Ramadan, a time of significant spiritual significance in the Islamic calendar, honors of the revelation of the Qur'an to the prophet Muhammad. The annual month-long period of daily fasting and prayer began last weekend on Saturday, April 2. It is observed by many of the approximately 1.8 billion Muslims around the world. From sunrise to sunset, those who are physically able, abstain from all food and water until the call to the evening prayer and Iftar, the evening meal with which Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast.
Those who observe Ramadan embrace it as a sacred opportunity to focus their attention on the goodness of God in their lives and heightened communion with God. During Ramadan, followers pray, fast and read the Qur’an, seeking a special sense of God’s presence in their actions.
The dates of Ramadan are based on the lunar cycle. This year the holiday overlaps Passover, which is celebrated by Jews, and Easter, which is celebrated by Christians. This alignment echoes the understanding that while these three faith traditions all recognize the God of Abraham, each faith has unique traditions and practices observed by generations of believers.
Islam scholars point out that within the Qur’an itself there is affirmation for recognizing the differences that exist between the different religious faiths – as well as affirmation for the importance of learning about and understanding one another. Among references that scholars use is one that seems to call for shared understanding by everyone: “O, people, Come to a word that is common between us and you” (The Quran 2:256).
That quest for understanding is also found in another passage of scripture – that is in fact held sacred by all of the Abrahamic traditions – and one that I have found meaningful and instructive for most of my life: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). In exploring these religious traditions and holy days, we take time to deepen our respect and appreciation for the presence of God in our world and lives. Faith in God can be strengthened with better understanding of how different religious traditions think and respond to His love and care.
As one who has benefited so much from observing the holidays and traditions of my own faith, I express my appreciation and respect to those who are observing Ramadan. My hope is that it will be a time of great spiritual enrichment and devotion. Ramadan Mubarak! Blessed Ramadan! May your prayer and fasting be filled with joy.