would highly value our prayers!
- Perhaps also ask God to give you an opportunity to show his love to a Muslim during the fast.
Make a comment below or use social media to let us know what you’ve been praying and how God has been speaking to you. Use the hashtag #RethinkingRamadan.
Tomorrow, as we rediscover, we’ll be looking at Islamic beliefs about God. Be ready to learn something new and share it with your friends.