I celebrated Eid al-Fitir this year, the festival that marks the end of Ramadan, at the home of a Muslim family with whom I have grown close in the past few years. The smell of saffron, curry and other spices filled the house as friends and family gathered around a banquet table covered with a plentiful assortment of savory food. Dressed in my priest attire-black shirt with a white collar tab, black sweater, black pants, black shoes and socks-my clothes seemed drab compared to the rich and colorful array of traditional clothing worn by men, women and children, an expression of the gratitude and generosity that is at the heart of this celebration.
Ramadan is a "month of blessing" marked by fasting, prayer, acts of charity, and celebration of the Qur'an, Islam's most holy book, which was revealed to the prophet Mohammed. It is a time of self-reflection, and abstaining from habits that intrude upon our relationship with God and our fellow human beings, such as backbiting, judgmentalism, and anger.
Two years ago I began to observe Ramadan in an act of solidarity with the Muslim community. My decision to keep the fast grew out of my concern over the growing prejudice against faithful and peace loving Muslims around the world, especially after the tragedy of 9/11.
My decision also grew out of the realization that I knew little about a religion that has nearly a billion followers, so I decided to use the time to learn more about the teachings of Islam. I included reading the Qur'an in my devotions during the day. Not only did I read, but I listened regularly to a recording of the Qur'an being recited, the sounds rivaling the sacred music sung in cathedrals the world over. My prayers began each day with the first words of the Qur'an, "In the name of God, the compassionate, the caring..." The essential message of the Qur'an is clear: there is one God, who is infinitely compassionate and just, and we are created to honor and serve God and to be prepared to account for our lives on the Day of Judgment. This message, as well as other sound teachings of the Qur'an, has enriched my own faith.
The most important benefit of my observance of Ramadan has been the sense of being spiritually connected with the Muslim community. During Ramadan I was privileged to join Muslim friends at sun down and celebrate iftar, the breaking of the day's fast, saying prayers and eating special food. I cherish these experiences, as well as the friendships that I have made along the way with members of the Muslim community. I cannot put aside these friendships and the bonds of respect and affection that connect me spiritually to these people, and place them, if only for a moment, outside the Kingdom of God.
Father Peter Rood is Rector of the Holy Nativity Parish in Westchester, California.
Related posts from similar topics: