How Are We Practicing Ramadan?
Islam is not the religious background which has shaped me. I have not experienced practicing Ramadan in an intentional way.
My interest in Ramadan is fueled more by my curiosity than by obligation.
Ramadan is the name of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar which comes from Arabic for scorching heat or dryness. It is the month during which the Quran was revealed to Muhammad.
The dates of Ramadan are based each year on visual sightings of the crescent moon.
The practices associated with Ramadan demonstrate a commitment to the principles in the Quran. Practicing Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
It is common practice during Ramadan for Muslim people to fast from sunup to sundown each day. They share a predawn meal before each day’s fast and a meal at sunset to break the fast.
In addition to fasting, Muslim people also practice increased prayer and charity during Ramadan. It is a month in which Muslim people renew and strengthen their self-discipline and understanding of the Quran.
Ramadan is a month of reflection and deepening devotion.
We may not be from an Islamic background ourselves. We may never have read the Quran. What does practicing Ramadan have to do with our everyday lives?
What can we learn from how people who believe differently put their beliefs into practice?
I have no experience practicing Ramadan out of obligation or religious teaching. My understanding grows from my own curiosity than any practical information. It is more intriguing to me to explore what I can find and discover what it means for myself.
Practicing Ramadan With Fasting
It becomes compulsory for Muslim people to practice fasting during Ramadan when they reach puberty. There are exceptions for various medical reasons.
The fast begins at dawn and lasts until sunset. As with fasting practiced in other religious traditions, Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection and devotion. In addition to refraining from eating and drinking, Muslim people practice restraint in other areas of life. Fasting and reflection redirect the heart away from worldly and harmful activities.
A predawn meal ends before the first time of prayer for each day. The meal at sundown, after a time of prayer, has become a social gathering time for families.
Fasting is a practice which can be easy to misunderstand. It is neither an endurance test nor a demonstration of spiritual strength. We do not practice fasting to gain spiritual points or improve our spiritual lifetime score.
Fasting is a practical lesson in our dependence and need for spiritual life. It is easy for many of us to confuse feeling uncomfortable with being hungry. We have grown accustomed to being filled all the time with food or coffee or something else. When we fast it reminds us of the differences between what we need and what makes us comfortable.
When is the last time we went from sunup to sundown without eating anything? What are the lessons of which fasting might remind us?
Practicing Ramadan With Charity
Charity is an important practice in Islam, and becomes even more important during Ramadan. As I understand it, there is a percentage of a person’s income which it is obligatory to be given in charity. There is also additional voluntary charity beyond what is obligatory.
The practice of charity is a source of reflection and action for us even if Islam is not our tradition. We live in a society which is generous in the face of immediate needs. When we see news of a natural or other disaster somewhere in the world we are moved to respond. Our charity and generosity, though, tends to lose our attention until the next crisis.
We tend to differentiate between what we decide is a crisis and what is not.
What are the ways we could be practicing Ramadan with charity and generosity?
Practicing Ramadan With Reflection and Prayers
Muslim people are encouraged to spend time in Ramadan in personal spiritual reflection. They may practice additional prayers each day. Muslim people are also encouraged to read and pray the entire Quran during Ramadan.
We may have little, if any, experience of Islam and never have read the Quran. Practicing Ramadan may be significantly different for us than it is for a devout follower of Islam.
We can, for example, focus on understanding and articulating our own values this month. Spending time reflecting and remembering, we can sort out what has helped us become more of our true selves.
Whether we believe in the importance of prayer or not, we can spend time each day becoming aware. Listening to sacred stillness, we can grow in recognizing and understanding spiritual truths.
How will we be practicing Ramadan with reflection?
We are not prohibited from practicing Ramadan just because we are not from an Islamic background.
Like other spiritual practices, we are free to explore and discover what about Ramadan draws us deeper. We are not required to either follow or disregard practices because of what other people tell us. The spiritual practices we develop for ourselves are up to us.
We explore, opening our hearts and our minds to what we find in the world around us. This may be the year, after a little research and reflection, we begin practicing Ramadan.
Practicing Ramadan may begin for us with fasting or charity, reflection or prayer. We look for the wisdom in other ways of thinking and living and put them into practice for ourselves.
Listening to sacred stillness, to each other, and to ourselves helps us become open to learn.
How are we practicing Ramadan today?
When will we take time for practicing Ramadan this month?
[Image by PsJeremy]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and leadership coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and university professor, and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.