In about 9 days, Ramadan will kick off for Muslims around the world.
Ramadan is the Muslim holy month, the same month during which the Quran was given to the Prophet. During the month, Muslims eat breakfast before their dawn prayers. They fast all day, give to the poor, and seek to live moral lives since immoral acts breaks the fast. They attend special prayers at the mosques and then, around sunset, they break their fast by eatings dates. The person who pays for the dates earns credit with Allah. The group feasts well into the night on various dishes, usually with family and their closest friends. They close the month with a three-day festival and feast.
Where we work here in Central Asia, the Deaf community can be fairly tightly-knit. Often, instead of gathering with unintelligible hearing families, the various circles of Deaf friends will meet to break their fast with dates, tons of food, and hours of chatting. Those gathered range from devoutly Muslim to functional atheists who enjoy their Muslim cultural heritage.
So here’s the $64,000 question: if my Deaf buddy invites me to eat with them during an evening meal, do I go?
It gets awkward because this is a conformist culture, and they have no experience with someone who does not go along with the Muslim habits of the majority. So when someone prays, everyone assumes a certain posture; the dirty looks we get when we don’t go along at other events are pretty nasty. When they eat a date to break their fast and I theoretically join them, I’m obeying the Prophet’s example. When I wait for the signal to eat, I’m complying with the expectations of the Prophet. As well, there’s an assumption that we’re all basically Muslims here, and so if you’re present you must be cool with all of this.
On the other hand, these are great relationship moments; the eating, the talking, the hanging out for a few hours. We might find ways to share the gospel, though it’s dicey telling Muslims about Jesus during the most Muslim month of the year.
Would you advise your church members to attend? Remember – I’m not in the US where more pluralistic standards apply; I’m in a Muslim nation which assume that even the most uncommitted resident has a basic respect for the Prophet’s mandates.
Well? Do I go?