Sunday, June 5, 2016

Ramadan Kareem

This particular New Moon brings with it the beginning of the Muslim blessing month of Ramadan. During Ramadan, all who are healthy and able participate in fasting from first light to last light every day. Experiencing Ramadan during summer in the Northern Hemisphere is long and exhausting.

Iftar, the breaking of the fast, traditionally begins with the eating of three dates at sunset. It is often a widely shared meal. Though I am not a practicing Muslim, I have had the great fortune of being invited to participate in three iftar meals. The first time was in the lower level of a private home with only women. Ten or eleven of us sat on low couches and large pillows scattered on the floor. I was the only non-Muslim woman present. Though I felt the awkwardness of an outsider, the women included me in every part of the ritual, the meal and the conversation. By the end of the nearly 90-minute time together, we were all smiling, laughing and embracing as we went our separate ways.

My other two times were during my time in Egypt. Muslim friends with whom I worked invited me to join their families. I was deeply touched by their offers. For each of those days, I participated in the full day fast: no food and no drink. Not the same as their month-long experience, I realize, but my meager way of honoring their invitation. The warmth and generosity of the people equaled what I had previously experienced and I went home from each iftar with a deeper sense of the blessing of Ramadan.

What celebrations bring you blessing? Have you shared in celebrations with strangers? What blessing have you found in them? Do you choose times to fast, to give something vital and precious up for a time? If so, what have you experienced?

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