Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ramadan!

Okay, so maybe Ramadan is not something that you were expecting me to blog about. However, the students at the Newman Center where dh works were recently invited to the Intercultural Friendship Foundation's Ramadan Iftar dinner, and our family decided to attend. It was really wonderful! We all had a great time meeting new people and making new friends.

First, we listened to the Islamic call to prayer, which was beautiful. Then we had a delicious home-cooked Turkish meal together. After we had eaten our fill, one of the Muslim men gave a presentation on Islam, and specifically how and why Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan. Then my husband gave a talk on fasting in the Catholic tradition. There were many, many similarities. Islam stresses not only fasting, but prayer and almsgiving during Ramadan, just as we do during Lent. Their fast is much more strict than what the Church requires - no food or drink from sunup to sundown, even water! - but they have the same exemptions for children, the eldery, the sick, and pregnant and nursing mothers. Ramadan is a week or two earlier each year than the year before, so it shifts around the calendar over time. I was thinking how much more difficult it must be during the summer, when days are long, than when it falls during the winter. Another thing they do differently is that if you are exempt from the fast, you are expected to feed another person for each day that you did not fast. So, a nursing mom could invite a neighbor to join them for the evening meal (Iftar) to fulfil this requirement.

One saying they have is that during Ramadan, Satan is chained. I think that is a great image for the effect of pious penance. Like us, they use their hunger to remind them of those in need. Samuel was struck by what their presenter said about this - that he is hungry when he fasts, but he knows that he will eat at the end of the day, but many are hungry, and don't know when they will eat again. Samuel enjoyed the food, company, and cultural sharing very much, and immediately asked when the next one will be! :)

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