Saturday marks the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. Muslims all over the world will fast from food, drink, cigarettes and sex from sunrise to sunset for 30 days.
Fasting is meant to teach the Muslim patience, modesty and spirituality. Ramaḍān is a time to fast for the sake of Allah, and to offer more prayer than usual. Muslims also believed through good actions, they get rewarded seventy times as much as they normally can achieve. During Ramaḍān, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.
Ramadan is a special month in which families and friends gather each night to break the fast together. I remember our first Ramadan in the Middle East surprised us by how festive it was. I also remember it was a lonely time. We thought the most difficult time to be living overseas would be Thanksgiving and Christmas because we would miss our families so much. We certainly did miss them then, but found that we actually missed them more during Ramadan! Seeing how busy all of our friends were with their families was a stark reminder that we were so far away from ours.
That is why it was so special when we were invited to break the fast with friends and their families. I imagine that this is also true for Muslims living outside of their countries during holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter (and of course during Ramadan). A couple years ago we had one of our most enjoyable Thanksgiving dinners with family in Iowa. We had invited our friend from Jordan to come to Iowa with us. It was a pleasure sharing this holiday with him. While I’m sure he would have loved to have spent a couple days with his family, I know that he was glad to spend a couple days with our family.
So I’d like to challenge each of us. Muslim friends, would you consider inviting non Muslims to break the fast with you some night during Ramadan? This is a great way to help others grow in their understanding of who you are and why you fast. And Christian friends, would you be willing to invite a Muslim neighbor, classmate, coworker, friend to share Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter dinner* with you and your family? This is a great way to help them grow in their understanding of why these are important days to you.
*When hosting Muslims it is essential that we not serve pork or alcohol since both are forbidden in Islam.