This year, as with every year in San Luis Obispo, Ramadan began with the typical ritual of media silence. Just as the pages of periodicals were lacking feature stories about the month-long fast, there were no pre-Ramadan sales in the shops, or trees being lit, or decorations being hung throughout the downtown area. Instead, in the community at large, the yearly routine of cultural invisibility once again returned. One would think that an annual habit of people avoiding food or drink, anger and arguments, sex and sin for 16 hours each day for 30 days would at the very least be a curiosity if not newsworthy.
Ramadan is a month of physical, mental, and spiritual endurance training, a veritable worldwide religious Ironman competition, run by hundreds of millions worldwide.
Fasting begins every day with a predawn meal known in Arabic as “Suhur.” The fast is initiated with a personal intention to fast solely for the sake of God. For the rest of the day, Muslims go about their usual daily business, taking short breaks to complete ritual prayers. The fast is broken each evening as the sun dips below the horizon. The Muslim call to prayer is melodiously recited, and, in a tradition going back 1,400 years, Muslims break their fast with a few dates and draft of water or milk. This “Iftar” as it is called, is a wonderful opportunity for family or community members to meet and “break bread.” It is said of Abraham that he never ate a meal alone. Perhaps if more Muslims followed the example of their patriarch, by inviting those from other faiths to break iftar with them, they would be better understood and supported as part of the fabric of our nation.
Likewise, for Christians and Jews who have a Muslim friend, take a moment to wish them Ramadan Karim (may the rewards of your fast be generous). In a time when Muslims are unfairly stigmatized, a few gentle words during this month of self denial will bring a welcome smile to their parched and hungry lips.