Focus on what we share

It is Ramadan, July 8-Aug. 7, the ninth month of the year for Muslims and the most sacred month of the year to fast, to pray, to give alms. I lived in Palestine in a neighborhood of Muslim families. The people I knew took the duty of Ramadan very seriously. At times, I saw someone almost faint from the heat and lack of any liquids during the day. But would the person drink at that point? No; instead, friends splashed his face with water.

Islam calls Muslims “to use this month to re-evaluate their lives in light of Islamic guidance. They are to make peace with those who have wronged them, strengthen ties with family and friends, do away with bad habits. … The Arabic word for ‘fasting’ (sawm) literally means ‘to refrain’ – and it means not only refraining from food and drink, but from evil actions, thoughts and words.”

When questioning a Muslim lady who was pregnant and not fasting, she commented she would be obligated therefore to give 10 NIS (sheckels) each day during Ramadam to someone who is poor because she herself could not fast. She said the other option was to make up the fasting after the official month had passed.

Once, during Ramadam, while visiting friends in the desert who were suffering not only from the heat but also from the military that was destroying their cistern, I wandered alone out to the site of the demolition. It wasn’t long before the family carried tea out to serve to the “guests.” They themselves did not partake, but it would never be good hospitality to let the guests be unserved in such heat.

At the end of each day, after the call to prayer, there was a celebration of a

beautifully prepared meal with additional guests usually invited to partake in the feast.

Usually, the meal opened with drinking water and the traditional serving of a date to each person around the table. Typical entrees at this feast would be lamb stewed with wheat berries, lamb kebabs with grilled vegetables or roast chicken served with chickpea-studded rice pilaf. A rich dessert such as luqaimat, baklava or kunafeh (a buttery, syrup-sweetened kadaifi noodle pastry filled with cheese) concluded the meal.

In our day especially, it is so beneficial for each of us to know millions of Muslims are fasting and praying at this time. It behooves us to be in solidarity with them in our prayer and to help dispel the notion that we have little in common with Muslims who, according to the Religious Tolerance Organization, make up about 22 percent of the world’s population.

Sister Paulette Schroeder,