As you're probably aware, we are in the holy month of Ramadan at the moment. To be precise, we are on the 20th day of the month. Muslims the world over are keeping the fast, rising before dawn to eat the first meal of the day (suhur) and then abstaining from food and drink until the meal at sundown (iftar). I love the idea that at every second during the day, somebody somewhere in the world is breaking their fast.
The practice of fasting can be found in most religious traditions. It is a way of stripping back our lives to the essentials, so that we can focus on our relationships with one another and to the Divine. The parallels between Lent and Ramadan are obvious - although Ramadan is both stricter and more intense, if kept properly, particularly in countries where the days are long! Both Lent and Ramadan are defined by the moon - Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, and Ramadan is defined by the Muslim lunar calendar. I am looking forward to the time, in a couple of years, when both fasts coincide.
Shanon and I are keeping Ramadan (although we have suhur a little after dawn). I have to say that lockdown is making it easier - there is less temptation around! I wrote yesterday about persistence. By this time during Ramadan persistence is a necessary virtue, although I am finding that the body adapts quite quickly to this new pattern of sustenance. It definitely feels as though we are slightly separated from the pressures of the world - even more so in this temporary sequestration - and in that context, the abundance of reflections on Mother Julian feel even more apposite!
In terms of our community, yesterday was a sad day. I learnt of the passing away of Chris and Emily's friend and companion Zee Zee, and of Clara Williams' sister, and of others close to members of the congregation. I send deep condolences to all of you who have lost people you love in the past few days. These times are very hard.
Finally, the great poet Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi wrote a poem about Ramadan. Here it is (it was originally in Farsi, and the musicality of the language is a little lost in translation):
On Fasting in Ramadan
Celebrate! The month of fasting has come.
Pleasant journey to the one
Who is the company of the fasting.
I climbed the roof to see the Moon,
Because I really missed fasting
By heart and soul.
I lost my hat while looking at the Moon.
The Sultan of fasting made me drunk.
O Muslims, I have been drunk since that day I lost my mind.
What a beautiful fortune fasting has.
What a wonderful glory.
There is another secret moon
Besides this one.
He is hiding in the tent of fasting
Like a Turk.
Anyone who comes
To the harvest of fasting in this month
Finds the way to this Moon.
Whoever makes his face
Resemble pale satin
Wears the silk clothes of fasting.
Prayers will be accepted in this month.
Sighs of the one fasting pierce the sky.
The person who sits patiently
At the bottom of fasting's well
Owns the love of Egypt, like Joseph.
O the word which eats the Sahur* meal,
Be silent so that anyone
Who knows fasting will enjoy fasting.
Come, O Shams**, the brave one of whom Tabriz is proud.
You are the commander of fasting's soldiers.
- Jalaluddin Rumi, a ghazal from the Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi, translated by Nevit Ergin.
(Note: * Sahur: Meal before dawn during Ramadan fast, Shams of Tabriz was Rumi's beloved teacher and mentor - 'Shams' is also the Arabic for sun)
Wishing you all Ramadan Mubarak! Happy Ramadan!