How Can I Describe Ramadan to Non-Muslims?

Sometimes, as Muslims, we talk so much to others about what we believe and do, without thinking too carefully about what they are hearing. In other words, what we say is not always the message that other people hear, because we are not prepared to take people as they are.

Often, we talk to them from the point of view of where we would like them to be, rather than where they actually are at the moment.

For example, if someone is only interested in football or fashion, we should begin talking to them first about football and fashion. Explaining to them the finer points of Shariah law is getting a bit ahead of ourselves, if they are actually struggling with the idea of whether or not God exists.

Talking about Ramadan is a wonderful way of talking about Islam, but we must remember that those who are not Muslim will be carrying with them all the baggage that the television and news media have loaded on their shoulders.

Television images of suicide bombs and terror attacks have a powerful way of clouding over the real message we want to present. So, in talking about Ramadan we need to proceed slowly.

If you have ever read a really good novel or been to see a really good film at the cinema, it is difficult to convey how much you enjoyed it to someone who did not read the book or see the film. No matter how much you describe the action and the characters, you need to have experienced them at first hand to fully appreciate how good they are.

Ramadan is a bit like that. Telling someone who has not experienced the joy of Ramadan exactly what it is like is just like telling them about a film they have not seen.

The idea of fasting for a whole month is quite alien to most people in the world. Cutting down on food for a while to lose weight is perhaps the nearest they have ever got to fasting. Doing so for God's sake will be quite outside their experience.

And yet, as Muslims, we know that Ramadan is about far much more than giving up food and drink during the hours of daylight. We know that with the right intention, we can actually come closer to Allah during this noble month of Ramadan and we can feel both uplifted and content by the very fasting that seems to others so odd.

The first thing we need to tell others is that we fast for Allah's sake alone. This, in itself, may come as a very strange idea. Most people, especially those with no religion or belief in God, do things for themselves alone or for the ones they love. Allah tells us in the noble Quran, which Muslims believe is the word of God, what means:

{O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) piety.} (Al-Baqarah 2:183)

In other words, Muslims fast to please Allah. Even if there is no other outward benefit or effect, their fast is for Allah's sake. He has asked it of us and we do it in response to His command. This, alone, is quite a shock to the belief system of many. Muslims are not fasting because of anything they will gain; they are fasting because Allah wants them to do so.

This, though, is maybe one of the greatest secrets of Islam. The word Islam comes from an Arabic root word that means both "submission" and "peace."

A Muslim is one who submits to Allah. When his or her head touches the ground in prayer there is the realization that Allah the Almighty is in charge of all things in this world, even us. He not only created the heavens and the earth and everything in between, but He also knows every leaf that falls from every tree.

Submitting to Allah is the key. By submitting, we then experience the second word: peace. Muslims find their total peace, fulfillment, and happiness by doing what Allah wants. fasting , then, is done for His sake. Yet we gain so much in return, and feel so much better because of it. Maybe this is the key.

Another useful idea when talking to those who are not Muslim about Ramadan is to remind everyone just how wonderful it would be if everyone in the world was given the chance to start over again, to forget the mistakes of the past, and to begin a new. 

There are not many people who would turn down such an opportunity. All of us have made mistakes. We also deliberately do things we know to be wrong.

Ramadan is a chance for Muslims to re-examine the way they have lived their lives over the past year. They can resolve to lead a better life in the year to come.

It is like a spiritual Spring-cleaning, where we dust everything down, and throw out everything that is not important and essential in our lives.

Seen in these two ways, then, fasting during Ramadan brings us so many blessings, not least the blessing of seeing how fortunate we really are. 

True enough, we fast for Allah's sake during the hours of daylight, but when the call to Prayer sounds at the end of the day, we are able to eat our fill. There are many in the world, though, whose fast will not end with the call to Prayer. They will starve to death because they have no food.

Our fasting in Ramadan gives us the chance to feel how hungry those who are less fortunate than us would feel. It helps us to give thanks for all the things we take for granted.

We take for granted not only things like food and water, but also the love of our family and friends, the good health we enjoy, and the fact that most us will have somewhere to sleep tonight.

So Ramadan is such a special time for Muslims. It focuses on the idea of sincerity to Allah the Almighty. We fast for His sake and we try by our Prayers and recitation of the Quran to call Him to mind throughout the day. In doing this, we find peace and contentment. Better than any film we have seen or any novel we have read.

Ramadan speaks directly to our hearts of the One who created all things. In talking to non-Muslims about the joys and the meanings of Ramadan, we should try to convey some of this.

I hope this answers your question. Please, keep in touch.

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