Ramadan – Engagement or Rejection?

Roxbury Mosque

I am on the mailing list of a large mosque in the Roxbury area of Boston. While Egypt’s minarets give us a journey through history and Turkey boasts Ottoman only, the mosque in Roxbury is modern. It sits across from Roxbury Community College, its dome and minaret smaller than those in the Muslim world. I’ve been told that there were protests when the mosque opened.

Being able to express and live out our truth claims in freedom is a gift. A gift that I’d love everybody to have.

And because of this I’m glad that there is a mosque in Boston. I’m glad that my Muslim friends and acquaintances have a place to worship. When I lived in both Pakistan and Cairo I was grateful for a space where protestant churches met, churches that we could become a part of, form a community of like-minded believers. And controversial as this may seem to some, I want this for my Muslim friends.

Tomorrow, July 9 begins the Holy month of Ramadan for Muslims. I’ve written in the past about  Ramadan – about loving neighbors more than sheep, about my outsider perspective. This past week I received several mailings from the mosque on Ramadan. The mailings were to help set the stage for Ramadan, help people prepare for this month-long period of fasting.

And today I issue a challenge to fellow Christians, those who hold to my faith tradition. How many of us feel frustration when our faith is misunderstood, when myths abound, when others reject us because they disagree with what we believe? It’s not fair to pose this question in a blog – because it ends up being a rhetorical question.

But rejection for faith and truth claims is not fun. It’s lonely. It’s defeating. It’s discouraging. We want to scream when we hear misconceptions about Christianity and shout “No – that’s not the way it is! If we could just have a conversation….”. We long to engage with people about our faith because it’s important, because it’s foundational to who we are and how we live. Engaging with people over their beliefs does not mean we are watering down our own. How did many of us come to believe that relationships, friendships and listening to others, meant that we would fall down some slippery slope of forsaking our truth claims; of being false to that which we believe?

So the month of Ramadan comes around and we have a chance to live out what we want others to live at Christmas. We want others to say “Merry Christmas” – so to your Muslim friends you might say “Ramadan Kareem” or “Ramadan Mubarak.” Or better still, ask them – ask them what to say. Ask them what Ramadan means and what traditions accompany this time of fasting. And ask yourself the question: Will you engage during Ramadan or reject?

We live in a world that quickly rejects based on appearance, religion, actions and more. How do we learn to live in truth to what we believe – which means that at some point we will disagree – and yet not be afraid to engage?  How can we remember the importance of friendships and relationships in living out our faith?  I ask myself this question all the time – how about you? 

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*Here is the text of the mailing I received. It may be interesting to those of you who are unfamiliar with Ramadan to see what a Muslim cleric located here in Boston says to those who attend the mosque.

As-salamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullah,

It is with great pleasure we announce that the first day of Ramadan will be Tuesday, July 9th 2012. We will begin praying Tarawih Monday, July 8th, after the ‘Isha prayers. Our staff is working hard to make this your best Ramadan in Boston iA.

The Prophet (sa) said that this month is one of the “pillars” of our faith. Its goal is piety and its means is to increase good works at all levels – the refinement of the soul and good character and increasing in acts of worship. In order to have a successful Ramadan, it is encouraged to focus on the following:

1. Repentance. The Prophet (sa) said, “A person who repents sincerely is like a person who has no sins.” Starting the month with a clean heart and record is one of the best ways to energize your relationship with Allah.

2. Establishing the individual obligations (Fard al-‘Ayn). A person who fasts and fails to establish the individual obligations, such as prayer, does not understand the purpose of fasting.

3. Increase in voluntary acts of goodness. Give generously, serve your community, and increase your supplications, prayers and God’s remembrance.

4. Focus on making this the month of Qur’an. Read as much Qur’an as possible. This includes listening to it on the way to work, during the day at home, or on your computer or phone on the T.

5. Increase the din, reduce the dunya. Focus your talks, chats, tweets and Facebook posts on the Hereafter, reducing your conversations about things of no benefit in the Hereafter.

6. Make this a month for your family. Strive to be home for Iftar after work if possible. Studies show that family meals act as major influences in keeping families healthy and strong.

7. Forgive those who have wronged you and hold nothing in your heart towards others. ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ood said, “Everyone isforgiven in Ramadan, except those who have hatred in their hearts towards their brethren.”

8. Be a constant source of good wherever you are. The Prophet (sa) said, “Best person is the one who is best to others.”

9. Worship with your family or friends. Parents should worship Allah together by completing a reading of the Qur’an together (with their children if possible). And roommates or friends should try to complete one together as well. Praying in the night together is commendable as is remembering God in gatherings – driving in the car or at home.

19 thoughts on “Ramadan – Engagement or Rejection?

  1. I read this post last week and yesterday had the opportunity to wish an acquaintance “Ramadan Mubarak”. Their smiling, jouful response was amazing! Thank you for your encouragement to “engage”.

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    1. Love this so much! It’s what makes blogging worthwhile. I’ll never forget on a sleepy early morning last year when I suddenly realized it was Eid as I walked with a beautifully dressed Pakistani couple. I did the same thing you did yesterday and I was so excited when they beamed in response. Complete delight! Thank you for making my day with this story.

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  2. Thank you. A ministry group here in Cleveland I participate with to Arabic speaking women, many of whom are Muslim and celebrating Ramadan. Each year we forgo our monthly group gatherings during Ramadan and break up and do home visits. Often times it revolves around small talk, but your encouraging post gives me more specifics to aid in our conversations. Thanks.

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  3. I published my own post about Ramadan yesterday and there were so many comments and questions that I have gone back and included an update to my post with a link to this wonderful piece. May we continue to bridge the gap!

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  4. Marilyn, I’m so grateful for this. It makes me realize that although I see people of the Muslim faith on a near daily basis, I do not know any of them personally. I am praying that God will give me an opportunity to ask someone who is observing Ramadan what it means to them this year. I’ll let you know what happens. Thank you so much.

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  5. Excellent! Like you, i believe we are only free if we allow others the freedom God gives us to make choices. We must share The Gospel in love. I read yesterday in editor Leslie Leyland Fields’ book, The Spirit of Food, an essay in which references Vincent Harding (friend of MLKing) thoughts: “when love and theology conflict, love should always be our first priority” (Choice Cuisine by K. Giessen-Reitsma). Our witness is only heard if we speak in love.

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    1. I thought the Imam’s words were so good as well….and interesting to see how a cleric of another faith encourages his congregation. I’m so glad you read this – thank you.

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  6. Lovely post Marilyn and Ramadan Kareem to you too. I was unable to fast last Ramadan due to ill health. I am so much better now Alhamdolillah that I am going to this year.
    I am sorry I have not been reading or commenting much these days, just too much is happening in life right now to give me much free time.

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  7. I love this post, Marilyn! Since sunset is in just a couple of hours where I am, I already posted “Ramadan Kareem” as my Facebook status. I will add a link to your post, if that’s okay.

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