Ramadan and one Muslim’s answer to religious hate crimes

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, August 15, 2012

This summer’s religion-based violence in the United States and abroad is especially troubling to one of our Springbank coffee companions.

In fact, the Muslim author and anesthesiologist just published an important essay taking folks of all faiths to task for failing to realize that God loves everyone else, too.

Dr. David Liepert is a prominent spokesperson for interfaith understanding and civility. I referred to his book, Muslim, Christian and Jew, in my Sept. 22, 2010 column on playing nice together in life’s sandbox.

David and I serve as co-chairpersons of Abraham’s Tent, a monthly dialogue among Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Baha’i leaders in the Calgary area who trace their faith traditions back to the ancient Middle East patriarch.

Before I get to David’s most recent essay, however, I want to quote from two responses to last week’s column on how a nearly starving Iraqi refugee, Dijla Al-Rekabi, found God’s comfort in a “kiss from the full moon” during Ramadan. Both respondents also are participants in Abraham’s Tent, by the way.

The first response is from Adam Idris, a highly respected leader of youth and interfaith initiatives on behalf of the Muslim Council of Calgary. He said Dijla’s story “melted my heart and brought tears to my eyes.”

About his own deep love for this holy month of outward-looking self-denial that began this year on July 21, he said:

The best way to demonstrate the affection I have for Ramadan may be to convey to you the sadness we feel when Ramadan leaves us. The sorrow is much like watching a beloved visitor depart from us, leaving a better version of ourselves behind.

We must wait another year to empty our bellies so that we might fill our hearts, and to starve our bodies in the hopes of feeding our souls.

One of the greatest gifts that Ramadan bestows on us is empathy and compassion towards those whose hunger and thirst is a daily reality and whose respite does not come at sunset, as does ours.

Warren, let us all pray that we are here together next year, celebrating with each other in a world better than it is today.

There is scarcely anything more profound and moving than rejoicing together in our love of the Lord and His creation. To put aside that which makes us different and rally around what we all have in common is indeed one of the greatest acts of obedience and gratitude to the Lord of the heavens and earth.

Sultan Mahmood is media coordinator for the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, Calgary. About what the 30-day sunrise-to-sunset fast means to him personally, he wrote:

The routines of Ramadan demand a reduced diet and sleep, which sets the stage to self-reflect. It invites me to ponder over the most essential questions about this life: Why are we here? What is the purpose of our lives? Who is our Creator, and what does He expect from us? Will this life end with death or is there an afterlife? How can we better prepare for that?

All these thoughts encourage me to improve the quality of worship, to seek to live in contact with the Creator. Also, they motivate me to think about fellow human beings who are less fortunate and to share with them.

At sunset, I sit down with my very loving wife and twin sons to break the day’s fast with Iftar. The feast is modest. Occasionally, my wife prepares some traditional dishes or snacks for this purpose. This time is again the time to thank God for giving us an opportunity to fast in order to achieve His nearness and pleasure.

Fasting during this month is an extraordinary experience for me. It is like a refresher course which prepares me to fulfill my obligations towards Allah (God) and His creation for the rest of the year.  

Well, Adam and Sultan, it’s clear that you and David are on the same page. Returning to his recent essay, titled “When Believers Go Bad: One Muslim’s Answer to Religious Hate Crimes,” David asks:

“If God's so good, then what makes some believers so very bad?

“True faith frees the believer from oppression, because it makes us all equals under the One God who made us all. And for that reason, one of the signs of true faith within yourself is that it makes you not just God's servant, but everyone's servant, so that it frees everyone else.

“What's missing from all our faiths and religions is the simple realization that God loves everyone else, too.”

Thanks, David, for these concluding words.

David’s entire essay can be read by clicking here.

© 2012 Warren Harbeck

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