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Ramadan, Take Two

Two years ago, I participated in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. I blogged about my experiences, and you can read them here: Looking forward to Ramadan, Ramadan - Week One, Ramadan - Week Two, Ramadan - Week Three, An Open Letter to Pastor Terry Jones, and Ramadan - Week Four. Well, I intend to participate again this year, and I intend to blog about my experiences in a similar format as I did two years ago- once per week, summarizing how the week went.

Two years ago, I had three reasons for participating:

  1. Raise awareness about the Islam faith and promote religious tolerance.
  2. Grow closer to my God.
  3. Turn my personal weaknesses into strengths.

This year will be no different for me. The same three reasons above will apply. However, instead of reading the Holy Quran, as Muslims typically do, I will be reading one of my holy books, The Book of Mormon, from cover to cover. As I mentioned two years ago, I am a Christian belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Book of Mormon, along with the Holy Bible, we regard has Holy Scripture. The Book of Mormon is a bit more lengthy than the Quran, with approximately 270,000 words, where as the Quran has approximately 80,000 words. I felt rushed reading the Quran in one month, so I can only imagine how I'm going to feel reading 3x the amount of literature in the same time span. Should be interesting. I will still make attempts to attend the local mosque in Salt Lake City, at least once per week.

One interesting side note, when I fasted two years ago, I did it from sunrise to sunset. It wasn't until later that I learned that I am supposed to be fasting from dawn until sunset, which is about 30 minutes longer each day. Knowing this, I'll make sure to follow this a bit better. Also, last time, I chewed gum during the month to keep my breath smelling fresh. I learned that this was breaking the fast, so no chewing gum this year. Because the month is July 19 through August 18 this year, the days are longer than they were two years ago, which means this will certainly be more challenging. We start with a fast lasting roughly 16 hours on July 19.

See you then.

{ 30 } Comments

  1. Omer Akram using Google Chrome 18.0.1025.151 on Ubuntu 64 bits | June 19, 2012 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Definitely the best month of the entire year.
    So how did the reading of Quran went? What's the summary you got from reading it? I am really interested to know that :-)

  2. Shaqe using Firefox 13.0.1 on GNU/Linux | June 19, 2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    What are you seeking with fasting with them (the Muslims)?

  3. lankapo using Google Chrome 19.0.1084.56 on GNU/Linux | June 19, 2012 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    glad to hear that. fasting actually make u appreciate others that not so lucky. Who eat once a day.
    gud luck with your fasting project. remember no cheating, no gums or smoking. :)

  4. Aaron Toponce using Debian IceWeasel 10.0.4 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 19, 2012 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    I've read it 3 times prior, before Ramadan 2010. I've got multiple copies of the book as well. As for my impressions of the book, the reading and doctrine is different from what I'm used to in the western world. The meter and pacing of the scripture is different, and takes a little getting used to. However, I consider it a holy book, and its teachings pure and genuine.

  5. Aaron Toponce using Debian IceWeasel 10.0.4 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 19, 2012 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    lankapo- Yes, I won't be chewing gum, and I am not a smoker anyway, so no worries there. :)

  6. Nathaniel McCallum using Google Chrome 19.0.1084.56 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 19, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    For my own curiosity, why not observe Lent or Advent? Or if you wanted something in the summer you could follow the Orthodox Apostle's Fast...

  7. Aaron Toponce using Debian IceWeasel 10.0.4 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 19, 2012 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Because of reason #1 in my list of 3 reasons.

  8. ethana2 using Google Chrome 19.0.1084.56 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 19, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I've read the protestant bible from end to end and started reading an english translation of the qur'an, after which point I intend to read the apocrypha and the bhagavad gita..

    I have yet to participate in any religious rituals or services aside from those of the religion I inherited from my parents prior to my deconversion. I'd like to, to understand the everyday experiences of other religious and ethnic groups, but I worry about going to a muslim service, because I don't want to get in trouble with them, and I don't know how much would even be in english anyways-- and I had to leave my own grandma's funeral for a breather after the crap the guy was talking about atheists like myself, I don't just want to go and get trolled for a couple hours.

  9. Aaron Toponce using Debian IceWeasel 10.0.4 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 19, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    ethana2- The recitation services during Ramadan are held in Arabic, and visitors are more than welcome. I've visited many mosques over the past 15 years, and have ALWAYS been greeted with an open heart and a smile.

  10. Ron using Firefox 13.0.1 on Windows 7 | June 19, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    What about observing a non-abrahamic religion? You could try a Dharmic one, or even go completely off that path and observe a Pagan religion like Wicca.

  11. Aaron Toponce using Debian IceWeasel 10.0.4 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 19, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Ron- While I fully support religious tolerance, one of the goals of this is to raise awareness that Islam is not a religion of terror, despite what many in the western world think. It matters not that the religion is Abrahamic, only that it faces persecution.

  12. Ron using Firefox 13.0.1 on Windows 7 | June 19, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    "It matters not that the religion is Abrahamic, only that it faces persecution."

    As does Wicca, Witchcraft, Shamanism, and many other paths as well.

  13. Aaron Toponce using Google Chrome 18.0.1025.168 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 19, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Can you point me to some examples? I have no problem raising awareness for a good cause.

  14. alvonsius using Firefox 13.0 on Ubuntu 64 bits | June 20, 2012 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    you're great man!! Me, as a Christian who live in a country where Islam is the majority, to be able to do what you do would be looked awkward, since at some of places here the conflict between these two religion is very often, and somehow make us (both side, the peace-lover one) didn't even want to talk (or do) about it, since it's too sensitive.
    Your act is a very nice. I believe that the religion itself is always peace, and the problem lays on some of the believers and their narrow knowledge. Well, make me think to experience fasting this year (as a christian of course), but maybe not for a full month ^^ ...

  15. Diego using Google Chrome 19.0.1084.56 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 20, 2012 at 3:20 am | Permalink

    Religions are divisive and sectarian by definition. "You're with us or against us".

    The only way humanity can talk about "religious tolerance" is by throwing away all religions and nonsensical irrationality altogether.

    I dare you to read a much better book: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_End_of_Faith

  16. Ron using Firefox 13.0.1 on Windows 7 | June 20, 2012 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    @Aaron
    The famous witch trials of 1692 in Salem

    Other examples in more recent times include:
    http://atheism.about.com/b/2003/08/03/persecution-of-wiccans.htm
    http://en.ekopedia.org/Discrimination_against_Wiccans_and_Pagans
    (It took YEARS for Sgt Patrick Stewart to get his pentacle on his tombstone from the military)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Stewart_%28soldier%29

    Then there is the case of Tempest Smith, a teenager who committed suicide because of prosecution, She is one of the best known cases, but certainly not the ONLY one by ANY means.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempest_Smith
    http://alterophobia.blogspot.com/2008/05/tempest-smith-another-victim-of-hatred.html

    @Diego
    Agreed.

  17. Aaron Toponce using Google Chrome 18.0.1025.168 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 20, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    As unfortunate as the Salem witch trials were, I'm not sure raising awareness for a 12-15 month mass hysteria event, where neighbor was against neighbor in a small town is worthy of creating public awareness for. Certainly over something that happened more than 300 years ago.

    Regarding Tempest Smith, the issue is less about Wicca, and more about school bullying, which I do agree that should have more awareness made. I was bullied from elementary school well into high school, because I was mostly a skinny, introverted, nerdy kid.

    Regarding soldier Patrick Stewart, it's less about persecuting those of the Wiccan beliefs, as much as the VA did not have the necessary pieces in place to make it possible to put the pentacle on the headstone. I would imagine this is because there are only a few hundred thousand, at best guess, in the United States that practice Wicca, and maybe a few hundred at best that have served in the military. How many of them have died in combat? It seems to me that the VA hadn't made arrangements for it, because it likely had never been raised as much of an issue in the past. I don't know. It just seems like red tape more than persecution.

    Persecution of any religious, pagan or personal belief system should not be tolerated. Although I might be raising awareness for an Abrahamic religion, hopefully the point is being made about religious tolerance in general.

  18. Ron using Firefox 13.0.1 on Windows 7 | June 20, 2012 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Aaron,

    If you truly wish to promote religious tolerance, rather than shoot down my imperfect examples, why not explore ALL of the world's religions and not just the Abrahamic ones? Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are more alike than they are different, so proclaiming "tolerance" os something so akin to another isn't a stretch at all.

  19. Aaron Toponce using Google Chrome 18.0.1025.168 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 20, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    I'm not trying to shoot anything down. I've just didn't know that pagan religions needed raising awareness too. However, just because I'm celebrating Islam for a 2nd time, does not mean I've confined myself to only Abrahamic religions. I've only chosen to participate in Ramadan, due to the massive injustice the western world places on the Islamic faith, calling them a "religion of terror". With religious strain increasing in Syria, and other Arab countries, I would like to set an example as a Christian who is willing to learn, understand, and participate in a different faith.

    Further, I've attended a Sikh temple in Toronto, Canada and have a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, of which I've read some. My wife and I celebrate new cultures and religions every year for our anniversary. This year is our 13th anniversary, and we will actually be celebrating pagan religions as they relate to superstition. We make a full day of the event. We've also celebrated Judaism and Rastafarianism.

    Given the world stresses and turmoils (such as the Arab Spring), I don't really see any other religions under attack than the Christians, Jews and Muslims, mostly in the Holy Land against each other, and against Muslims in the western worlds. Correct me if I'm wrong, but those two religions make up more than half of the world's population. So, due to the massive intolerance between these two world religions, I'm trying to show that as a member of one of them, I can love the other.

    If pagan religions really need awareness raising, I will certainly look into it. But, it doesn't appear that they face the injustices that members of the Islam faith deal with day-to-day. It has nothing to do with Abraham.

  20. Pawlo using Firefox 13.0.1 on Ubuntu 64 bits | June 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    @Diego

    <>

    The atheists are divisive and sectarian by definition. You're with us or against us. Atheism is also dumb by definition.

  21. Diego using Google Chrome 19.0.1084.56 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 20, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    @Pawlo poor argument. Atheism is not an organized religion. In practice atheism it's just the lack of religion.
    You're almost as atheist as I am since you don't believe in a myriad of gods that people used to believe to in the course of human history. I've just gone one step further and ditched your god too.

  22. Diego using Google Chrome 19.0.1084.56 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 20, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    @Pawlo please look at this letter and tell me what you think.

  23. Ron using Firefox 13.0.1 on Windows 7 | June 21, 2012 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Aaron,

    Well, I'm not sure where you live, but try wearing a Pentacle out in one of the bible-belt states in the S and see how that goes. I happen to live in Minneapolis, the 2nd largest Pagan community right behind #1 San Francisco, but I tuck mine in when I travel.

    If religions are like operating systems, then Paganism is like Linux... it's out there, but far less people know about it, use it, and those who aren't users of it, have all sorts of misjudgments about it. Paganism isn't pimped and promoted like Islam, Judaism, and Christianity is because it's not centralized (just like Linux isn't). It's similar to why Apple and Microsoft (centralized organizations with money behind them) promote so much and Linux doesn't/can't. Same thing with the religious counterpart examples I offer.

    Just because Paganism doesn't have the level of awareness out there for prejudice against it, does not make it any less so for those who suffer bias, discrimination and persecution because of their beliefs.

  24. Aaron Toponce using Debian IceWeasel 10.0.4 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 21, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    I live in Utah. There isn't much of a pagan population here. Most people out here belong to the LDS church. For the vast majority of the remainder of the population, they are Christian as well, which leaves very little wiggle room for non-religious. As a result, outside of high school, and the rare event in downtown SLC, I haven't seen anyone wearing pentacles, and I haven't heard of any news-worthy events surrounding Wiccans.

  25. Ron using Firefox 13.0.1 on Windows 7 | June 21, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Aaron, Utah sounds like the perfect place to wear one. Try it for 2 weeks and watch the reactions you get.

  26. Aaron Toponce using Debian IceWeasel 10.0.4 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 21, 2012 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Heh. I'm fully aware of the reactions I'll get. Last Ramadan, I wore a taqiyah while reading the Quran on the train to work. Yeah. Plenty of looks. Although, it also generated a good amount of discussion too.

  27. Ron using Firefox 13.0.1 on Windows 7 | June 21, 2012 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Aaron,

    A pentacle would probably even cause MORE discussion. People often confuse it with the star of david (funny). Most Pagans know more about religion than many people do because we tend to study ALL paths, all religions, not just one.

    How many Christians read the Gnostic Gospels or know that the pentacle was originally a Christian symbol? (the 5 points represent the 5 wounds of Christ). The 5 points also represent the 4 elements plus Spirit.

  28. Aaron Toponce using Debian IceWeasel 10.0.4 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 21, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Actually, I'm sure you'll associate this with me being an Abrahamic-only type guy, but I have a Star of David that I wear around my neck quite often, even though I'm Christian. There are many symbols in the Star of David that associate with Christianity, the Egyptians, Masonic Temples and Mormonism (just look at our SLC temple, and assembly hall). While most Christians outside of Mormonism wear crosses, I personally prefer the Star of David as symbol of choice.

  29. Ron using Firefox 13.0.1 on Windows 7 | June 21, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Aaron,

    The more one looks at religions in general, the more realizes they are systems. Different recipes for the same soup. The more you look at religions, the more you realize they are more alike than different from another.

    - They all move energy. It can be a prayer, casting a circle, or any other method used to change one's state and move energy as an individual and as part of a collective whole.

    - They all believe in a source, higher power, deity, etc.

    - They all have "their way" of doing things. Their own system. Some are more accepting of other people's systems (or religions), while many are not. Pagans, many of which are polytheists, tend to be more accepting of others than the monotheists are, but they all have "their way of doing things." nonetheless.

    I think the more one realizes the similarities vs minor differences, the better off they'll be. Religions are a lot like cooking-by-the-book... it's a great way to start out, but eventually you no longer need a book with directions on how to cook. When you reach that point in cooking, you move beyond books. When you reach that with spirituality, you move beyond the need for religion or such systems in your own life.

    Systems have uses, but they all box you in.

  30. Steve Barker using Opera 9.80 on FreeBSD | December 2, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    There are many rivers leading to the sea...

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