Well I never thought that I’d be singing from the same hymn sheet as the Quilliam Foundation but today I am.
I was trying to imagine Ramadan in Scotland where summer days are quite long after discussing this with my Muslim colleagues at work. That sounds like torture to me. Here my non-Muslim thoughts.
If nothing else Islam is a pragmatic religion. Most of its core customs have a solid earthly but practical foundation – mostly promoting a healthy life style.
Ramadan appears to me to be more spiritual than most other custom – but is no less meaningful. It most certainly means very much to certainly to more pious Muslims and can be applauded. The thing is that rules governing Ramadan were written in the context of day length in and around Mecca and like I say Islam is very practical.
Quilliam apparently has said the same thing.
I am not Muslim but suggest to young Muslims that Muslim traditions must be viewed within the context, time and place where they were codified and why. We also need to appreciate that before the printing press very few people could read and write so halal codes were transmitted by word of mouth. Rules had to be simple and in a form that was easily understood. There would been little written justification or explanation. People learned by rote – hence ritual.
I guess people toiled on the land to make the most of the daylight hours. Fasting during daylight was practical and feasting at night. The rules for Ramadan were written in the context of days of more equal length than here in the UK.
Ramadan is indeed a very special time for Muslims but please remember that a sick Muslim cannot help others but becomes reliant on them. Islam encourages a healthy lifestyle and an upright way of life but in my view “health trumps religion”. Charity is important and is emphasised at this time but the spiritual value of charity is the giving, which is compromised if you make yourself ill.
My religious background is in Methodism and I always remember the difference in the decoration of my village Anglican Church and the plain Methodist chapel across the road. The latter had a communion table and no ornate decoration and NO symbols – until a benefactor presented a brass cross. Methodists traditionally don’t drink, dance or gamble (certainly not on church premises). There are similarities with Islam.
One of my uncles was a lay preacher. He often proclaimed from the pulpit that “you can be so godly that you are of no earthly use”.
As Quilliam has been suggesting that Ramadan should base day length on the daylight hours in or around Mecca I was independently emailing Faith Matters with the same suggestion. It must make sense.
Think about observing Ramadan anywhere near the poles where there is near permanent daylight. You may well want to adopt Mecca daylight hours.
God is pragmatic and doesn’t expect the unreasonable. Islam is practical.