Observing Ramadan

Posted on August 17, 2011 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Rankin Connecting

Today is “Tujuhbelas Agustus”–that’s the 17th of August in Indonesian, the day of independence for this country with the largest Muslim population in the world. This day also comes in the middle of “Ramadan” which is the month of fasting for Muslims. It is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith. The faithful are to fast from dawn to dusk when the fast is broken with the evening call to prayer.

Having lived in Indonesia for many years we recall how significant this month was. Restaurants were closed, and even non-Muslims were not to be seen eating in public. In more radical countries everyone is forced to participate in the fast lest they offend Muslims by eating. However, we found some irony in the practice as everyone would arise early and gorge themselves on a big breakfast. Then each evening was a time of feasting and celebration; in fact, they usually ate much more during Ramadan than any other time–just not during the daytime. Many would cope with hunger by sleeping in the daytime, especially since they didn’t get much sleep between a late dinner and early breakfast. And obviously, not much work got done during the month as well as men were too weak to do physical labor.

It was a time in which we found our friends open to talk about spiritual things as we would ask them about their practice, why they were fasting and what they hoped to gain by it. It was always surprising to them when we shared our own practice of fasting from time to time to seek God. While most Muslims observe the fast because they are commanded to and there is merit to be gained, many do it as a perfunctory obligation and to avoid the condemnatory reactions of more pious family members.

Fasting during the month of Ramadan is intended to be a time to seek God, and many sincerely do. While recognizing the futility of seeking to please God by one’s own piety and works, we avoided expressing disrespect. Our conversation was about a common desire to know God. It was an opportunity to bear witness to the futility of our own efforts and how we discovered the unmerited grace of God.

It is during Ramadan that many Muslims have dreams and visions of Isa Almasih (Jesus the Messiah) telling them to follow Him or to seek the truth through the Injil (New Testament). These revelations are not sufficient to bring them to salvation, but serve to break down barriers and open their hearts to seek the truth.

How are you observing Ramadan?  Are you even aware of the significance of this month as more than one billion Muslims are practicing an important ritual of their faith?

When we first arrived in Indonesia we were irritated at the dissonant sound of the call to prayer from the mosque five times a day, especially when it awakened us at 4:30 am! But it became a reminder to pray for Muslims as they were praying to Allah.

Join me this month in fervently praying for Muslims in our own communities as well as those around the world. Pray that they would truly seek God and be open to revelation that would lead them to the truth.  In seeking Allah, an impersonal, punitive deity that is aloof and cannot be known, may they find a loving, compassionate God who revealed Himself through Jesus Christ and died for their sins. We have a responsibility to observe Ramadan also, a responsibility to pray for those who are so far from the kingdom and for generations have been locked into the bondage of sin and perverted religious traditions.

3 Comments on “Observing Ramadan”

  1. Glenda Cook

    Thank you for an insightful and challenging article! We continue to appreciate all that you and your family have meant – and continue to mean – to the evangelization of the world.

  2. Caitlin

    I have some experience with missions among Muslims. I have served a summer in a Muslim country and another summer in an area predominantly occupied by Muslims. For 2 years I had a roommate who was a Muslim. When we first started rooming together she was a Muslim in culture only; she did not actively practice the religion. Ironically, after many talks with her about faith and beliefs, she started to practice Islam more seriously. She did not observe Ramadan that year, but the next year she did. We are both medical students, and at that time we were both at home most of the day studying. I made a commitment to observe Ramadan with her that year, partially out of respect for her (so she wouldn’t have to watch me eat during the day), and partially to use it as a chance to fast and pray for her and her family. During that time we had a lot more conversations about faith than we usually had. I wish I could say that she became a Christian as a result of that time of fasting and prayer, but she didn’t. However, a lot of seeds were planted in her mind and heart, and I can just hope and pray that they grow over time.

    The next year, she did not live with me anymore. I didn’t fast that year because I was working very long hours at the hospital and was fighting hunger enough already as it was, but I chose to follow the Ramadan prayer guide at 30-days.net. Every Friday during Ramadan that year I would prayer walk at one of the 2 mosques in my city (well, prayer park–neither are in great neighborhoods for a single female to be wandering around in).

    • Jerry Rankin

      Thanks for sharing your testimony, Caitlin. We never know the results of seeds that are planted, but this is exactly what we should be doing. It is interesting that your witnessing and praying resulted in your friend becoming more devout in practicing her Islamic faith, but she does so now with full awareness of the alternative way to God. I am praying for the convicting power of God’s Spirit to continue to work in her heart and bring conviction of the truth.

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