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Ramadan - Week Three

My second week of experiencing Ramadan is already documented, this is week three.

When studying Anthropology in higher education, you learn in your first class the necessity of "participant observation". This is defined as getting involved with the group you wish to study. In other words, rather than sitting on the sidelines, just watching the group, if you really want to learn what the culture is about, what they do day-to-day, what their emotions are how they speak, etc, you need to roll up your sleeves, and get your hands dirty. You need to participate in the culture you're studying if you want to get a true, grounded study of the culture. You clean when they clean. You dance when they dance. You cry when they cry. So, that is what I have done with Ramadan. I have attended mosque more than once. I have gone out of my way to associate with Muslims. I have read the Qur'an. I have familiarized myself with the language and customs during Ramadan. While it would be much more effective if I was in a nation predominantly Islam, I'm doing the best I can here.

Now, I ask: is participant observation "extreme"?

On two different occasions this week, I was told that what I was doing was considered "extreme". One later apologized, recognizing that what I'm doing is just trying to increase the religious tolerance of the American public, and that this person could learn a thing or two from my example. However, the other person did not apologize, and continues to spread the view that engaging in a religious activity other than your own is "extreme".

On both cases, a discussion ensued about the philosophies and politics of participating in activities in a religion other than your own. The first, who later apologized, ended quickly when I mentioned anthropology and "participatory observation". The second discussion brought up a fundamental belief in my church, then questioned if I was breaking that belief.

You see, as Mormons, we have temples all over the world. However, only people who have led good, clean, repentant lives, being called "worthy", can enter the temple. There is an interview with your local church authorities that determines your worthiness. In that interview, a question is asked if you affiliate with or belong to a group that teaches opposing views of the LDS Church. If you do, then you are not worthy to enter the temple. So, it was suggested that by participating in Ramadan, I'm affiliating with a religion that goes directly against the teachings of the LDS Church. Now, of course I don't agree. After reading the Qur'an three times, and on my fourth time currently; after studying the people and their beliefs and actions, I am confident that I am participating with a religion that has many, many similar teachings as my religion.

Anyway, I won't go into any more detail about the discussion than that. However, I do want to know that if participating in a religion other than your own is considered "extreme". What do you think? I don't see what's extreme about fasting for a full month. I don't see what is extreme about reading a holy book. I don't see what is extreme about making friends. So, I pose the question to you. Discuss it in the comments if you wish.

Here's how the week went for me:

  • 15 Ramadan- School is proving to be somewhat of a challenge while fasting. Not due to lack of energy or starvation, but because I can see everyone around campus enjoying their soda pop, pizza, hamburger, fries, grilled chicken, etc. And with it being the first week of school, there are booths setup everywhere handing out free donuts, candy, drinks, etc. Not only the sights, but the smells. Oh, the smells. It's really, really hard to resist temptation, and get a bite to eat. But, so far, I've remained strong.
  • 16 Ramadan- I met someone on the public transit today who noticed me reading the Qur'an. He asked if I was Muslim, as he didn't know any Caucasian Muslims. I told him I wasn't, then proceeded to explain to him what I was doing and why. It was a good conversation, and he had a great deal of respect for me doing it. When it came time to break the fast at sunset, I had my standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich with chips and drink.
  • 17 Ramadan- I was to meet up with a study group for math at school, but no one showed. I got to the school around 08:00, and stayed until about 18:00. I noticed that as the day got later, I was struggling keeping my focus of solving some math problems. I recognized that this might be a problem for getting good grades on my homework. Thankfully, I really will only have a problem with this on Saturdays, and there is only one Saturday left during Ramadan.
  • 18 Ramadan- Went to a family function that my grandparents call "The 5th Sunday Ice Cream Social". Aunts, uncles, cousins, kids, grandkids, etc all show up. My grandfather makes the ice cream, and everyone is encouraged to bring a treat of some kind. So, there are cookies, ice cream, brownies, and other treats. It was hard to not have any, and it sparked some conversations with my cousins and aunts and uncles. My grandmother made me pigs-in-a-blanket, with mixed vegetables and tomatoes with whole milk for breaking my fast at sunset. After which, I quickly had as much ice cream and cookies as I could handle, and even brought many home.
  • 19 Ramadan- I was caught today chewing gum by a fellow Muslim student in one of my math classes. She informed my that chewing gum was breaking the fast. I quickly spit it out, now knowing about that. I told her that I was concerned about my bad smelling breath, but she reassured me that because I'm fasting and resisting temptation to break my fast, my breath smells sweet to God. I felt bad, as I'm a big gum chewer, and have been chewing gum probably every day.
  • 20 Ramadan- About a week ago, a good wind came through and blew over part of my fence, and destroyed some of my retaining wall. So, I had a contractor come over and look at it and give me a bid. He asked if I wanted some sunflower seeds, and I declined. He teased me that they weren't poisoned, so I explained to him why I declined, due to my fasting. Then a long conversation ensued about having religious tolerance. He too held a great deal of respect for me for what I was doing. Two positive experiences this week advocating religious tolerance for Islam.
  • 21 Ramadan- Nothing fascinating today. Went to school, went to work. I was offered pretzels by a school-mate, but when I declined, he remembered why I declined (I had already discussed with him about Ramadan). He was impressed that I've made it this far. I am too. I never thought I would make it three weeks of straight fasting. Only one week left to go, and I'll be planning of having a big Eid ul-Fitr with my family. We're planning a pot-luck, inviting brothers, sisters, parents, step-parents and in-laws. It should be a lot of fun to celebrate ending the month. I also found out that the University of Utah will be holding Iftar on Friday at campus. I plan on attending.

{ 14 } Comments

  1. Bashar using Firefox 3.6.8 on Ubuntu | September 1, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    May Allah enlighten your sight and guide your heart.

  2. Steve Dibb using Firefox 3.5.8 on Gentoo 64 bits | September 1, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Aaron,

    No, I don't think you're doing anything extreme, and the participatory stuff I wouldn't consider affiliating yourself. I'm too tired to go in more detail, but I'd love to chat with you about it sometime.

    Also, please post some stuff about the scriptures -- not just what you're eating every day. :) I'm really curious about those.

    Steve

  3. semko using Firefox 3.6.8 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | September 2, 2010 at 2:42 am | Permalink

    It depends on who decides what is "extreme" - or to say it this way - in what kind of environment you live. That what you are doing doesn't seem to be extreme to me. If I'm doing something "extreme" I just ask myself is it extreme in the eyes of God, or just in my or any other people eyes. I'm trying to follow the sunnah of the Prophet pbuh as much as possible. So I'm growing a beard. But for a Muslim to have a beard that's the sign of extremism here in Bosnia. For Croats, Serbs, Atheist, whoever, it's no problem to have a beard, but for a Muslim it is. Am I extreme in your eyes?

  4. Ahmed Kamal using Google Chrome 6.0.472.51 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | September 2, 2010 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Aaron,
    This is some great stuff you're doing. I do hold a great deal of respect for you and what you're doing and how you're keeping an open mind. Thanks for sharing all of this with us. Happy Eid el fetr :)

  5. Aaron using Google Chrome 5.0.375.127 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | September 2, 2010 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    @Bashar- Thank you sir.

    @Steve Dibb- I'll add more about what I'm reading in the Qur'an on Identica (and as a result, Facebook). I'll see if I can add some stuff about the Qur'an in the next post.

    @Semko- No, I don't find growing a beard extreme regardless of culture or country of origin. You're probably in the minority, but that doesn't mean you're an extremist.

    @Ahmed Kamal- Thank you sir. Happy Eid to you too!

  6. nasrullah using Firefox 3.6.8 on Ubuntu | September 2, 2010 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    May Allah keep you in the right path ..

  7. Tachyon Feathertail using Firefox 3.6.8 on Ubuntu | September 2, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    I was kept out of the temple, through those interviews -- behind closed doors with an adult male authority figure -- because I couldn't stop myself having sexual thoughts while unmarried. I was guilted by multiple bishops, threatened with church discipline, told by my father that I was "damned" (to the Telestial Kingdom) and would be separate from my family in the eternities, and sent to LDS Family Services for counseling.

    I was given books to read. I stopped playing online games even though all my friends were there. I nearly killed myself. It wasn't until I finally broke with the LDS church over ethical and historical reasons that I realized how I'd been abused.In the interests of compassion and tolerance I thought I would provide a bit of perspective on this point that you mentioned. Eid mubarak.

  8. Aaron using Google Chrome 5.0.375.127 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | September 2, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    @Tachyon Feathertail- Sorry to hear about your experience. However, if your Bishop or Stake President was keeping you out of the temple, because of thoughts, then that is their discretion. It is hard to control your thoughts, however, as long as you are repentant, and not ACTING on those thoughts (adultry, fornication, masturbation, viewing pornography, etc), then you should be fine.

    Sometimes, I have bad thoughts when I see an attractive woman, but I try to keep my thoughts in check, and I do not act on them. I do the best I can to ask God for forgiveness for my sins, so during these interviews, I feel that I'm worthy to enter the temple. I don't feel that I need to share my thoughts with them, as I am doing my best to avoid them.

    Anyway, I'm sorry that you had that experience, but it seems like you're happy now, and that's all that is important. Keep your faith in God, try to do the right thing, stay in the strait and narrow, and you'll be okay.

  9. Tachyon Feathertail using Firefox 3.6.8 on Ubuntu | September 2, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    @Aaron- I was acting on those thoughts via masturbation and viewing PG-rated "pornography" drawings. I'm sorry for not being more specific.

    Local leaders do not have clinical training, and do not know that shame fuels addiction. They only know to look out for signs of guilt. So people who don't confess to anything are let through, while people who are afraid they might have done something wrong are told to stop and made to feel horrible about it -- through no fault of the leaders themselves. And then if their charges can't "stay in the strait and narrow" they're tormented with the knowledge that they'll be kept from their families in the eternities.

    I'm "happy now," but I find it extremely traumatic and triggering to discuss the abuse I received. I'm very much not alone, as I found out from online support groups and from reading accounts of suicides. Please consider reading about it, so as to be sensitive to the needs of those in your ward or branch who are going through this right now. I could find you some links which won't attack or challenge your faith if you want.

  10. Tachyon Feathertail using Firefox 3.6.8 on Ubuntu | September 2, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Agh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize that it stripped paragraphs.

  11. Aaron using Google Chrome 6.0.472.53 on Windows XP | September 2, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    @Tachyon- Well, I'm not in a position of leadership in the ward. I'm just the ward organist. However, local authorities are expected, encouraged, and taught to direct cases such as yours through the proper channels of professional help. Local church leaders are only to guide and direct on spiritual matters. Suicide tendencies and pornography addictions are not things that church leaders should handle, and they're aware of this. So, if your Bishop and/or Stake President was making that attempt, they were out of line. LDS Family Services is an appropriate channel for them to direct you to. They are licensed to handle such situations.

  12. Sadiq using Firefox 3.5.11 on Windows XP | September 2, 2010 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    Dear Aaron,Salaams.Wonderful sharing and wonderful practices. May your sincerity of the heart be accepted and reward by the Lord, the Most Loving, the Tenderly Compassionate.I have shared your links in my latest post.http://www.mysticsaint.info/2010/09/initiation-ramadan-western-fasting.htmlPeace!

  13. Mackenzie using Firefox 3.6.7 on Windows 7 | September 3, 2010 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    I don't see anything extreme about it. But then you know I went to visit the masjid too :)

    My family is Catholic. Having visited a Jewish Synagogue, Masjid, and participated in a Tea Ceremony (Buddhist, I think?), I've probably poked around at other religions the most. The Catholic school I attended had a Seder at Passover too, though, so clearly they don't think Judaism's too odd, and since they took us to visit the Amish, I guess they're ok with other denominations too. My family all like to visit other denominations' churches, mostly Baptist for the hymns, though sometimes Methodist too, and I once brought them along to the Quaker Meeting.

  14. Daniel using Firefox 3.0.5 on Mac OS | September 9, 2010 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Here in Beirut, we just broke fast for 3id al-Fitr. "Kull 3am w entu bi khayr"--May you be in God's good grace for the coming year.

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  1. Aaron Toponce : Ramadan – Week 4 | September 9, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    [...] ColophonSite LicenseDesktop CamContactWhiskerino 2009{ 2010 09 09 }Ramadan – Week 4My third second 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 [...]

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