(AP Photo/Wally Santana)

ONE of the 5 main pillars of Islam is fasting (sawm) during the holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan is a special time for Muslims as they fast, seek God, and spend lots of time gathering with friends and family. The notion of fasting is encouraged in the Qur’an, “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn self-restraint” (Surah 2:183). As one might expect, Muslim countries tend to take Ramadan very seriously and will even arrest those who refuse to observe the fast in public. With that brief description, I want to share a little more about the details and practices concerning Ramadan.

Who? – All Muslims are expected to fast. There are a few exceptions for those who are pregnant, traveling, or participating on the 2012 Summer Olympics (London) during the month of Ramadan. But, it is widely understood and expected that those who postpone the fast will make up for lost time by fasting at some point in the near future.

What? – Fasting from sun up to sun down. Fasting includes refraining from eating, drinking, smoking, and sex. The goal is to seek only the pleasure of Allah during the month. One important note concerning the fast, it only lasts while the sun is up. Once the sun goes down, Muslims begin to feast and celebrate “breaking the fast” with their family. In fact, more food is consumed during the holy month of Ramadan (month of fasting) than in any other month of the year.

When? – Fasting occurs during the holy month of Ramadan. It was during this month when Muhammad is believed to have started receiving revelations from Allah. The Muslims follow the lunar calendar (as opposed to solar) and so Ramadan occurs about 2-3 weeks earlier the subsequent year. Currently, the month of Ramadan will last from Thursday July 19 to Saturday August 18.

Where? – Fasting occurs all over the world during Ramadan. In most Muslim countries restaurants and shops close down or have abbreviated hours during the day. The fast is often broken in homes with a large gathering of family there to celebrate.

Why? – Muslims observe Ramadan because it is required of them and because they believe it will help them gain favor in the sight of Allah.

Ramadan is a sobering reminder that there are over 1.6 billion Muslims around the world who are blinded by a false religion. These people are trying to do enough good things (fasting, praying, etc…) to earn Allah’s favor. Yet, these futile attempts only bring emptiness and frustration.

Ways to Pray:

- Pray for God to open the eyes and hearts of Muslims during this last week of Ramadan and show them the beauty of Christ and the necessity of the cross for their salvation.

- Ask the Father to reveal himself as the one true God.

- Over the next few days Ramadan will come to an end and they will celebrate the end of the fast. Pray for missionaries working among Muslim peoples to have opportunities to be in the homes of those they have met and for meaningful conversations with those the Father has placed in their lives during this time.