We are in the midst of Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims. It is the 9th month in the Muslim Lunar calendar. This is when all able-bodied Muslims will fast from food, drink and other physical needs from sunrise to sunset. It is a time of prayer and purification to become closer to God. The Arabic word for God is Allah. Ramadan marks when the first chapters of the Quran were given to the Prophet Muhammad in 610 AD.
Ramadan is the 4th of 5 Pillars of Islam. These Pillars define what it means to be a Muslim. Here is a list of the 5 Pillars:
- Shahada: faith in the Islam religion
- Salat: pray five times per day facing the direction of Mecca
- Zakat: give support to the needy
- Sawm: fast during Ramadan
- Hajj: make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during one’s lifetime.
The season of Ramadan is a season of joy and celebration. It is also a season of generosity and kindness. Although the fasting can be difficult, the month is punctuated with celebratory meals after the sun goes down. These are called iftars. They are often celebrated together with families and friends as well as community events. This is a great opportunity to join an iftar and meet your neighbors.
My husband and I have several days marked on our calendars to join an iftar. Some of these are interfaith events, hosted by a community of Muslims. Some churches are also getting involved and hosting iftars for their Muslim friends and neighbors. This can be a time to build friendships and understanding. Why not check with your local mosque and see if there are any such gatherings that you could join? Or ask a Muslim friend, co-worker or neighbor if you could join them for an iftar? Be prepared for some delicious food and warm hospitality. You may be eating and staying up later than what is normal for you, but the benefits of making or strengthening existing friendships are worth being a little sleepy the next day.
I have heard stories from some of my immigrant friends who grew up in the Middle East of how Christian, Muslim, and Jewish neighbors would make food for each other during their holidays. This would be a custom worth reviving in our multi-faith and diverse communities. Maybe you will be inspired to host an iftar for your friends and neighbors. Just make sure you use halal meat or make a vegetarian meal. Costco carries halal meat and there are also local halal stores. I have 2 in my neighborhood. This is one way to build love and peace in our world so desperately needing it. One step at a time, right where we live.