Today, July 9, begins the month of Ramadan for Muslims.Â
Ramadan is a month of intentionality.Â Of community.Â Of prayer.Â Of dreams and visions.Â
It’s a time when God often speaks and moves and transforms lives.
Last year God did something unexpected for me as I prayed for Ramadan.Â This morning I read a blog by Marilyn at Communicating Across Boundaries and another by Rachel at Djibouti Jones.Â I’d like to share some of what they said and offer a prayer challenge.Â Â Perhaps God has something unexpected in store for you too.
On her blog Rachel explains that:
Of the five major pillars of Islam, only the first one, theÂ Shahaadah, deals explicitly with faith. The others: prayer, giving, fasting, and pilgrimage are actions. Islam emphasizes orthopraxy, the rituals and traditions of faith in contrast to the orthodoxy of evangelical Christians, who emphasize matters of faith and theology over rites.
RamadanÂ is an entire lunar month devoted to fasting and preparation for the Eid holiday when sheep or goats are sacrificed to symbolize forgiveness. The feasting that follows is rich with meaning and celebration. Eating in the middle of a sunny afternoon! Ice cold water whenever one is thirsty! The entire community has been through a month of hunger and thirst and the anticipation of Eid is thick, the rejoicing on the morning of Eid filled with relief and a sense of victory.
Marilyn, in her post, shares the purposes of Ramadan quoted from an e-mail sent out from a local Mosque.
The Prophet (sa) said that this monthÂ isÂ one of the â€œpillarsâ€ of our faith. Its goalÂ isÂ piety and its meansÂ isÂ to increase good works at all levels â€“ the refinement of the soul and good character and increasing in acts of worship. In order to have a successful Ramadan, itÂ isÂ encouraged to focus on the following:
1.Â Repentance. The Prophet (sa) said, â€œA person who repents sincerelyÂ isÂ like a person who has no sins.â€ Starting the month with a clean heart and recordÂ isÂ one of the best ways to energize your relationship with Allah.
2.Â Establishing the individual obligations (Fard al-â€˜Ayn). A person who fasts and fails to establish the individual obligations, such as prayer, does not understand the purpose of fasting.
3.Â Increase in voluntary acts of goodness. Give generously, serve your community, and increase your supplications, prayers and Godâ€™s remembrance.
4.Â Focus on making this the month of Qurâ€™an.Â Read as much Qurâ€™an as possible. This includes listening to it on the way to work, during the day at home, or on your computer or phone on the T.
5.Â Increase the din, reduce the dunya.Â Focus your talks, chats, tweets and Facebook posts on the Hereafter, reducing your conversations about things of no benefit in the Hereafter.
6.Â Make this a month for your family.Â Strive to be home for Iftar after work if possible. Studies show that family meals act as major influences in keeping families healthy and strong.
7.Â Forgive those who have wronged you and hold nothing in your heart towards others.Â â€˜Abdullah bin Masâ€™ood said, â€œEveryoneÂ is forgiven in Ramadan, except those who have hatred in their hearts towards their brethren.â€
8.Â Be a constant source of good wherever you are. The Prophet (sa) said, â€œBest personÂ isÂ the one whoÂ isÂ best to others.â€
9.Â Worship with your family or friends. Parents should worship Allah together by completing a reading of the Qurâ€™an together (with their children if possible). And roommates or friends should try to complete one together as well. Praying in the night togetherÂ is commendable asÂ isÂ remembering God in gatherings â€“ driving in the car or at home.
So as followers of Christ, how do we respond?Â Clearly we don’t believe the same things.Â For example, we certainly don’t believe that sincerity in repentance is all that is needed to wash away sin.Â Yet, you cannot read these lines without noticing a commendable intentionality to align physical life with spiritual values.Â And in this intentionality is an invitation.Â This invitation may be answered by God.Â It could also be answered by the deceiver.
Only God can see a person’s heart.Â He alone knows whose heart He is opening toward His truth and who is simply going through religious motions.Â So we engage with curiosity and love whenever God gives us opportunity and we pray.
We pray for our secular neighbors and our religious friends.Â We pray for those who have never heard and those who have heard a million times.Â We engage the God who is Redeemer on behalf of those who need redemption.
So I would challenge you to pray now.Â This is a month for prayer.
Â Ask the One True God to reveal the truth about Jesus Christ to Muslims
around the world who are observing the traditions of Ramadan.
And pray for believers who are representing
the Word of truth to their Muslim friends and neighbors.Â