Every year for thirty days, devout Muslims around the world disrupt their normal routines with a season of heightened spiritual activity. These thirty days are marked by fasting from dawn to dusk, and they correspond with the month of Ramadan according to the Islamic calendar. Since the Islamic calendar is based on a lunar year, it occurs approximately ten days earlier every year according to the solar calendar. This year, Ramadan fasting will begin on Thursday, March 23.
Though Ramadan is an explicitly Islamic holiday, there are at least four opportunities that Ramadan presents for Christians to engage in ministry to their Muslim friends during this season. In fact, many who minister among Muslims find Ramadan to be one of the most fruitful seasons of the year.
OPPORTUNITY #1: A CALL TO PRAYER
In Muslim-majority countries, the month of Ramadan interrupts everything. Devout Muslims increase their mosque attendance, Qur’an reading, and ritual prayers, often spending entire nights in the mosque. As a result, businesses often shorten their hours of operation, government offices close, and in some places it is illegal to serve or consume food in public during daytime hours. Due to the life-disrupting nature of Ramadan, non-Muslims living in majority-Muslim countries sometimes come to loathe this season.
Many missionaries, however, urge Christians to observe the Ramadan season by dedicating themselves to focused prayer for their Muslim neighbors. While any time is a good time to pray for opportunities to share the gospel with your Muslim friends, Ramadan presents an especially poignant reminder to do so.
OPPORTUNITY #2: A CHANCE TO INQUIRE
As with any religious festival, an outside observer will likely encounter many questions about the meaning of Ramadan activities. Perhaps curiosity about something you’ve observed during Ramadan is even why you are reading this article right now. Though there are many helpful resources available that can answer those questions, I would encourage you first and foremost to address those questions not to Google, but to your Muslim neighbor.
In fact, most Muslims are far more ready to discuss their beliefs than people who assume issues of faith to be off-limits and relegated to the personal realm. By contrast, asking a Muslim neighbor why they fast will likely initiate a meaningful conversation that can expand across any number of faith-centered topics. Once a conversation like this begins, you will find natural opportunities to share your Christian convictions and to present the gospel in conversation.
OPPORTUNITY #3: A CELEBRATION OF HOSPITALITY
Ramadan often brings out some of the best examples of Middle Eastern hospitality. As noted above, observing Ramadan involves fasting from food and water from dawn to dusk. Each night, Muslims gather to break the fast with a meal called an iftar. When my family and I lived in North Africa, we found these meals to often be raucous events filled with laughter, a sense of community, and a broad welcome to guests who otherwise would not share a table.
If at all possible, I would encourage you to attend an iftar meal. If you have Muslim friends already, it is likely that you will be invited to their home at some point during the Ramadan season. If you have yet to connect with the Muslim community in your neighborhood, many local mosques or Islamic centers will host community iftars that are open to the public. Such events are great ways to connect with the Muslims living in your community.
As the feasting that follows the fasting wanes, most iftar celebrations continue into the night. Most iftar meals continue after the food is gone with people drinking coffee and tea together for hours. These late hours may seem an imposition to those not used to lingering long after a dinner party, but the opportunity for gospel conversations over after-dinner tea is worth the slight disruption it introduces into one’s routine.
OPPORTUNITY #4: A CHANCE TO SHARE HOPE
The last ten days of Ramadan are of special importance in most Islamic communities. That is because tradition teaches that one of these last ten nights is the “Night of Power” (Laylat al-Qadr), which corresponds with the night that Muhammad received the Qur’an. Prayers offered during this night are thought to be especially meritorious and effective, yet the exact day that the Night of Power occurs is uncertain.
[T]he opportunity for gospel conversations over after-dinner tea is worth the slight disruption it introduces into one’s routine.
The Night of Power is not the only uncertainty encountered within Islamic teaching. More troubling is the Islamic teaching that no one can know for sure whether or not they will be admitted into Paradise. Even Muhammad himself said that he depended upon Allah’s mercy to determine whether or not he would attain Paradise. Much more do ordinary Muslims find themselves trying to do everything in their power to tip the scales of God’s mercy in their favor. During the season of Ramadan, your Muslim friends are more attentive to performing meritorious activities that they believe will credit their account before God.
Such a lack of assurance stands in stark contrast to the Christian confidence that salvation is found in the once-for-all atonement we experience through faith in Christ. Ramadan highlights feverish attempts to gain merits before God that may or may not result in his mercy. In light of such uncertainty, the gospel that gives assurance of salvation based upon the accomplished work of Christ speaks of a true hope.
During this Ramadan season I would invite you to join in offering concerted prayer on behalf of Muslims around the world. I pray that the Lord would allow us all opportunities to engage our Muslim neighbors, to share iftar meals with them, and to hold out the hope of the gospel to them. May the Lord use his people to bring gospel light into the midst of the darkness of Ramadan.
Originally posted at: https://www.abwe.org/blog/ramadan-4-opportunities-love-your-muslim-neighbor