For the past 8 months, I’ve had the privilege of sharing life with my West African friend Abdou* in a market. I sit daily and chat with Abdou and others about life, language, culture and often God. Yesterday Abdou explained to me with a little indignation that some of his countrymen only practice their faith in the month of Ramadan.
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is sometimes called the Month of the Qu'ran. It is believed that in this month, on the Night of Power Laylat al-Qadr (Q 97:1), Allah first revealed the Qur’an to Muhamad. Many Muslims make a practice of reading through the Qur’an in Arabic during Ramadan. Partaking in the five daily prayers, the giving of alms to the poor and fasting from food and water are widely practiced. I heard a spiritual leader explain on TV that this month is spiritual promotion month. Many believe that good deeds, fasting, prayers and acts of kindness done during Ramadan are worth 10 times as much in God’s sight. The spiritual economics makes sense when we read from the Qur’an that ‘The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.’ (Q 97:3) It is not known which night of Ramadan the night of power falls on, but it is believed to be in the last 10 days. Because of this Abdou and many others stay up the last 10 nights of Ramadan praying all night (and sleeping some of the day).
In largely communal societies, Ramadan is a sociable time of the year. At the breaking of the fast (Iftar) water, some dates and bread are commonly shared with good friends and the evening prayers in the mosque are followed by a good catch up. Mutual encouragement is commonplace: 'How’s the fast going? Are you in The Fast? God will pay you! You’re doing great!' These encouragements are also used as a form of Da’wah (outreach). Christians from Muslim backgrounds experience extreme pressure to join in the fast and return to the Islamic community. Last year Amina*, a lady in our city, made a profession of faith but retracted it last month just before Ramadan started. My local friends often ask me the same questions about fasting with a smile and a twinkle in the eye as they assume that westerners don’t fast. These questions often lead to great conversations about God’s mercy. Sometimes I answer with other questions: Why do you think God gave us the gift of fasting? Or why do you think Jesus instructed us not to let people know when we fast?
Written by a Crosslinks mission partner who is serving in a sensitive location.
* Names have been changed for anonymity.
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