Ramadan, Passover and Easter

Ramadan is a month of fasting for Islamic congregations in celebration of the first revelation of the Quran, their equivalent to the Christian Epistles. It is a time of preparation and self-denial in hopeful anticipation of the final revelation which is anticipated to happen during the last few days of Ramadan. A time of prayer and fasting in preparation for the final revelation. Sound familiar?

For several years I have wondered about the liberation, deliverance or salvation narratives found in different religions. I was specifically interested in those faiths that have a common shared history in the Abrahamic traditions: Islam, Judaism and Christianity. As I met and worked together with people from these different faiths, I could see that my questions would often spark an interest but no one I spoke to had ever compared the three. Eventually I shared my questions with Geri Greggory, Member Services Coordinator at the Jewish congregation of Temple Beth-El and Mehmet Oguz and Imam Beyullah Colak, both with Islamic Institute of San Antonio and Raindrop Turkish House. Over the past several months we have been privileged to participate in exploring the answer to my questions with two remarkable sister congregations.

The season of Lent in the Christian church is a time for fasting, prayer and preparation for the final revelation of God through the return of the long- awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ. There are as many different understandings of what this might mean and how it might happen as there are denominations within the Christian church. For some it seems that Lent is primarily a time of preparation for Easter and the celebration of Christ’s historic resurrection, but even then, deep down, there is the hopeful anticipation of the future fulfilment of God’s final revelation and deliverance brought through the return of the resurrected Christ.

When we celebrated Seder at the invitation of our friends at Temple Beth-El or when they were gracious enough to join us as we studied Passover and the Seder meal on the Thursday of Holy Week, we talked about the Jewish practice of fasting from all leaven. We talked about how the season and the Seder meal commemorate the liberation by God of the people of Abraham from slavery in Egypt. We remembered Jewish freedom as a nation under the leadership of Moses and the hoped for and anticipated return of Elijah when God will usher in the final revelation of God’s promise and the coming of the long-awaited Messiah.

I was struck with how similar yet very different the three traditions are and I saw the messages as strikingly similar; the full revelation of God to God’s people is not yet complete and we are to wait with hopeful anticipation, trusting in God’s promise that the Kingdom will come and live each moment as if it could happen at any time. It is no wonder that I again began to find similarities in the Islamic liberation story as I sought to learn and understand a little about Ramadan, Iftar and Eid. It is possible that I am finding similarities where they do not really exist. But is it also possible that through the power of the God of infinite love and grace, three separate and diverse faith expressions have come to the same conclusion about God and been given different ways of expression, remembrance and hope?

Ramadan is a time of prayer, fasting and self-denial lasting for one month. This is longer than Passover but shorter than Lent. Rather than fasting from leaven, Muslims fast from all food and water from sun up to sundown. In the protestant faith, those who fast will often break the fast on Sundays as “little Easters”. During Ramadan the fast is every day but they break the fast and celebrate God’s provisions every night. The Ramadan fast helps those who observe it to discover just how powerful worldly desires are. While fasting they are practicing curbing worldly desires and taking control of them. Like many who follow the Christian fast, Ramadan fasters also give up gossip, frustration with others, and speaking harshly and focus on practicing richer hospitality and deeper kindness towards others. All this is done trusting in God’s sovereignty and grace and living in hopeful anticipation of the fulfilment of God’s will on earth. Ramadan ends with the celebration of Eid, a celebration a little bit like Easter or Christmas.

See you Sunday,