October 5th saw the beginning of Ramadan, the month long fast period which is obligatory for muslims. This religious devotion begins on a date set by the lunar calendar so it varies from year to year on our calendar.
For those of us who are not muslims this month of devotion is an opportunity to take some time to learn a little about Islam and Ramadan, in particular.
To be religious is part of being human. In fact, it might even be the defining characteristic of "humanness". This reality has spawned religions great and small. For billions of people it manifests itself in being an adherent to a particular faith. For others, it may just be a consciousness of being present in nature, or community or loving connections with others. We all have a way of relating to the inner core of our being and feeling a connection to the Mystery, called God, what Rudolf Otto call "mysterium tremendum et fascinas" (the mystery which is both terrifying and fascinating.)
For devotees of Islam their whole lives are to be lived is submission to God, the Mystery. If fact, Islam means submission and a Muslim is a submissive. Following the five pillars of the faith is a way of living one's faith. Fasting and daily prayer are two of the pillars and during Ramadan they are central to the religious devotion. Learn of Islam for yourself http://al-islam.org/begin/intro/rahim.html#1
What is the purpose of Ramadan? In the quotation above in the photo we are informed that it is required of muslims to participate in order to learn self-restraint, self-discipline in order to make oneself a better muslim, submissive to God. There are other benefits: to feel closer to God, to read scripture, to think of the poor and share in their suffering, to be thankful for your good fortune, and to be in community, to name just some of the meanings and benefits. I encourage you to read a little about Ramadan for yourself. http://www.colostate.edu/Orgs/MSA/events/Ramadan.html http://www.factmonster.com/spot/ramadan1.html
In Canada, muslims are increasingly making a contribution to our shared national life. Non muslims might learn something about Islam and themselves by participating in a "shadow way" in Ramadan. We might fast during the day, focus our thoughts of the Mystery of life in which we participate , read devotional literature, think of the poor and be prepared to give alms. We might even eat some of the traditional foods before sunrise and after sunset. If we are fortunate enough to have Muslim friends and neighbours, they might invite us over to share an evening meal. In this way, we could learn a little about this great world faith and what it might mean to be a muslim. I suspect we might learn a little about ourselves and what it means to be more submissive to "God".