The holiday honors the time when Allah, via the angel Gabriel, revealed the first verses of the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, to a caravan trader named Muhammad. Muslims believe that fasting cleanses the body, and the practice reminds them of the suffering of the poor. Beginning at age 12, all Muslims take part in the monthlong dawn-to-sunset fast that is the hallmark of Ramadan. Eating and drinking (including water) is prohibited during daylight hours, and the day’s abstinence is offset by a nightly meal known as iftar. Food is often shared with a poor family during Ramadan. At the end of the 30-day fast is Eid al-Fitr (Festival of Breaking the Fast), when there is much feasting and celebration.
For Reflection: As a hospice chaplain, I sit with people who are the end stages of the dying process. I had the privilege of spending time with a woman who was dying of a rare form of cancer of the lining of her stomach. When the cancer grew to obstruct her bowels she was no longer able to intake food. Feeding her through a tube was prolonging her life but her body lost it’s ability to even process food. So her final days were spent literally starving to death. During her final two days, she shared with me that she was so hungry that she had started dreaming that she was eating her beloved cat, Lily. (who was staying with her at the hospice house) The dreams were so terrifying to her, she determined that she was ready to die, to leave the suffering of hunger. That naming ushered her into the sleep of transition between the physical world and what comes after.
I have never felt that sort of hunger. So much of the world population does, including in my community. When I don’t see it regularly, I forget the suffering that goes along with hunger. Physically, spiritually, emotionally, gut-wrenching hunger that removes all of the layers of etiquette that provide for and organized, ordered society. What a powerful way to commemorate a special religious holiday. To cleanse the body and remind folks of the suffering of others. To peal away layers that stand between people and what they love the most, what matters so much to them.
For Ramadan, may you share in the suffering of the world, such that you are transformed.
Allah is with those who restrain themselves
Ramadan Mobarak (happy Ramada)