Saturday, May 4, 2019

Ramadan Conversation

“Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone.” Colossians 4:6

“I can’t wait to travel to my country for Ramadan. I love Ramadan,” Hanifa stated passionately. “What do you love about it, Hanifa?” I asked. “I love being in the malls after midnight. You know… all the lights, and crowds and shopping. It’s wonderful. Then I get to see all my family and we enjoy special foods that we eat just during Ramadan.” You’d think she was partying for the month; not fasting.

Young Maryam said excitedly, “Ramadan is coming!” It sounded like a kid counting how many more sleeps until Christmas when she can open her gifts. The gifts will come after Ramadan which brings excitement and anticipation. “My mom fasted yesterday,” she said proudly. Yes, I knew her mom was fasting before Ramadan because she announced it to me. She was making up for the days her period would take place. Even though she doesn’t have to fast during her period she will make up for those days before Ramadan starts.

“What will you do on summer school holidays?” I asked Ali last year. “Fast,” he replied dejectedly. That’s all? I was overcome with sadness and vexation that a young child did not have anything fun to look forward to. After Ramadan I asked some school girls what they did on their summer holidays. “We fasted. It was SOoo boring! You can’t do anything fun.”

We will hear all kinds of responses from our Muslim friends. They are proud of fasting. Some enjoy the month tremendously while others find it challenging if they have to go to school or have jobs. Many Muslims will travel to their homelands where everyone will be fasting and they will enter into the cultural traditions and activities of Ramadan. Perhaps you wonder how you should respond to all the Ramadan talk. For many years I tried to speak into their fasting using Scripture. Most times my conversation was not gracious or effective but more of a theological lecture. It can be challenging having a spiritually fruitful conversation during Ramadan. Fruitful discussions about fasting arise at other times of the year but during Ramadan a strong spirit of works and traditions comes over them making it difficult for them to hear or understand anything different. I usually refrain from visiting my fasting Muslim friends during Ramadan. Sometimes they actually ask me not to come during Ramadan. It is hard to schedule visits anyhow with their routines being changed. However I like to keep in touch by phoning, emailing, or texting them. Normally I do not break the fast with them. Ramadan will pass and things will get back to normal. God sustains our relationships put on hold.

The temptation to make snide remarks or to joke or mock about their fasting constantly arises but to do such is not gracious nor effective. I once lost a Muslim friend over making a snide remark and regret that. Better to keep the mouth shut than make snide remarks and let the Holy Spirit reveal issues. I don’t want any ungracious speech to destroy a relationship.

Dear heavenly Father, please help me to be gracious with my Muslim friends when they talk about fasting. In Jesus’ name, Amen.