Ramadan: Fasting or Feasting?

Ramadan Mubarak! is the greeting that will soon be heard across the lands where FMI church planters serve. The greeting is the same, whether one’s mother-tongue is Urdu, Bengali, Pashto, or Bahasa. It is an Arabic phrase meaning Blessed Ramadan! and is spoken by Muslims throughout their month-long period of fasting during daylight hours. Like much of Islam, its observance is based on lunar activity, and thus is a season which migrates through the calendar from year to year. For 2017, here in the US, Ramadan begins the evening of Fri., May 26 and is observed through the evening of Sat., June 24.

cuisine 02Ironically, even though the stated focus is on fasting, more food is purchased and consumed by Muslims during this month than any other month of the year! Many Muslims simply switch their daily routines to skirt around the burden of fasting: they sleep during the day and enjoy iftar feasts after sunset, staying up to party throughout the night. A recent YouGov survey conducted during Ramadan found that about two-thirds of Muslim households spend more money during Ramadan than at other times, and nearly three-quarters of them reported it was for food purchases.

During Ramadan, many shops close during the day, and business and government work comes to a virtual standstill. Worker productivity declines by  as much as 50% as a result of shorter working hours and the change in behavior during this month, explains Samer Sunnuqrot, an economist based in the Jordanian capital Amman. Some of the extra burdens Christians face in Muslim-dominant countries include encounters with business gridlock as they try to continue with normal life during Ramadan, and the threat of physical attacks against them if they are seen eating or drinking during the day. Please pray that Christians in these places will experience God’s protection and provision during this time.

The phenomenon now touted as ‘Ramadan Rage’ increases the volatility of the situation in many places, especially when the holiday falls during hotter months, as it does this year. In some Pakistani villages, daily temperatures have soared above 100° by mid-May this year; the weeks ahead may get worse. Dehydration can become a serious threat. In other countries, Ramadan Rage can be measured by police reports. Incidents of petty theft in Algeria spiked 220% during recent a Ramadan season, and assaults jumped by 320%. Child traffickers in Yemen, taking advantage of the plight of poor families who want to spend more on food during Ramadan, offer to buy children outright from their parents. It’s one less mouth to feed, they tell the parents, and provides added income.

Despite the potential for social turmoil during Ramadan, God continues to draw Muslims to Himself through faith in Jesus Christ (John 12:32). Already during Ramadan 2017, FMI partners in Muslim-majority countries have reported how some Muslims are finding salvation through Jesus Christ. One young man from in Pakistan a few days ago told Pastor Asad, “The cross of Jesus Christ is the only good news [emphasis his] which has given me relief from my burdens…my sorrows have turned to joys and my worries vanish. I am passionate to share this good news, too.”

Toward the end of Ramadan, Muslims observe what they call The Night of Power, commemorating the time when Mohammed first recited verses which now comprise the Qur’an. On The Night of Power, instead of merely saying rote prayers, Muslims pour out their hearts with personal yearning. For caring Christians, this is also a fantastic time to pour out intercession for these souls, as many Muslims are receptive to learn how to connect with God at this time. Ask God to remove the scales from the eyes of their hearts, and that they would be drawn to faith in Jesus Christ. Pray that the Lord of the Harvest will give courage to mature indigenous Christians, like FMI-supported church planters and evangelists, to intersect with seekers at this time to share the truth of the gospel with them.

To help empower a trained indigenous church planter in one of the world’s three largest Muslim-dominant nations, donate securely here.