For many Christians, the start of Ramadan came and went. Ramadan in 2007 started yesterday, September 13th and will continue for 30 days until Friday, October 12th.
During this month there are a lot of various religious observances that a Muslim is suppose to follow. The most common practice during this month is the daytime fasting. For 30 days during Ramadan, Muslims around the world will get up before dawn to eat and say their prayers. Then when the sun sets and after they have said their 4th prayer of the day, they will break their fast.
It is interesting that during this time most Muslims would also try to resolve to follow more closely to the teachings of Islam. They would demonstrate their piety by avoiding certain external behavioral things (i.e. angry outburst, gossiping, and etc). They would also address the internal things such as envy, greed, lust, and pride. During the fasting hours, even sexual intercourse is forbidden.
In Wikipedia, it is stated, “Purity of both thought and action is important. The fast is intended to be an exacting act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised level of closeness to God. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. Properly observing the fast is supposed to induce a comfortable feeling of peace and calm. It also allows Muslims to practice self-discipline, sacrifice, as well as sympathy for those who are less fortunate, intending to make Muslims more generous and charitable.”
Now… a Christ-follower can look at this religious observance and say, “Thank God for the freedom we have in Christ and how He has set us free from external based religion.”
But my challenge to us, Christ-followers is this: “How do you think a Muslim who is so deeply rooted into this kind of works-mindset view Christians?”
Do they envy us? Do they secretly wish that they had the freedom to do whatever they wanted to do? Maybe for a moment because they have to abstain from sexual intercourse with their spouse during the fasting hours (sarcasm).
In reality, they view us as unenlightened infidels who do not know the truth of Allah and the teachings of Muhammad. They looked at our lax and permissive religion with disdain.
Now here is a thought.
What if Christ-followers fasted during the month of Ramadan as well, so that Muslims can see the external piety? Since they equate external behavior with piety, we can apply the 1 Co 9:19-23 principle here. Then it will gain at least some respect from their perspective.
After gaining respect, we can share that both Christians and Muslims fast – which is a good thing. But one fasts in order to gain favor from God, while the other fasts out of response to God’s great mercy (Ro 12:1). It might possibly get them curious.
But alas, we, Christ-followers live in a culture where submission and self-control is a bit of a foreign concept. The abundance of things but emptiness of souls.