My third week of experiencing Ramadan is already documented, this is week four.
Ramadan has come to a close. It's the end of an old month and the beginning of a new. At the beginning of the new month, a festival called Eid ul-Fitr is celebrated for three days, while Muslims eat, play games, enjoy each others company and all around have a good, wholesome time with each other. Because I've been fasting all month, I wanted to celebrate Eid as well. Even though I'm the only one in my family who has been fasting, I still wanted to celebrate it with my family. So Saturday, we'll be having our own little "mini-Eid". It will be a pot luck, with assignments made to each of the family members. We'll have some games for the little ones, so they don't get bored while the adults converse with each other. It's going to be a lot of fun.
Initially, when I wanted to celebrate this month, I had three objectives in mind:
- Raise awareness that Islam is not a religion of Terror.
- Learn more about the Islam culture- what they believe, how they dress, why they pray, et cetera.
- Grow closer to God.
I can easily say that all three of these objectives were met far beyond anything I would have expected. I had no idea that I would make so many friends and learn so much. I received constant warmth from Muslims the world over, local and remote. I received encouragement and strength from family members, when I was tempted to break the fast, and stop Ramadan. I learned self-control over succumbing to temptation. But more importantly, my testimony and strength in God increased ten-fold. As a result of Ramadan, I'm a better person. I've elevated to a new height that I've not been before. I'm not saying this to boast. I'm saying this because I would highly recommend anyone else to participate, Muslim or non-Muslim. I may very well do it next year, and years following. It's such a rewarding and spiritual experience. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
It was unfortunate that I had encounters from people that don't see Islam in the true light. There were many times I had to defend this religion and its beliefs. I had discussions about the "Ground Zero Mosque" that were very politically charged. People have said things to me that I'm sure many probably regret saying now. However, despite these experiences, Ramadan was rewarding and uplifting overall.
Lastly, I had the opportunity to read the Qur'an from cover to cover during Ramadan. What a rewarding and uplifting book! For those who are unaware, it teaches many of the same commandments and doctrines that the Holy Bible teach. For example, no sinner can dwell with God, unless he be repentant and call upon God for forgiveness. It teaches of chastity, honesty and doing good to all men. It teaches against idolatry. It also teaches about the same Holy Prophets that are found in the Holy Bible. Namely Adam, Moses, Enoch, David, Solomon, Job and John. It teaches that Jesus was no the Son of God, but an Apostle as others who came before him. It also teaches that Jesus was not crucified for the sins of man, but that this is a perversion created by the Christians. And of course, it teaches about Muhammad, the last prophet who brought about the Qur'an through inspiration from the angel Gabriel.
All-in-all, the Qur'an is a good book. It reads different than the Bible, and for those who aren't used to eastern writing, it can seem a but redundant. However, I found the Qur'an very enlightening, and I found myself agreeing with most of its teachings (being Christian myself, there are some core beliefs that are different, obviously). If you are curious about the Qur'an, you can receive a gorgeous complementary copy from CAIR- the Council for American-Islamic Relations. It's a big hard-bound book, with glossy full-color pages. On each page is the original Arabic, a translation into English, a pronunciation guide on how to pronounce the Arabic with English characters, and an interpretation by the translator of the volume. Further, each Surah (chapter) is prefaced by a summary of what you are about to read, where that Surah fits chronologically with the rest of the book and some additional insight into the history of Muhammad during that time. In a nutshell, the length of the Qur'an is similar to that of the New Testament, and should be quick reading.
As a side note, I was quite upset to learn about Pastor Terry Jones willing to burn copies of the Qur'an, and the reasons why he thinks everyone should. It was clear to me that he has not read any verses from the Qur'an, or he and his congregation would rethink their position. I blogged an Open Letter to the Pastor, urging him to rethink his position. If he doesn't, I'll be praying for heavy rain, to prevent his bonfire.
I can't help but think of the crazy timing I've had in choosing to participate in Ramadan this year. First with the Ground Zero community center, now the Pastor burning Qur'ans. All in one holy month. My purpose for raising awareness that Islam is not a religion of evil was put to the test all month long. I was in many debates and conversations both in person and online. I'm glad I decided to do it this month. I just hope it did some good.
I wish all the Muslims in the world peace and posterity. May God bless you with great patience as you endure the hate from many American people.
Here is how my last week went:
- 22 Ramadan- After having breakfast, the standard Grape Nuts and yogurt with orange juice, I had a Zinger, and no sooner did I eat it, then I immediately got sick. It was such a horrible mistake. And really, I don't know why I had one. I don't like them to begin with. I guess the idea of something sweet was too tempting. Anyway, all day I was sick to my stomach over eating that Zinger. Many times I thought that I should definitely take some medicine to feel better, but I couldn't bring myself to break the fast. My will was too strong to stop. I figured I could deal with it throughout the day, and I did. I was eager to eat something for Iftar, and take medicine to feel better.
- 23 Ramadan- Today, I needed to get to the school earlier than normal to finish up some homework that was due for that day. So, I grabbed some breakfast at Burger King before starting the fast. Generally, I don't like fast food, but it held me over a lot longer than Grape Nuts normally do, and I didn't feel sick to my stomach like having that Zinger. Also, I attended Iftar at the University of Utah for the Muslim Students' Association University of Utah. An event that went from 6pm to 8:30pm. $10 at the door goes towards helping the victims of the Pakistan flood. It was a wonderful event, and it was good to meet more Muslims and converse with them why I was participating. As a result, I got home a bit later than usual.
- 24 Ramadan- Went to school to get homework all caught up for the week, so I would be ready for Monday. I was in a study group, and a couple of times I was offered snacks. I declined, of course, and we continued our study.
- 25 Ramadan- Today was fast Sunday for our religion. Normally, you start your fast the night before right after dinner, and you hold to the fast until dinner on Sunday. However, because I've been fasting all month long, I opted for continuing in the tradition of Ramadan, by opening my fast that morning, and ending it at sunset like normal. Also, I shared my testimony on fasting to my congregation at church.
- 26 Ramadan- Struggled today keeping the fast. Had many times where I wanted to eat, and was very tempted to do so. Also learned about Pastor Terry Jones in Florida wanting to burn Qur'ans. I was floored and upset that someone could be so insensitive. After learning of this news, not only did I blog it, but I've been praying fervently that it rains in Gainesville, Florida.
- 27 Ramadan- I was invited to a restaurant by a fellow student for Iftar. Her father owns a restaurant in Salt Lake City, and they fed me at no charge, while I ate with their family. It was good to "break bread", so to speak, with them, and learn about their family and history. I also finished the Qur'an. I was a bit behind in my reading up to this point, but I didn't have much left to go, and I got it done.
- 28 Ramadan- Nothing much happened today. Finished off Ramadan with some pasta and corn. It's going to be weird not fasting tomorrow.
Happy Eid ul-Fitr!