Eid Mubārak! We have just reached the end of the holy month of Ramadan and are now in the festive season of Eid ul-Fitr, the conclusion of the fast. Muslims all over the world have spend the last 30 days refraining from eating, drinking during the daylight hours and spending extra time praying in order to be closer to Allah. Early in the month I wrote about my feeling of needing to learn more about Islam and Muslims and of sharing what I learn with people around me. Below is a collection of my Facebook posts from the month aiming to share my interest in Islam. I hope you enjoy them as much as my Facebook friends did!
* I saw the new crescent moon last night - the new moon of the month of Ramadan, in fact. It is the most holy month in the Islamic calendar and Muslims aim to spend it in fasting and prayer. The holiday at the end of the month, Eid ul-Fitr, is a joyous festival of family and hospitality. Let us spend this month getting to know a little more about this ancient and amazing religion and the 1.5 billion people who follow it.
* Ramadan is a special month because it is when the Angel Gabriel (Jibril) taught the Prophet Muhammad the verses of the Koran. Observant Muslims spend this time working to be close to God/Allah by studying the Koran, fasting, and praying. Pregnant and nursing women, children, people who are sick or are traveling are not required to fast but most will make up the fast days when they can.
* During Ramadan people who have fasted during the day break their fast with an evening meal called iftar. It is traditionally begun by eating a date because the Prophet Muhammad broke his fast with that fruit. Thomas Jefferson attended an iftar dinner, according to Wikipedia!
* President Obama is hosting an iftar tonight (August 13)! The tradition was started by Bill Clinton and continued by GW Bush. Here is the text of his Iftar Remarks.
*Pakistan is the country with the world's second largest Islamic population in the world (after Indonesia) and is currently suffering massive loss of life and property due to flooding of the Indus river. Today is the 63rd anniversary of their independence from India and the first weekend of Ramadan... celebrations have been canceled all over the country. CNN Article; U.S. helicopters arrive in Pakistan to assist relief efforts
*At-Tuwani, a Muslim village in the Palestinian West Bank, is utilizing non violence resistance to block and call attention to the harassment they suffer at the hands of Israeli settlers. Orchards are cut down, homes ransacked and children kept from getting to school. During this holy month of Ramadan let’s remember that all people deserve a safe life and livelihood. For more of what is going on at At-Tuwani check out the Christian Peacemakers Team website.
* Though I heard about it on the Daily Show, this isn't really funny. Tashima Crudup seems to have been denied approval as a foster parent because she, as a practicing Muslim, does not allow pork in her house. During this month of Ramadan let us examine our fears of the unknown people and groups and look for ways to practice the tolerance we expect "them" to show. Here's the Daily Show segment... Pork or Parents. And here is the Baltimore Sun article on the situation; ACLU: Foster mother rejected for not serving pork.
* There is a long historical association between African-Americans and Islam. It is estimated that about 10% of the slaves brought to America in the 17th and 18th centuries were Muslim. Today approximately 25% of the 6-8 million Muslims in America are African-American. During this month of Ramadan let us remember that Muslim does not equal Arab, nor is it equal for foreigner.
* According to a Pew Research Center poll 18% of Americans think Barack Obama is a Muslim. Most like those people think Obama is a poor leader and that being Muslim is a bad thing. Just for the record, he is a Christian (remember that scandal about his pastor?). During this month of Ramadan let us work to dispel untruths about Muslims and aim to keep "Muslim" and "people we don't like" from becoming synonymous. NPR story; Pew Survey: Growing Number Of Americans Say President Obama Is Muslim
* The Islamic civilization that dominated western Asia, North Africa and parts of Europe & India from the 9th to 16th centuries was a hotbed of mathematical thinking. The religious requirements of worship and inheritance set up the scientists of the day for massive advances in computation, geometry and algebra. In fact, our words algebra and algorithm (and alcohol!) are derived from Arabic words. Here is a great article that spells out some more of the advances. Arabic translations of many Greek works were the only copies to survive the European dark ages. Kevin Devlin's column on the Mathematical Association of America site; The Mathematical Legacy of Islam
Birdsong brings relief to my longing, I'm just as ecstatic as they are, but with nothing to say! Please universal soul, practice some song or something through me!
Jalal ad-Dīn Muhammad Rumi was a Sufi Muslim poet who lived and wrote in Persia in the late 1200s. His poetry is loved all over the world for its transcendental and ecstatic emotions but he was a firm believer in the truth of Islam. For more Rumi poems check this out this wonderful site.
* I just read about how a Swedish city joined with an Islamic student group to disseminate information about Ramadan to the Swedish public. "Ramadan is part of Swedish culture and we want to tell everybody about it. It is ignorance which breeds fear. By talking about Muslims and our customs and traditions, we counteract xenophobia and racism". Read more on the Islam in Europe blog's post Sweden: Municipality subsidizes Ramadan campaign
"The planned "ultra-mosque" will be a staggering 5,600ft tall – more than five times higher than the tallest building on Earth – and will be capped with an immense dome of highly-polished solid gold, carefully positioned to bounce sunlight directly toward the pavement, where it will blind pedestrians and fry small dogs. The main structure will be delimited by 600 minarets, each shaped like an upraised middle finger, and housing a powerful amplifier: when synchronised, their combined sonic might will be capable of relaying the muezzin's call to prayer at such deafening volume, it will be clearly audible in the Afghan mountains, where thousands of terrorists are poised to celebrate by running around with scarves over their faces, firing AK-47s into the sky and yelling whatever the foreign word for "victory" is. I'm exaggerating."
* Muslim women are encouraged (but not required by the Koran) to wear a hijab, a head scarf that covers their hair to outwardly mirror their inner modesty. The potent mix of religious based intolerance and fear along with women's rights make the hijab a point of controversy all over the western world. During this month of Ramadan please examine your own feelings about women's head coverings. What are we so afraid of?
* Zakāt or "alms giving" is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. There are complicated rules about who needs to give what and who can receive what, but in general most Muslims give 1/40th, or 2.5% of their wealth to the poor. It is required the same way praying and fasting during Ramadan is required. During this holy month ...let us think about how we share our wealth with the needy.
* Happy Eid ul-Fitr! Muslims all over the world are celebrating the end of the fasting month of Ramadan today by feasting, praying and giving small gifts to loved ones. Muslims are encouraged to forgive and forget any past animosities or difficulties. What are you celebrating and forgiving on this blessed day of Eid?