Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ramadan To-Do List for Non-Muslims

Note: This is an freelance article I wrote a couple years back on Suite101.com, since Ramadan is now upon us, I decided to dust off this article for your benefit :

Ramadan is currently being observed by Muslims across the globe, but that doesn't mean someone not of the faith can't benefit from the festivities.


To Muslims, the month of Ramadan has always been regarded as a time for self-evaluation and spiritual change. Followers of the faith reflect on what they have done in the past year, their attitude, conduct and habits and try to reform themselves for the year ahead. Looking at it from a different perspective, Ramadan is like a new year's resolution where a commitment is made and then diligently practiced in the forthcoming month in hopes that one's efforts carry over to the rest of the year.

A multitude of Islamic websites and blogs, to-do articles are written to aid Muslims as they seek to make the most of the blessed month. However, the occasion also serves as a great opportunity for non-Muslims who are seeking to learn more about the Islamic culture and practices.

Learning About Islam – Read the Qur'an


The main reason Ramadan is so special is because Muslims believe the Qur’an was revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad during this month. Muslims commemorate the revelation by reading the Qur’an and reciting a portion of it during prayers every night of the month. Muslims also spend time reflecting on the Qur'an's message.

The Qur'an carries a universal message and would make a great addition to a bookshelf. While reading the Qur'an, one may notice that the format is not of a normal book with the content listed out. Having an open mind is key since The Qur'an is to be read as a conversation, which is actually how it's understood by Muslims: a direct conversation of God's Word to humanity. Reading the Qur'an may very well open a new perspective on the faith which is the essence of peace and moderation, a contrast to the extreme that it is often misunderstood as being.


Understanding Islam – Practice Fasting



Want a taste (no pun intended) of what Muslims experience during Ramadan? Take a shot at fasting. As prescribed in the Qur'an, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, avoiding all food and water as a demonstration of self-restraint and devotion. In addition to the religious benefits, studies by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Intermountain Health Care have also revealed that fasting serves as an effective detox method.

For Muslims, fasting isn't just abstaining from food and water, but also a spiritual fast. During the fast, Muslims are to refrain from using profane language, engaging in gossip, losing their temper, lying and having sexual intercourse with their spouse. These actions are a deterrent from the spiritual meditation to be achieved through the recommended duties during the day of prayer, personal reflection and remembrance of God. While some may believe that one has to be quite disciplined and devoted to achieve such a feat, it can be accomplished through practice.

To properly commit to a Muslim fast, one is allowed to wake up before dawn to have some nourishment before the day's fast begins. A light meal and a glass of water will enable the individual to endure the fast in the coming hours. Many Muslims enjoy some weight loss during Ramadan, providing they can avoid the temptation to binge at night when the day's fast is complete.

Visit a local mosque or Islamic Center



Muslims frequent the mosque more than usual during Ramadan, as it serves as a spiritual retreat from the distractions of life. Visiting the mosque can be beneficial if an individual is seeking to speak with Muslims about their experiences, get information about Ramadan and develop relationships with the Muslim community.

At various universities and cultural centers, booths are set up during Ramadan which offer information about Islam and Ramadan in general. Muslims are encouraged to be extra generous during this month and most will be very welcoming to a non-Muslim who wishes to observe the festivities. This integration can create greater social and cultural awareness which promotes tolerance and understanding. This falls in line with the Qur'an, where it is stated that people were all created differently (ethnicity, tribes, nationalities) so that they may come to know one another.

Join the Muslims for Iftar Dinner


Iftar is the breaking of the fast for Muslims; it occurs at sunset. Going to the mosque for Iftar or any other dinner gathering is an ideal time to observe the sanctity and brotherhood/sisterhood among members of the Muslim community. Every night of the month of Ramadan is treated like Thanksgiving. People are sharing plates of fruits, laughing and enjoying each others company. Mosques often prepare plenty of food for observers free of charge but also generously give away free food to anyone who attends, no matter the faith.

Learning about and observing the traditional Ramadan-related practices can provide non-Muslims with a greater understanding of Islam and the Muslim community.

Sources:

Translation of The Holy Qur'an. Trans. Abdullah Yusuf Ali. Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an (January 1, 1987).

Study Shows Fasting Holds Health Benefits. Carrie Van Dusen. UWire.com. Retrieved on August 12, 2010.

1 comment:

  1. As a Muslim believer Hajj is a great experience a human can ever experience . It is one of the pillars of Islam and a duty that all Muslims are required to fulfil if they have have means and wealth it is compulsory upon them.
    Hajj is an journey of a lifetime nothing compares to it in this world.Its totally different for everyone but I can say personally its the best thing that happened in my life. Its such a great feeling once you go there if you feel so close to Allah swt and feel so emotionally and spiritually complete
    Umrah 2013

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