I just returned from my first Ramadan dinner. This was actually the first time I have ever seen Muslims pray one of their 5 daily prayers, in person.
My conclusion is that these Ahmadiyya Muslim women are my sisters. I love them. I find beauty in their ceremony, devotion in their traditions, and truth in their beliefs.
I really want to experience Ramadan before I die. I think it would be a holy, soul-shaping opportunity to fast during the day for a month (similar to Christian Lent?) and be more attune to the voice of the Holy Ghost. I believe that fasting and prayer help us to learn that our Spirit can control our Body. Physical passions must be overcome by a strong Spirit.
As I understand it, Muslim's fast during daylight hours for one month, from sun-up (around 3am) to sun-down (around 8pm). The month of Ramadan changes according to the moon. It is about 10 days earlier every year and takes about 10 years to cycle through all the seasons. Fasting during the summer months is the most difficult. The days are hot and long.
They fast food, water, and conjugal relations. They also try not to be light -hearted and chatty. When they do eat, they are encouraged to be moderate not gorge at night to fast during the day.
Our religion shares a belief that fasting is important. We fast for 24 hours or two meals on the first Sunday of every month, and we donate money on that day to feed the hungry. The money should exceed the cost of the food we have not eaten.
Some Muslim's are exempt from fasting. If your health or medication makes fasting unwise, you are able to eat. They say, if you must eat during Ramadan than you should also feed someone else. I love that. I love the imagery of pregnant and nursing mothers who fulfill their Ramadan fast as they feed their children.
A few things stuck out to me this night...
-I loved seeing a mother kneeling in prayer with her young daughter beside her. She wrapped her daughter in the veil that she wore. They prayed together under the same beautiful, green veil. It was darling.
-They say, where possible, their 5 daily prayers and the meals where they break their fast should be done with community. Worship is strengthened in community. I love that.
-I spoke in-depth with a few Muslim women whom I consider kindred spirits. I was touched when one woman looked into my eyes and said, "We pray for everything. If someone is starting a new business, we pray. If someone is sick, we pray. I really believe in prayer. I know that our prayers are heard and answered." I felt her testimony and I absolutely agreed with her.
-Ahmadiyya Muslims believe in a prophet,
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who came in 1889 with the "necessity of restoring their faith to it its true essence and pristine form, which had been lost through the centuries.8Ahmadiyya adherents believe that Ahmad appeared in the likeness ofJesus, to end religious wars, condemn bloodshed and reinstitute morality, justice, and peace. They believe that upon divine guidance he divested Islam of fanatical and innovative beliefs and practices by championing what is, in their view, Islam’s true and essential teachings as practised by Muhammad and the early Islamic community.9Thus, Ahmadis view themselves as leading the revival and peaceful propagation of Islam."
My religion also teaches that their was a need for a reformation or restoration in the 1800's. Our prophet, Joseph Smith, was also called to champion what we believe to be Christianity's true and essential teachings as practiced by Jesus Christ. I find some sweet similarities in our religious beginnings.
-They said that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad taught that Jihad with the pen is better than Jihad with the sword.
-I really wanted to wear a veil to Ramadan to experience my meal the way they did. (I also wanted to fast that day, but I forgot- darn it.) I might be a little odd, but I really love veils. We were not required to wear a veil, in fact even some some Muslim women wore their veil loose on their shoulders. They all covered their heads during prayer time. I asked to be sure it wasn't offensive to them that I draped my scarf over my head- they assured me it wasn't necessary, but not offensive either.
Did you know that when Mormons go into temples, the men wear ceremonial hats, and the women wear veils?
Only during a prayer, in our temple, do the women actually veil their faces.
A religion teacher explained to me once that in all of religious writ, the veil is the symbolic boundary that seperates Heaven and Earth. (When you die you go through the veil, when you speak to God and he answers you are communicating through the veil.) He explained that women naturally have a unique connection with God. He said they live their lives with their heads within the veil. I love that imagery.
I find comfort and protection when I wear my temple veil. I actually love how a veil blocks out all other distractions and allows me to commune with God in private.
Sometimes when I'm nervous I get excited and talk way too much. I noticed that wearing a veil during Ramadan helped me feel safe and content. I thought to myself that whenever I'm in a situation where I feel nervous, I'm going to imagine that I'm a queen wearing my temple veil. I like the feeling that I don't have to speak, I can think and respond carefully. I am a queen. :)
I'm certain that their is repression and evil that happens in every society. Religion can be used as a tool of Satan. But, as I ate a delicious meal with my Muslim friends, I felt a sisterhood. These are good women who work to bless their families and our community.
-There is discord between the Muslim sects in the world and here in Syracuse. I have never seen them attend the same meetings. I must say that I am friends with sweet and happy, Safeta, the leaders of the women Ahmadiyya Muslims. I am also friends with Magda, the wife of the leader of the other Muslim sect here. Magda is a kind, peaceful, beautiful woman. I love her and I love her soul. I feel these women have similar hearts no matter their differences.
I'm not sure what I can do to be a peacemaker in this world of war and contention. I loved this quote that I read by President Henry B. Eyring,
"To be that peacemaker, you need to have the simple faith that as children of God, with all our differences, it is likely that in a strong position we take, there will be elements of truth. The great peacemaker, the restorer of unity, is the one who finds a way to help people see the truth they share.”
I see that we share much truth.
I actually love religion.
I love to learn how different people worship God.
I am so interested to see where Satan twists eternal truth into evil application.
I find evil hiding in religion and non-religion equally.
I find goodness magnified in religious expression.
Yes, I'm so grateful for every opportunity that I have to get to know good people of every race and religion. I want to be a peacemaker. I absolutely feel truth and goodness wherever I look for it.
I don't think it's that hard to love your neighbors-- especially when they feed you delicious food!
Happy Ramadan friends!