Let’s all fast during Ramadan

Today’s guest blogger is Gail Rosseau, MD, is a neurosurgeon from Chicago, Illinois. She and her family are engaged in … Continued

Today’s guest blogger is Gail Rosseau, MD, is a neurosurgeon from Chicago, Illinois. She and her family are engaged in building interfaith cooperation through her work with the Social Justice Committee at Old St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and the Amazing Faiths project; she is a Trustee of Dominican University and a member of the Board of Directors of Interfaith Youth Core.

This may not be the call to action you would expect from a lifelong Catholic.

But, there is a tradition of fasting in all the world’s major religions. Jesus fasted and taught his disciples to do so. St. Paul urged early Christians to do the same. Moses, Elijah and the Buddha all fasted. Luther, Wellesley and Gandhi fasted as well, and their followers continue the practice to this day.

Indeed, there is evidence of communal fasting prior to recorded history. Fasting has long been considered a healing force, a way to connect one’s spirit to the sacred. It is also a way to connect the members of a community to one another. The Lenten sacrifices of my Christian childhood, and the Yom Kippur fasting of my Jewish friends, brought families and communities together in common devotion, seeking to understand our role in the world and to glimpse the divine.

As one of the 5 pillars of the Muslim faith, fasting during Ramadan is expected in Islam. Yet the personal motivation to fast given by one of my colleagues, Nigerian neurosurgeon Muhammed Mahmud, still resonates.

“You can talk about poverty all you want, but being poor means being hungry, and an empty stomach gets your attention like nothing else does,” he explained. “We Muslims think the world will be a better, kinder place if all of us spend a month each year feeling, really FEELING, in our bellies, what it is like to be poor.”

His words spoke to me. I believe they would speak to most people, of most religions. His words ring equally true to all the secular humanists I know.

Imagine, for a moment, what it would mean if every adult American, more than 225 million of us, gave up one lunch during Ramadan: at $5/lunch this would raise $1.25 billion. The savings could be donated to the church, synagogue, mosque or charity of your choice.

Or, multiply those five dollars by 30 days in the month, and America could end world hunger. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that it would cost $30 billion/year to launch the necessary programs that would prevent global food insecurity and put an end to hunger for the nearly 1 billion people worldwide afflicted by severe hunger each year. Imagine the change in geopolitics if a huge American interfaith fast each year wiped hunger off the face of the earth.

The faith divide threatens to be the most divisive and dangerous issue of our times. In Manhattan, a battle rages over a plan to build the Cordoba house complex near ground zero, with strange bedfellows including the Anti-Defamation League and Sarah Palin coming together to oppose it. In Sheboygan, Wisconsin, a fight ensued over plans to convert a health food store purchased by Muslim physician, Dr. Mansoor Mirza, to a mosque. In Temecula, California, members of a local Tea Party group interrupted Friday prayers at a mosque in protest of plans to build a new Muslim center on nearby property.

All around the country, fundamental questions regarding citizenship and religious freedom are being reconsidered, in ways that resonate differently with Americans since September 11, 2001. Now, more than ever, we need to reaffirm the common ideals of our American democratic way of life. We need to look for the practices and rituals that give meaning and purpose to our lives, and to celebrate those traditions we share with those of other faiths. We need to demonstrate that the world’s melting pot is stronger and more generous than ever, precisely because of our ethnic and religious diversity.

True understanding comes from shared experience. This year during Ramadan, let’s consider reaffirming our common spiritual heritage by embracing the discipline and the spiritual concentration that skipping a lunch, or 30 lunches, would require. This shared experience with the Muslim community, here and abroad, could go a longer way toward ending our serious, and often violent, interfaith struggles than any effort to date. And maybe we could begin to eliminate world hunger along the way.

The content of this blog reflects the views of its author and does not necessarily reflect the views of either Eboo Patel or the Interfaith Youth Core.

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  • jflare29

    Ms. Rousseau,Bear in mind, there’s ample reason for the conflict in New York. It’s ironic really: One Christian does something cruel and the world condemns all Christians; a few Muslims do something incredibly cruel and the world pretends the perpetrators are victims of some kind.If they’re not fasting for my religious observance, why would I fast for their’s?

  • diadhuit

    Well, i agree it would be nice if everyone knew what hunger was.But, Islam is not about hunger.It is about submission. Iran and Saudi Arabia are the two countries where Islam expresses itself as a modern society.Have you seen any Synagogues or Churches there? Why not?Why would anyone show solidarity with Islam?How can Progressives reconcile what they want to believe about Islam with the reality of what these two Islamic countries are practicing?Save your fasting for Lent and meditate on the True Prince of Peace, Our Lord Jesus Christ!

  • hakam1

    u sob advise us to become bat? U convert to christian by eating pork.

  • WmarkW

    A bigger problem worldwide than hunger is lack of clean drinking water.If you skip just one shower a week, you’d save enough to provide for an African family of four.

  • Secular

    Ms. Rousseau:

  • crabstu

    I agree. Let’s all fast during Ramadan and offer it up to God for the conversion of Muslims to the Christian (Catholic) Faith.

  • garrafa10

    How about we make national pork barbecues, any style you like, in every city or hamlet with more than 1000 inhabitants, and paper the walls of our cities with Danish cartoons instead?

  • sdent60

    Ms. Rousseau,Then there is the biggie of 40 days and nights of Lent. You could offer to do the FULL fasting, not just on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.And UNLIKE the Muslim, we observe BOTH day and night, not just during daylight hours. And we continue with our daily lives, not stop and have a month of sleeping all day and having parties all night.I have lived in a Muslim country. I KNOW how it is observed by the “majority” of the population.IF you wish to embrace Islam, go ahead, convert and I recommend living in a country like Kuwait, you have full governmental support for Islam, but you won’t get tossed into jail if you don’t observe every dot and dash.

  • Jihadist

    “How about we make national pork barbecues, any style you like, in every city or hamlet with more than 1000 inhabitants, and paper the walls of our cities with Danish cartoons instead?”- Barbeques sounds fine. But do you have barbeques big enough to roast whole lambs? – Papering the walls of cities with Danish cartoons sounds likes graffitti. Picasso and Michealangelo stuff is better. ——————————————“I agree. Let’s all fast during Ramadan and offer it up to God for the conversion of Muslims to the Christian (Catholic) Faith.”- Some Christian groups are already making it a habit of praying for Muslims during Ramadan. Bless them to pray for our souls. ——————————————-“u sob advise us to become bat? U convert to christian by eating pork.”- There are, er, halal bacon called macon. And vegetarian Buddhists in East Asia (mostly Chinese) also have dishes called “mock pork” – made from soy. One could also be “converting” to Buddhism and atheism by eating pork. The consumption of pork is not exclusive to Christians.

  • Arif2

    no thanks. People grow fat during ramadan, fasting muslims don’t work. muslims observe one month of self pity as they fast. Every year muslims continuously try telling us about their “fast” to gain sympathy. Perhaps the goal is to allow muslims a month away from work and duty toward society during their self pity month. you can fast all you want and then party all night long, sleep all day.

  • joe_allen_doty

    Don’t the Muslims do a pseudo-fast and eat all of their regular meals when it is dark? There is no New Testament support for fasting certain foods for 40 days before “Easter.” In a correctly translated from the Greek New Testament, there is no word that can be translated as “Easter.” The word mistranslated as Easter in the book of Acts is the Greek spelling of the Hebrew word for “Passover.” The Roman Catholic Church’s false doctrine of Lent is not Biblical.

  • PSolus

    WMARKW,”If you skip just one shower a week, you’d save enough to provide for an African family of four.”Do you actually believe that the pipes that supply water to my shower here in DC also supply water to a family of four in Africa?And, do you actually believe that if I skip one shower a week, the water that I don’t use for that shower will flow across the Atlantic, to that family of four in Africa?

  • areyousaying

    Only if Muslims will dance around a pole with me on May Day.

  • Jihadist

    “Only if Muslims will dance around a pole with me on May Day.”*******************************************As long as it is not pole dancing. Some Muslim Sufis may just take up your offer if you can keep up with their whirlings. Don’t do what they do at home. You may get a blinding, splitting 5 aspirins headache.

  • FRIENDENEMY1

    The Muslims I work with are mostly hard-working and friendly. A small number are not hard-working. A small number are not so friendly.This is like every other religious (or not religious) group of people I have me in my life.So many of these comments remind me of when I first met my wife’s 4 year old nephew years ago. He looked at a small dent in my car and said:Na na na-na boo boo

  • abrahamhab1

    Ramadan fast may, as any other fast, have good reasoning behind it but the fact of the matter is it lost its redeeming values in the process of application. Loss of productivity, overeating, all-night carousing and all day sleeping are but the most evident. The (Muslim) states’ repression of all symbols of non adherence even by those who do not follow the faith and the hypocrisy of the non- fasters as well as the sudden pretension of devotion by many is truly revolting.