Friday, September 14, 2007

Ramadan and September 11th

It seems obvious that Americans need to learn a great deal more about Islam. Ramadan--a month long Islamic religious holiday started this week, and there is a wonderful blog by an American Muslim that does a good job of explaining what Islam is all about. Shahed Amanullah is a frequent contributor to beliefnet, and his Ramadan blog is a real gem.

Here is one example of his writing, which focuses on Amanullah's efforts to deal with Ramadan at the same time as the anniversary of 9/11::

It is a difficult and challenging situation this year in that my attempts at building an internal serenity for the start of Ramadan are coinciding with the anniversary of 9/11. I spend much of the whole year (every year since 9/11) dealing with the aftermath of those terrible events through my community work and writings, and in Ramadans past I've been able to take a break from that, however short, in order to get myself in the proper frame of mind. But not this year.

In the past, I've used the month of Ramadan to introduce those who are not Muslim to something I feel is truly beautiful about my religion. Most people are familiar with the external (i.e. political, cultural) aspects of Islam, but few understand the internal, more spiritual ones. Being visibly Muslim, in that you are foregoing food and drink in plain view, provided a perfect opportunity for that dialogue--assuming, of course, that the news didn't provide a distraction.

But this Ramadan has been heralded by images of Osama bin Laden taunting us from his cave and exhorting non-Muslims to accept Islam, obviously unaware that the actions of him and his kind have done more to bring curses down upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad and turn people away from Islam more than anything in Islam's history. It's imagery and words like this, and the strong feelings they evoke in me, that I have to push aside in order to focus on starting this month right.

The terrorism that I read about in the news represents the polar opposite of what Ramadan stands for. Ramadan is about opening yourself up to God's mercy, enduring patience in the face of discomfort and adversity, and providing assistance to those less fortunate. Extremism and terrorism is just the opposite--the ultimate exercise of self-indulgence and inflicting merciless hardship on the innocent.

You can find the blog here.

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