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Ramadan Musings


In 1974, I, along with my wife and two small sons (five and six years old), arrived in Amman, Jordan. Amid the chaos, we cleared the airport and managed to find the missionary lady who was waiting to take us to her home. We piled into a dilapidated minivan and pulled onto a main road. While driving through downtown at dusk, I noticed that the shops were shuttered and there was little activity. On we went to the western outskirts of the city. I couldn’t help but wonder why the streets were deserted! I kept thinking, “Where are the people of this city”? The lady missionary explained that the Muslims, who comprised 96% of the population, were anxiously waiting inside their homes for the sun to fully recede so they could eat their first meal of the day. Low and behold, we had arrived in the middle of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan!

 

That was the first of many, many years of “Ramadans” for us. Our first piece of advice was, “Don’t eat anything in public, and especially don’t let your children eat anything in public!” A year or so later, we were stopped at a traffic light during Ramadan, and one of my young sons was surreptitiously munching on a candy bar. A policeman made a beeline for our car—when suddenly the light turned green. Cars behind me started honking, forcing me to move on, which I happily did. The last thing I recall was the policeman repeatedly shouting the word haram, which simply means shameful! He was saying that my six-year-old was committing a shameful act by eating publicly during Ramadan.

 

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims are expected to fast from dawn until sunset for the entire 30 days. Each Muslim country has its own customs and rites associated with Ramadan. Some customs that are observed by most Muslims include the following:


  • Recitation of the entire Quran, in imitation of Muhammad. This is usually organized by local mosques and often televised or heard on radio. Families may get together for their own recitation.

  • Observance of special prayers in the late evening or middle of the night called tarawih.

  • Withdrawing to the mosque during the last ten nights of Ramadan for prayer and Quran recitation, which is called itifkaf, meaning “seclusion.”

  • Special emphasis on the 27th of Ramadan, A.D. 610—the date of Muhammad’s initial revelation via the angel Gabriel.

 

During the Night of Power some Muslims participate in dhikr (remembering), during which the name of Allah is repeated or remembered for the entire night. According to a strong tradition (al-Bukhari), Muhammad said, “Whoever prays during the night of Qadr (power) with faith and hoping for its reward will have all of his previous sins forgiven.” Our home was surrounded by three mosques, and during the Night of Power, it was not unusual to hear the name of Allah recited for hours on end. The endless repletion made it impossible to sleep, and it was obvious that the powers of darkness were at work. 

 

The dawn to sunset fast requires a Muslim to refrain from food, drink, and sexual relations. The fast is broken each evening with a meal called iftar—meaning “breaking the fast.” The last meal before dawn is called suhur—meaning “morning meal.”

 

The fast is obligatory for all adult Muslims. Individuals who are ill do not have to fast if it would further damage their health; however, they should make up for the missed fasts later when they become well again. Children who have not yet reached puberty are not required to fast. Travelers may also break their fast if they feel that keeping it would harm them. Soldiers on guard duty, for whom maximum readiness is required, may break their fast.

 

A special holiday called marks the end of Ramadan. Eid al-Fitr means “Feast of the Fast-breaking.” It takes place on the first day of the month that follows Ramadan. Most communities have a variety of festive celebrations and meals to specially mark the day.

 

Muslims believe Muhammad had his destiny fulfilled by receiving the first revelation of the Quran on the 27th night of Ramadan—and thus alternately referred to as the “Night of Power” or as the “Night of Destiny.” Many Muslims think this is a special night when God not only forgives their sins, but also gives heed to their requests. Often, they are open to dreams and visions as they seek guidance and revelation. For us, as Christ-followers, the Night of Power was a time of spiritual warfare. Demonic forces often manifested themselves in strange and inexplicable ways. Our learned response was to prepare ourselves through increased prayer and fasting.

 

Sometimes even Muslims get a little confused about the “rules” of Ramadan. Once, during Ramadan, I boarded a plane in Amman to fly to the United States. I noticed behind me three Muslim holy men from Kuwait. I could hear them talking and learned that they were traveling on a plane for the first time. They were headed for Michigan to attend a special Muslim convocation. The problem they kept discussing was, “If we are traveling west, when will the sun go down in order for us to eat our first meal of the day?” The sun just kept shining and they kept arguing about when to eat. The eldest finally said, “Never mind, Allah will forgive us since we are traveling for religious purposes. Let us eat.” And with that pronouncement, they asked the stewardess to bring food!

 

For Muslims, Ramadan is an important religious observance; it is often accompanied by heightened spiritual awareness. Pray that Muslims would have dreams and visions of Jesus during this Ramadan season and that God will lead them to Christ-followers who can explain the meaning of their dreams.* On the Night of Power/Destiny, which falls on April 5th, intensify your prayers for Muslim people, as this night is marked by significant spiritual warfare.

 

*Check out More than Dreams videos on YouTube for testimonies of how God revealed himself to Muslim people through dreams: https://www.youtube.com/@MoreThanDreamsStories

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