“Ramadan kareem!” The world’s 1.6+ billion Muslims will be greeted this way during the coming month. The Arabic greeting and its English equivalent, “Happy Ramadan,” conveys a friendly, serious, and respectful greeting during this monthlong expression of faith. Outside Islam, it may be known as that time when Muslims fast during daylight hours. Incomprehensible to some, this practice is nevertheless essential and valuable for more than a fifth of the world’s population.
During business hours, the Muslims I meet this month are going without food and water, so I will refrain from eating or drinking in front of them. Their practice and my response to it makes me conscious in ways I might not otherwise be; I become more reflective. An annual practice for me, this month that is holy for Muslims is a time for me to consider the ways in which all of us are connected.
The world’s people share much more than DNA: we are social beings who learn and change, especially when interacting with others. In fact, we do ourselves a disservice when we isolate ourselves from one other as a habit of being. Yet the regular practice of turning inward to reflect also has benefit. Being quiet within, we discover what in our otherwise busy lives would keep us from becoming aware. Balancing such outward and inward expressions of belief enables us to deepen understanding. These practices of belief lead to learning; the two become inseparable.
What do your beliefs enable you to do? What do they encourage you to do? In matters of faith, what risks are you able to take? How are you the same as those from whom you are different? What can you learn about others and their beliefs that would enable you to see connections invisible to you now?
By doing so, you can create awareness that leads to understanding. What more valuable gift can be given to your fellow humans, who, after all, are being even as they believe, practice, and do? Your doing so can be an important contribution to understanding across differences, a foundation for encouraging respect, a source of reducing fear, and a tenet of peace.
Whether or not you observe Islam, I wish you a Happy Ramadan.