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Looking Forward to Ramadan

I'm a Christian. Specifically, I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Yes, I'm a Mormon. In fact, I'm a very active Mormon. I believe the doctrine, I attend church every Sunday, I read the Holy Scriptures, I pray, I attend the temple when I can and I try to live my life in harmony with the teachings of the Savior as much as I can. I'm not perfect, but I try to do my best. My wife is the same, and we're raising our daughter in the church as well. However, in two days, I'll be participating in the most holy month of Islam- Ramadan. But wait, didn't I just say I was Christian? What is a Christian doing participating in a Muslim religious observance?

Well, the story is a long one, loaded with details I won't bother covering here. To keep it short, I served a mission for my church in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I spent two years of my life there preaching the Good Word and spreading the Gospel to all that would hear it. It was there I met my wife actually. But, during this time, I developed a great love for those I was serving. You see, Toronto is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world. I think at the time I was there, it was said to be the home of 80 different cultures, with hundreds of different spoken dialects. It wasn't uncommon to talk to a Buddhist at one door, a nihilist at another, a Christian at the third and a Muslim at the fourth. As you spent your day among the people, you really were dipped deeply in many cultures.

Many LDS missionaries say that their mission was the best mission in the world, because they grew to love the people they were with so much, and had experiences that they wouldn't trade for anything. Well, in Toronto, the world was in my mission, so I got to see everything.

Well, during these two years, one group of people that I developed a great deal of respect for were those belonging to Islam. I developed this respect, because of all the people that I met; of all the cultures that I got involved with, it was the culture of Islam that was the most friendly. Sure, there was your bad seed every once in a while, but overall, I was constantly shown respect and love to. I was invited more often into the homes of Muslims. I was invited to dinner or lunch more with Muslims. I was able to talk more openly with Muslims. All-in-all, it was the people of Islam that were very friendly. As a result, I learned so much about their culture and what made them tick. And the more I learned, the better I was able to build a foundation of trust with them. It was mutually beneficial for both of us.

So, you can imagine my heartbreak when I came back to Utah. Sure, there is culture here, but it's nothing like Toronto. Further, I was amazed at how many people here were prejudiced against Muslims. It blew me away. Especially after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, in New York City, New York. All of the sudden, it was as if every Muslim in the country was to be feared. Members of the Sikh religion were being falsely categorized as Muslims, because of their turbans. It was rather infuriating. I felt like I needed to be a missionary for the Muslim people. I needed to let these prejudiced, racist pigs that Islam is a God-fearing culture. They pray five times per day. The attend holy services at a mosque. They even read their holy book, the Qur'an, which has much of the same stories as the Holy Bible. For the first time in my life, I was on the defense for another culture and religion other than my own.

On a side-note, every wedding anniversary, my wife and I would celebrate a new culture. We started with Italian, then did Celtic, then Chinese, Jewish, Mexican, Japanese and others. This past Saturday was our eleventh wedding anniversary, and when we were planning it ahead of time, I mentioned that I wanted to do an Islamic celebration. So, when the anniversary came, we read from the Qur'an, ate dates, visited a mosque, ate Lebanese food (the best we could do in Utah) and purchased a topi and a couple hijabs, and henna tattoos. It was a wonderful evening.

So, come August 11th, or 12th, depending on when the first crescent moon is sighted, the holy month of Ramadan starts. The month is a month of fasting and sacrifice. Participants abstain from food and drink, as well as personal pleasures such as gambling or sexual intercourse from sunrise to sunset every day for the entire month. Because the month is starting in only a couple of days, the fasting will be about 14 hours in duration each day. Also during this time, Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Qur'an before the month's end, and attend recitations at the mosque every evening. The Khadeeja Islamic Center here in Salt Lake City will be doing the nightly recitations after the fifth prayer.

My participation for that month will be as follows:

  • I'll be attending at least one of the recitations, if not two.
  • I'll be wearing my topi every day, all day long.
  • I'll be reading the Qur'an, both in private and in public, in its entirety before the month ends.
  • I'll be fasting as they would fast from sunrise to sunset every day of the month

In addition to what's listed above, I'll also be incorporating some aspects of my religion into the daily routine. In the LDS Church, the first Sunday of each month is usually reserved for a fast. It is meant to start the night before, and end 24 hours later. For our monthly fast, we're encourage to open our hearts to God, and ask for His blessings or thank Him for what He has given us. In other words, our fast should accompany prayer. So each day, I'll start my fast with a prayer and end my fast with a prayer. Second, I'll be reading my scriptures as much as I can as well. The LDS Holy Scriptures include the Holy Bible, The Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants. I won't be able to get through all four books, so I'll just be focusing on one. Not sure which at this moment.

Why am I doing this, if I'm a Christian? The biggest reason is to raise awareness of the culture that is Islam. There are a lot of misconceptions about Muslims and Islam in general, and I'm hoping to help people understand that Islam is not a religion of hate, but a religion of peace, love and integrity. These people are good people. The fear God, they follow the Prophets, they pray daily and frequently. They do good to others by helping in their community and they're respectful of others. My wearing my topi in public, and reading the Qur'an in public, hopefully, people will ask me questions, and I can educate them. I certainly won't be out preaching or knocking doors. I'll be on the passive side of things, hoping people notice, and have the courage to ask me questions.

The other reason for doing this, is I have bad habits and sins that I would like to remove from my life. I'm hoping that by making such a large sacrifice for a month, I will grow closer to God, and He will grant me the ability to make my weaknesses strengths and forgive me of my sins. So, I have deep, personal reasons for doing it.

It will be difficult, especially seeing as though school is starting up in two weeks, and I'll still have two more weeks after that to go. I plan on blogging updates about my experiences during Ramadan. Don't worry, I won't blog every day. Most likely, it will be a weekly summary of activities, conversations, studies, how I feel, and so on. So, likely there will only be four posts during the month.

{ 47 } Comments

  1. partikc | August 10, 2010 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    that's the side of religion i can totally relate to πŸ™‚ people always argue about christianity, atheism, muslims, and which kind of ethnic mindset is best when we all could just coexist peacefully.

    nice post!

  2. usman | August 10, 2010 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    Great to read your post and get to know such a wonderful person who can recognize the real face of Islam and Muslims in this world of Racism with Anti-Islam campaigns running everywhere. Good luck with Ramadhan and your school. Hope to hear more from you about how your Ramadhan goes.

  3. Mohamed Zaian | August 10, 2010 at 3:06 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this amazing post Aaron i'm looking forward for your posts @ Ramadhan also i will try to send you some of the events we will have in Egypt during Ramadhan

  4. Azzeddine | August 10, 2010 at 3:11 am | Permalink

    Congrats to you! It's a huge project.
    Beside the spiritual aspect of fasting you'll notice that it's healthy.
    Greetings from Morocco πŸ™‚

  5. Col | August 10, 2010 at 3:21 am | Permalink

    Culture, religion, and ethnicity are not interchangeable terms and indoctrination is child abuse.

  6. NickG | August 10, 2010 at 3:23 am | Permalink

    If the commonality between religions fascinates you, may I suggest watching the free movie Zeitgeist over at

    There's some more info about it on the wikipedia link ( ) but I watched it the other day and it's certainly an interesting watch.

  7. Peter | August 10, 2010 at 3:37 am | Permalink

    Generally a nice post, but why is fear of god a good trait?

  8. Immy | August 10, 2010 at 4:36 am | Permalink

    Nice to see such a post from a non-Muslim. Thanks for understanding us Muslims and Islam. May Allah bless you. πŸ™‚

    @Peter Because, you would be hesitant before doing something wrong. When one believes in and fears God truly, he knows that he has no way to escape God who constantly watches him, even though he sins when no one is around. So, he tries to avoid committing sin as much as he can.

  9. Aaron | August 10, 2010 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    @Peter- As @Immy mentioned, fearing God is a good trait, because it keeps your focus in the right place. It's not so much as being afraid of God, as it is revering God. God is watching you. You cannot hide from Him. Understanding this, means that you will want to do what is right. Hebrews 12:28-29 nails it right on the head:

    28. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
    29. For our God is a consuming fire.

    To the unbeliever, fearing God means upsetting the wrath of God, fearing His eternal judgement and eternal damnation. To the believer, to fear God means to have reverence for Him. It is the motivating factor to surrender everything we have, even our own lives if necessary, to the Grand Creator.

  10. Bert Claes | August 10, 2010 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    hi Aaron, Glad for you that you're so happy, but is there a way this doesn't show up on Planet Ubuntu? I fail to see this has anything to do with ubuntu...

  11. Someone | August 10, 2010 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    This is definitely the best post I have ever read on Planet Ubuntu. I was really impacted by it, such that I was about to cry. I wish you the best, good luck!

  12. Aaron | August 10, 2010 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    @Bert Claes- I appreciate your concern about wanting to read only posts related to Ubuntu on Planet Ubuntu. However, the planet is meant to be a portal into the lives of those who are Ubuntu members. Posts do not have to limited in scope to Ubuntu directly. You'll find this is the case with most planets.

  13. semko | August 10, 2010 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Nice to see that there are people with an open mind, who are not afraid of the unfamiliar, who are tolerant, who are God afraid. Now I know you do this for the Love of God, may He give you the will and power to succeed in fasting this month, and also in trying to present Islam and Muslims as they truly are. It seems that we Muslims are afraid to talk about ourselves, our religion or that we even hide that we are Muslims not to provoke others.

  14. Rashief | August 10, 2010 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Glad to see your post... such religious and cultural tolerance is hard to find.

  15. Mackenzie | August 10, 2010 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Great! So have you made plans for Eid yet? I've been going to Eid feasts since 2007.

  16. Mackenzie | August 10, 2010 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Oh hehe and now I just remembered that the first time I went to Eid, I took my copy of the Hitchhikers Guide with me. It's that one referred to as "the Bible edition"--black cover, gold-embossed with gold-edged pages and a black ribbon. I was asked whether it was the Quran.

  17. Mackenzie | August 10, 2010 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    OK wait one more...
    Where did your wife buy the hijab? I'm perpetually jealous of the beautiful textiles.

    /me scowls at the "Windows 7" next to own name... darned office

  18. Aaron | August 10, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    @Mackenzie- My wife purchased the hijab at a local middle eastern store here in Salt Lake City. They had quite a few to choose from. It's also the same place I got my topi. Also, this is my first Ramadan, so I haven't made any plans, other than attending one or two recitations after the fifth prayer (not sure what it's called, actually). So, I guess I should get on that, and start making some more plans. Especially for Eid ul-Fitr.

  19. Radek | August 10, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Knowledge and understanding is mother true tollerance and peacefull life. Thank you for your decision.

  20. Akshat Jain | August 10, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    You really need to see this movie

  21. glimmung | August 10, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    heartening post. i'm an atheist, but on a spiritual journey nonetheless. like you i have very positive experiences of islam, and i also think that it's important to talk to and to try to understand people who are different from ourselves.

    as for ubuntu - well, this seems entirely on topic - humanity to others.

  22. Allan | August 10, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    β€œReligion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you'd have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion.” - Steven Weinberg

  23. JoΓ£o Pinto | August 10, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    @Aaaron, I don't see how depending on 'fear' to keep focus can be a good thing. I am an atheist, I keep focus and I want to do what is right because I care about people. I care how my actions help or hurt people. We should not depend on someone's else existence (spiritual or physical) to care about people, that should come from ourselves.
    Acting from the fear that someone is always watching you is very close to a dictatorship .
    People should drive their life seeking a better world for every human being, not by fear from punishment.
    Anyway it's very pleasant to see a religion member promoting other, it shows that people which care about other people does not need to do it in the name of a specific God.

  24. Paul Kishimoto | August 10, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    Here we see the always-curious spectacle of atheists preaching about the ills of...preaching....but I'm with #11, this was great. As a Torontonian (Brampton born, Mississauga raised), it was extra poignant to hear my hometown (rather, the people in it) had such an effect on you.I'm about to move *away* for two years, and the diversity is one of the things I think I will miss immediately.

  25. usman | August 10, 2010 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    Fear of God is considered a good trait for the followers of a particular religion that teaches so. Someone who doesn't believe in God will naturally not fear him or consider it a good trait. Consider this:

    A person who does not fear law (e.g traffic laws) will naturally believe that fearing law is not a good trait and for him law doesn't exist but for others it does and is considered a good trait for those who believe in it. Consider religion, especially Islam as a law sent to us by our creator. It's like a 'user manual' which tells us how to carry ourselves in this world, written by the creator Himself.

    @Aaron the fifth prayer is called Isha

  26. Sara | August 11, 2010 at 12:51 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for being respectful. I have met people who think they have the right to treat me in any manner they wish. I live in South Carolina where people are not open, and on a daily basis, I have had people who have brought me their ignorance. It is emotionally difficult, especially when you try to correct others but they do not seem to care. You have done a beautiful job representing my cultural background.

  27. Aaron | August 11, 2010 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    All- I appreciate the kind words you've given me so far. It's very encouraging, and I'm eager to get started tomorrow morning. I hope I make many Muslim friends during this time, I hope I grow more closer to God, and I hope that I learn more about Islam.

    Ramadan Kareem to all of you.

  28. lo0m | August 11, 2010 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    Wow, this is actually great. I may have a different viewpoint on (organized) religion but it's great to see you doing this. Outside of the religion viewpoint, it's great that you'll be fasting. If nothing else, it is a great body cleaner (and yes, spiritual/mind cleaner too). Respect!

  29. Sam | August 11, 2010 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    I was so happy to find this! You won't be the only Mormon in Utah observing Ramadan, I know a handful. My personal reasons are first to support one of my Muslim friends in a place where he might feel alone in fasting, and second to increase my understanding of what Muslims do every year. It will be a a great time to look at my life and come closer to God as well.
    The prejudiced and the ignorant aren't the majority they are simply the loudest.

  30. Ben | August 11, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I had similar experiences as Aaron in Romania. Many of the nicest people I met had immigrated from Iran and Egypt, and were faithful Muslims. Great people. I'd never thought about participating in Ramadan, though. I'll have to keep it in mind for next year. πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the post!

  31. Kevin Carter | August 12, 2010 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    For another perspective on Islam, check out

  32. Aaron | August 12, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    @Kevin Carter- Are you being serious, or just dicking around? If you're being serious, shame on you! Judging a religion of billions by the few crazies? I guess Christianity and Judaism is off their rocker too. After all, how long have the been killing each other in the name of God? Please.

  33. Kevin Carter | August 12, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I am being serious. And yes, regardless of the religion, when people kill in the name of God, and that becomes associated with the religion, and the religion does little or nothing to dissociate itself from the practice, then that religion is off it's rocker. The Spanish Inquisition and European Colonialism spring quickly to mind. Christianity and Judaism seem to have toned their zeal down over the centuries. It remains to be seen if Islam can do the same.

  34. Aaron | August 12, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    The Hebrew texts strictly forbid murder. "Thou shalt not kill." It's followed, taught as doctrine, and believed that you will go to hell for murder in both Christianity and Judaism. Further, both religions do nothing to condone the practice of murder.

    With Islam, the Qur'an consistently teaches that killing is not part of their religion. However, high political leaders have made threats, and many followed through with, that they would kill non-believers for not converting, or killing those who abandoned Islam, by either conversion to another religion or something else. Military personnel have been known to make similar threats. The only way they can get away with it, is to proclaim they're doing it "in the name of Allah." Otherwise, it wouldn't be morally acceptable to kill. We have the same problem in Christianity and Judaism.

    But the prophet Muhammad was a peaceful person, and constantly taught against violence and war. The religion of Islam teaches killing is bad. However, the culture (read military, political figures, etc), use the religion as a scapegoat for their activities and ruthless actions. Osama bin Laden is one such person, as are the countless suicide bombers.

    Religion tension always builds when expanding to new territory. As you mentioned, the Spanish Inquisition and European Colonialism are testaments to that. Whenever there has been expansion by a culture, conflict is close at hand. People are territorial by nature, and extremely defensive of our personal belief systems, and we're willing to fight our ground to keep it.

    But, it's important to note, none of the three major religions condone murder. All three have their religious zealots who believe God called them to a violent purpose to spread forth the religion or wipe wickedness from the face of the Earth. But according to the Torah, the Holy Bible and the Qur'an, Jehovah, God and Allah are gods of peace, mercy and love.

    Unfortunately Kevin, it's this view that Muslims are hate-filled, reckless, killing machines, that has me participating in Ramadan. The more I can do to get this screwed up view out of people's heads, the better off this world will be.

    Sorry mate, but as I mentioned previously, shame on you. You should know better.

  35. semko | August 13, 2010 at 2:46 am | Permalink

    @Kevin Carter - Religion does a lot to dissociate itself from the practice of killing, you just don't want to listen to that and accept it. So much killing has been done in the name of some "secular" ideas. In the name of socialism-communism, do you know how many people were killed? Do you know how many people were/are killed in the name of bringing democracy to people who just don't want democracy as they way of live, they were-are forced into democracy by killing/force. And I don't mean that these ideologies or whatever are bad per se. But the small group of the people who misuse them are.

  36. Fazil | August 13, 2010 at 3:08 am | Permalink

    @Kevin carter
    True religion cannot be found where it started. In the case of Islam, it all started in the area surrounding Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. You cant say that all Muslims there are good. Even the King does things against Islam. According to Islam the Calipha should be the best Muslim among you not the relative of the previous Calipha. And do you see that in the place where it ALL started. The only thing God said was to follow the Quran (because it can't be tampered - it is the miracle given to the holy prophet). And God said to follow what written in it. The holy Prophet showed us the same through his life. I would ask you to watch this documentary for understanding the history of this wonderful religion.(

    Religion is a manual(for humans) made by God and no one else owns it even the prophet who preached it.

  37. Muhammad Negm | August 13, 2010 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    God bless you πŸ™‚

  38. Hisham Najam | August 13, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Nice , Allah Bless You Aaron πŸ™‚

  39. Amr Ali | August 13, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I actually had a similar experience when I was in the USA, I've participated in Church of Christ Sunday prayers on more than one occasion I also participated in a Jewish synagogue more than once, I've read most of the Christian bible and most of the Chumash (Torah written in books) and the Talmud.

    You will not regret this experience ever. πŸ™‚

  40. ahmed kotb | August 13, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    God Bless u Aaran and lead u to the right path , but i wanted to add that gambling is a big sin in Islam , not stopped only during day in ramadan , but all time .

  41. Aaron | August 13, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Ah, thank you. I did not know that gambling was a sin in Islam.

  42. HopefulHopes | August 14, 2010 at 2:27 am | Permalink

    By the way, the recitation after the fifth prayer is known as "Salatul-Taraweeh" πŸ™‚
    Thank u !!

  43. Mackenzie | August 17, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Gambling and drinking alcohol were, at a time, both sinful in Christianity as well (see the fervor that led to Prohibition). Quakers still keep gambling as something that's bad (I say it's like stealing from people who can't figure out probabilities πŸ˜› -- but I believe the reason is more to do with addiction and recklessly losing that which your entire family depends upon), but apparently alcohol's acceptable now if it's not near the Meetinghouse.

    I know Mormons don't drink. Are you allowed to gamble?

  44. Aaron | August 17, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    No. We're taught that gambling is a sin as well, for the reasons you outlined. It leads to a horrid addiction and destroys families. If there are any two key principles taught in our church, it's to be in control of your passions, not your passions in control of you, and that families are one of the greatest gifts of God.

  45. Peter Marreck | August 23, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    A somewhat hilarious take on a few biblical inconsistencies: What meaning is to be drawn from a book called the "Word of God" that is rife with that much inconsistency? After how much explanation of this should things start to feel a little ridiculous? Have you made peace with these accusations? Does it not strike you as odd that Mormonism has had to change its stance on things like ideas around certain races? How can a religion change, yet not allowed to be questioned?

    One thing that bothers me is that yes, it's great for all religions to get along with each other, but if there is only 1 truth (and if you don't believe that, that's an *entirely* different discussion), *why* do these same people not talk about their religions to each other? Are they fearful that something about their own religion may be "off"? That they might (God forbid) change their minds or worldviews? Do they just enjoy the conceit that they are in the "correct" religion?

    The fact that religion is considered unquestionable is its worst trait. And as someone else said, good people and bad people will be good or bad regardless of religion. Aggressive and meek people will be aggressive or meek regardless of religion- and both will find religious texts to support their behavior. A person can aim for constant self-improvement without making it part of a religious cause.

    I'm not atheist, but I sure wish people would consider science #1 (it is the real, secular "search for truth", after all) and then their religious beliefs.

  46. semko | August 23, 2010 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Peter, lot of good points to talk about. But here is not the place for it.
    I don't fear that may religion is "off". You have a worldview in which you see all religions the same way you see Christianity. And that's plain wrong. Are you afraid that my worldview may change yours?
    You should question everything (but be respectful of those you question).
    I have questioned everything, and at the end I came to Islam.
    You may ask why? I can answer it this way. Today many people think when someone says that he or she is a believer that he or she doesn't want to know about science, or doesn't accept it. This behaviour is typical for today's "enlightened" world. The perception that all religions are against science stems from the western experience during the Enlightenment period.
    For us Muslims it is fard (strong obligation) to learn, to search for the knowledge. In fact the first ayah (verse) from God Subhana we Teala to Muhammad pbuh begins with "Read, ..." and it wasn't "Believe". Although Qur'an is not the book of science, you can find in it scientific facts which were unknown to humans at the time of Muhammad pbuh.
    Islam and science (I mean the real scientific facts) go really well together. No doubt. Except some theories, (emphasize theories), that today are accepted as facts, or forced on us to be facts.
    The case of science today is to misuse it for the good of few and to make others blindly follow it as if it is the only true way. It reminds me of dark ages and how the church misused the religion. That's why I cannot consider science number one
    We in the west fall always in the same trap. πŸ™
    For myself not to fall in these traps I choose to follow the manual for life, that was given to me by the Creator of life.

  47. Aditya | August 25, 2010 at 4:39 am | Permalink

    that's really nice you want to participate in ramadan to tell other people that Islam is Peace religion, in facts all religion always offer peace but we human make it worse, don't want to understand each other

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