Sunday, August 23, 2009

Observing Ramadan as a Month of Universal Spirituality

Cosmic Staircase1.
For those who truly love God and His ways, all the people of the world are brothers. The man who doesn't see the nations of the world as one, is one gone astray even if the pious claim he's holy. We regard no one's religion as contrary to ours, true love is born when all faiths are united as a whole. - Yunus Emre

2.
If some one asks, 'show me a Prophet, a Messenger, an Enlightened Master who walked upon the earth and did not consider humanity as one family'; one can not fine one because there aren't any. All illuminated beings from whose deep inspiration, later disciples and followers created complete tradition or faith - all such illuminated beings strove towards uniting mankind, their message being that of unity, not of division. One God, One Earth, One Human Family. Thus they envisioned a world without division where 'loving one's neighbor' (as taught Holy Messiah Jesus) or 'love for your brother what you love for yourself' (as taught Holy Messenger Muhammad) is an exalted ideal embodied and lived. That is the path to make this dusty earth into a divine kingdom.

Billions of Muslims across the world observe the month of Ramadan to attain and to strive towards God Consciousness (Taqwa) and thanks to the world becoming a global village, this practice of outwardly abstinence from food, drinks, bodily passion and inwardly abstinence from all negative qualities, from dawn to dusk for a complete lunar month - is no longer a foreign thing even to those who are not born in Muslim family or culture. Infact in the west the occasion of Ramadan is getting a lot of attention and press.

"O people! Behold, we have created you from a male and a female and have made you into nations and races so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-Knowing, all-Aware." [Qur'an 49:13]

What is very heartening to see that many committed Christians are coming forward in joining the observance of Ramadan with their Muslim neighbor and friends. The Prophet in his sermon mentioned that this month invites humanity to become guests of God. "It is the month which invites you to be the guests of Allah and invites you to be one of those near to Him."

3.
In this year's month of fasting, Pastor Brian D. McLaren's observance of Ramadan with Muslims is an excellent testimony of the spirit of Ramadan. Brian D. McLaren is an author, speaker, pastor, and networker among innovative Christian leaders, thinkers, and activists, but most importantly he is a mystic at heart. He is a popular author of a number of books including: The Secret Message of Jesus, A New Kind of Christian, Finding Our Way Again.

In his first post titled, Ramadan 2009 | What’s going on?, explaining his decision to fast with Muslims Brian writes:
This year, I, along with a few Christian friends (and perhaps others currently unknown to us will want to join in) will be joining Muslim friends in the fast which begins August 21. We are not doing so in order to become Muslims: we are deeply committed Christians. But as Christians, we want to come close to our Muslim neighbors and to share this important part of life with them. Just as Jesus, a devout Jew, overcame religious prejudice and learned from a Syrophonecian woman and was inspired by her faith two thousand years ago (Matthew 15:21 ff, Mark 7:24 ff), we seek to learn from our Muslim sisters and brothers today.

. Part2, Why is a committed Christian joining faithful Muslims in observing Ramadan?

. In Part 3, Brian writes,
.. when Phyllis Tickle invited me to write the introductory volume to a series of books she was planning. The series would explore seven practices shared by the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The book was called Finding Our Way Again. I concluded the book with the dramatic story of St. Francis in the court of the Sultan of Egypt, Malik Al-Kamil, where a Christian and a Muslim individual each transcended the hostility of their warring religious communities long enough to respect one another as human beings. As I wrote the book, I felt how much we needed more Christians to follow the path of St. Francis today, and I rededicated myself, before God, to that pathway.

One of the seven practices shared among Abrahamic faiths, of course, is fasting. But fasting among most Christians is haphazard at best. Most of what I wrote about my own experience of fasting in the book veered towards the humorous, because when it came to fasting, I was admittedly a clumsy neophyte.

. The sharing continues in the Part 4 and Part 5

And yesterday (August 21st) Brian observed his first day of Ramadan and shared a beautiful prayer from his first day of Ramadan in his blog, I quote a selection:

God, Creator of all people, in this month when a billion people will observe Ramadan with fasting and prayer, with devotional reading and with kindness to the needy, may your Spirit be at work in the hearts of Muslims, Christians, and Jews (who together make up over half the world's population) as well as people of other faiths and no stated faith.

May your gentle voice call us to move beyond our tribal visions of a deity who loves "us" but hates "them." Help us to see you more truly as you are, a God who is pure light, rich in mercy, whose mercy triumphs over judgment, who knows us each by name, and who graciously considers us beloved, wherever we are from, whatever our background, whatever labels we apply to ourselves or others apply to us.

May your voice of truth call us to question the prejudices and misconceptions about you and about one another that we learned from well-meaning but misinformed authority figures, even when they thought they were speaking in your name.

May your voice of peace make us ashamed of our violence, hatred, fear, superiority, and resentment. And may your voice of courage inspire us to walk in the way of reconciliation, even when that path is dangerous and difficult.

May your voice of compassion teach us to see one another - and ourselves - with new eyes, your eyes. And so may we forgive one another where we have been hurt by one another; may we humble ourselves and admit the truth where we have done the hurting; may we repent where we have chosen the small ways of revenge and exclusion rather than your greater ways of reconciliation and embrace.

May your voice of wisdom call us out from our vicious cycles of self-destruction.

It is good, Lord, when people pray and sing praises to your name. But how hollow are those words and songs when we do not also honor you by honoring one another. For how can we honor the God who cannot be seen when we dishonor our neighbor, made in your image, who can be seen?

So, Creator and Provider and Sustainer of Life, Giver of all grace, Source of justice and mercy, may your voice be heard deep in my heart, and in the hearts of all people on earth, this beautiful planet that displays your artistry, majesty, and power. Amen.

(> read the prayer in full)

And Brian is not alone, many other committed Christians are joining with Muslims in this month of Ramadan by observing the fast. Many of them chose to be anonymous or was not featured in the media, never the less they are our beloved brothers and sisters who are fasting this month. Not only Christians, but also people of other faith are joining observing fast with Muslims in Ramadan. We have extra ordinary story of Hindu Prisoners observing fasting with Muslims in India, and how a person of Hindu faith helped Muslims in his community to fast. In India, there are thousands of non-Muslims who are attracted by the spiritual aspects of Ramadan and fast silently without declaring it to the world (credit). In Malaysia, a country of diverse faith often Buddhist, Hindu and Christians join Muslims in Ramadan fasting.

In the west (particularly in Canada and USA) in many university campuses, the spirit of Ramadan is seen vibrantly as Muslim students invite non-muslims to join the practice of fasting and break fast together. In 2007 when I was at UCLA the Muslim Students there arranged Fast-a-thon and invited all to join fasting and charity. It was fun!

May God accept all who are fasting in this Ramadan, sanctify their faith and bless their heart.

4.
EarthIn this world of increasing inter-connectedness and heightened awareness of our shared faith, the honoring of Ramadan by other faiths opens up a wonderful window of possibility that the month of Ramadan can be observed as a month of Universal Spirituality across the globe. This can be, God willing, a sane way to turn away from mindless consumerism, blind materialistic lifestyle, and to turn to our spiritual essence and to be magnanimous towards those who are less fortunate by practicing charity in the month and being sympathetic to those who dont have enough food to eat. Living on the side of "Have Everything" we even dont know how it feels for those who lives on the other side of "Have Nots."

To emphasize the point, Ron Dreher's writing in his blog Crunchy Con can be cited, 'I found as a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, which also observes some fairly strict fasting, that nothing quite breaks one out of one's routine of thoughtless consumption like serious fasting.'

As fasting is already an universal practice from ancient Hinduism to Judaism to relatively new faith movement such as Bahai - almost all religions have fasting practice, no other practice can unite the whole of humanity that this one. Since Ramadan is observed by all Muslims across the world with consistency, the month of Ramadan has the best potential to become a month of Universal Spirituality compared to any other religious occasion (even transcending Christmas which has been turned into a commercial madness). And in doing so the spirit of one human family can be lived with all the benefits of Ramadan which is to remind ourselves the timeless teaching of Christ, "Man shall not live by bread alone, " and as Quran teaches us "And make provision for yourselves; the best provision is Taqwa (God Consciousness)" (Quran, 2:197). And not to forget that Ramadan fasting is to renew our God Consciousness with every action.

"Luminous beings are we, Luke, not this crude matter"
- Jedi Master Yoda

If you are a Muslim you may share your inspiring practice of fasting with your non-Muslim neighbor or friend. If you are not from Muslim faith, but feel moved about the month of Ramadan and its fasting practice, you may join the practice at this time of charged spiritual current across the globe. Befriend a Muslim colleague, neighbor or friend to learn about the simple way of fasting preserved in Islam from the timeless way of the Messengers and Prophets. Partnering with someone who is fasting could be a strong inspiration, God willing. You are also welcome to walk into any nearby mosque during this period just before sunset and express your interest to join the iftar or 'breaking of fast' (or even you dont have to say anything in that matter). No matter which part of the world you be, you will be graciously welcomed to take part. Many mosque serves the breaking of fast meal as a toke of love as they break the fast together.

5.
Muhammad Mustafa said, "A faithful believer to a faithful believer is like the bricks of a wall enforcing each other", while saying that, he clasped his hands together, interlacing his fingers.

May the believers of all faiths join and reinforce each others' faith in common observances and celebrations and in doing so realize that it is only one family, the human family; as one sufi master calls it, "God's funny family."

"O People, know that the Lord and Sustainer is One. O people, remember that your Lord is One. No person has superiority over another except by the degree of God consciousness (Taqwa). Indeed the best among you is the one with the best character.

Let people stop boasting ... All men are sons of Adam, and Adam came from dust." - Islamic Tradition

6.
There's hidden sweetness in the stomach's emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less.

If the soundboxes stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and belly are burning clean with fasting,
every moment a new song comes out of the fire.

The fog clears, and new energy makes you run
up the steps in front of you.
Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry.

A table descends to your tents, Jesus' table.
Expect to see it, when you fast,
this table spread with other kind of food,
better than the broth of cabbages.

- Rumi


# Related:
. Ramadhan Online Book
. Official Site of Brian McLaren
. Everything Must Change
. A 30 Minutes Interview with Brian D. McLaren
. Its all about Love
. Fast of Jesus Christ and Mother Mary
. So that you may know one another


# Further:
. Fasting Chart - The Universal Practice of Fasting across all Religions
. Ramadan and Fasting in America
. Ramadan Experience § Breaking fast in an American Mosque
. Joanna Cattanach's Ramadan Experiences
. Ramadan Sermon by Rev. Paul Beedle
. Hunger for What? Honoring Ramadan § A Sermon by Rev. Nina D. Grey
. US Muslims turn to Jews for Ramadan prayers Pin It Now!

LinkWithin