Photo by MLive
I was always aware of the importance of Ramadan for Muslims while I was in Ann Arbor, but for some reason it has more significance now that we are out here in Indonesia. Just knowing that Indonesia has the largest Muslim population is a strong reminder that many Muslims will be fasting and praying throughout the next 30 days.
In the Islamic lunar calendar, the ninth month marks Ramadan and many Muslims consider this month as a blessed month. It was in this month where the Prophet Muhammad got the vision for the Qur’an. The Muslims use this month for greater devotion to Allah, as well as doing good deeds to others.
The spiritual disciplines of fasting, prayer and charity are practiced diligently. There is a lot of emphasis on discipline and self-control. During this month of fasting, the good Muslim is to refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, sexual activity and other behaviors that are considered indulgent. In the Qur’an (2:187) even sexual thoughts and activities are forbidden during the fasting hours.
The time frame for the fasting is from dawn until sunset. There are many Muslims who wake up before the first dawn prayer to eat something and then for close to 12-hours they will not eat or drink anything, until the evening prayers are done.
It has been interesting to find out more about Ramadan from an Indonesian perspective. I found out that the reason why Muslims try to do extra good deeds during Ramadan is because they believe they will be rewarded seventy times more for their actions during this time. The Muslims also emphasize the importance of having their sins forgiven during this holy month.
I realized how much of an emphasis that the Muslims put on self-discipline, self-control and sacrifice, which I think is pretty humbling for many Christians. But I think the major difference is the motivation.
So many religions practice a lot of the same spiritual disciplines (i.e. prayer, fasting, giving, etc), but when we look at the motivation behind them, it reveals a lot of the uniqueness of Christianity. All religions put an emphasis on self-discipline, self-control, and sacrifice in order to earn favor with God. But Christianity reminds us that we cannot earn favor with God. When we practice the spiritual discipline as a Christ-follower, it is because we are motivated by what Christ has “already” done for us on the cross.
Therefore, the same action is done either as a “response to something” or as a “request for something.” This is when Christianity wins hands down. Thank God, it is by grace we have been saved and not by works.
The Indonesian government and the Indonesian Islamic organization have both agreed that Ramadan will start today, August 22nd. I have encouraged to team to try to fast within this month so that we can, not only show the Muslims that Christ-followers are serious about their faith, but also to demonstrate that our motivation is different.
In the next 30 days there will be a heighten awareness of the spiritual warfare, but we are going to engage in the battle through prayer.