Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Essence of Ramadan (and Islam)

Why do Muslims fast, especially during Ramadan? Or why do they observe any of the five pillars for that matter? This Muslim writes concerning the purpose of Ramadan:
Ramadan is the holy month of the year in which Moslems fast every day from dawn to dusk. This month is very special for the Moslems. It is the month the Quran was inspired to Mohammad and it is also called God’s feast. In this month a person who fasts empties and purifies himself, and then waits for God to walk into his heart. A person, who fasts, by eating less food and taking more care of his behaviour, tries to empty his body and cleanse his heart of impurities. He is supposed to resist his sensual desires and focus on his moral side: eating, drinking, smoking and having sex is forbidden from down to dusk.
Of course, those who have health problems, children, and old people are excused. It is very much like a rider training his horse. One who fasts tries to train the horse of his body with his soul. Still these are not the only things a faster should decline: he should not lie, talk behind anyone's back, or hurt anyone for then his fast will be useless. In all, since no unclean place can be expected to be entered by someone honoured, no unclean body and heart is expected to be surrounded by God.
Even many of those who do not avoid eating and drinking do not miss the praying part, especially at dawn and dusk. If praying on other days of the year is like walking toward God, in this month it is like running toward him. At dawn when the routine life has not started yet, and most people are still in their homes, there is a special calmness on the earth which makes praying deeper and more touchable for those who fast.

And at dusk when it is time to break the fast and start the normal life again, praying is like getting one step closer to purity. Life becomes more enjoyable by then! Praying is like opening your heart and inviting God into it. When he walks in he may bring gifts with him: gifts of honour, confidence, peace, patience, courage, satisfaction, safety, and most of all faith and love. 
After all, fasting is like cleansing inside and opening hearts, waiting for God to enter. This is what makes Ramadan so special to Moslems. However, it is not the only chance for God to reach someone’s heart. God's love is unconditional and any one who is loved by him becomes gifted, no matter what time or month of the year it is or what religion he has! (Emphasis mine.)
There is much here about fasting I joyfully agree with.  But what about the motivation for fasting- how is someone made acceptable to God in Islam?  It is by fasting.  Purifying yourself so that God will accept you is the essence of Ramadan.
"In the NT, our purity is a result of God's activity for us, not our activity for God" (HT: KM).  Muslims are accepted by God in Islam because they do good works.  We do good works because in Christ we are accepted by God.
"... our great God and Savior Jesus Christ who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works" (Titus 2:13-14).
"After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:3).
"And the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 Jn. 1:7).