As the holy month of Ramadhan 2015 gets to its halfway mark, the Muslim community worldwide is expected to, once again be reflecting on the importance of this important

pillar of Islam. it is important for Muslims to keep in mind that Ramadhan is a deeply spiritual time of reflection and renewal meant to increase thankfulness and consciousness of God’s mercy. Muslims honor each day of Ramadhan as a day of patient endurance through fasting, and each night as a night of gratitude through prayers.  it is a time to reinforce faith, compassion and forgiveness, and perseverance through adversity. While fasting from dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations with one’s spouse. Muslims are also instructed to refrain from sinful behavior that may negate the reward of fasting, such as false speech, insulting, backbiting, cursing, lying and fighting. spiritual rewards (thawab) for fasting are also believed to be multiplied within the month of Ramadan.

Fasting for Muslims during Ramadhan typically includes the increased offering of salat (prayers) and recitation of the Qur’an. But amid all these, what practical lessons should Muslims learn from Ramadhan 2015? What can Muslims do to ensure that Ramadhan fulfils its objectives in the modern world? it is taught that the Qur’an was first revealed to the holy Prophet Muhammad (saW) during the month of Ramadhan, which has been referred to as the “best of times”. The first revelation was sent down on Laylat al-Qadr (The night of Power) which is one of the five odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadhan. according to hadith, all holy scriptures were sent down during Ramadhan. The tablets of ibrahim, the Torah of Moses, the Psalms of David, the Gospel and the Qur’an were sent down on 1st, 6th, 12th, 13th and 24th of Ramadhan respectively. This, indeed, demonstrates that Ramadhan is not just of significance to Muslims but a unifying factor for all monotheist religions. according to the Qur’an, fasting was also obligatory for prior nations as a way to attain taqwa (fear of God).

God proclaimed to Muhammad that fasting for His sake was not a new innovation in monotheism, but rather an obligation practiced by those truly devoted to the oneness of God. in this regard, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Budhist, Hindus, etc have a reason to use Ramadhan 2015 to find common ground  in the pursuit of peace and harmonious inter- religious co-existence. and how can such common ground be achieved? During this month of fasting, food and drink is served daily after sunset in what  is commonly known as iftar. iftar is the evening meal eaten by Muslims to break the fast during the holy month of Ramadhan. Muslims can therefore use iftar dinners and gatherings to invite their non-Muslim brothers and sisters in an effort to build peaceful relations and platforms of inter-faith brotherhood.

Hence, Muslims should join their fellow citizens to serve the less fortunate and host inter-faith activities that build understanding and remind all of us that we stand together as one family of humanity irrespective of the diversity of religious communities. such inter-faith activities should be able acknowledge humanity’s freedom to worship as acknowledged in islamic teachings about Ramadhan. in this month of giving, Muslims around the globe can also reach out to assist those afflicted by conflict, hunger, poverty and disease. above all, Muslims should carry forward the spirit of Ramadhan by denouncing violence and encouraging peaceful resolution of conflicts. But hosting iftar dinner as a way of promoting inter-faith dialogue and harmonious co-existence is not only for Muslims to pursue. Even non-Muslims can go out of their way  to host iftar dinner in honour of their Muslim brothers and sisters the way President Barak Obama did recently when he hosted an iftar dinner at the White House. In hosting the iftar dinner at the White House, President Obama was following in the footsteps of his predecessors who, over the years, have kept alive a tradition started by one the Founding Fathers of the United states— Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826) was an american Founding Father, the principal author of the 1776 Declaration of independence and the third President of the United states between 1801and 1809. On December 9, 1805, President Jefferson invited sidi suleiman Mellimelli, a Tunisian representative, to the White House. Meal time was usually set at 3:30 pm, but Jefferson moved it back to “precisely at sunset,” to accommodate the religious beliefs of his guest. in 1765, Jefferson purchased a two- volume English translation of the Qur’an for his personal library, a collection that became, in 1815, the basis of the modern Library of Congress.

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