My First Day with Islam

…And I catch a cold. Seriously, I get sick maybe once a year and it happens on the first day of Islam AND Ramadan? I barely got any sleep last night (which is typical for the first of any month because of new religion jitters), but woke up at 4:30 this morning with a nasty sore throat and runny nose. Inshallah (God willing), this will not impede upon or slow down my efforts.

Anyway, assalamu alaikum (Peace be upon you) and Ramadan mubarak (Blessed Ramadan)!

This is a pretty special and unique month for Project Conversion. When planning my year of spiritual promiscuity, I arranged each month according to holidays for each faith. August is really cool because in Islam it is the holy month of Ramadan. So it’s not a holi-day, but a holi-month! Get it? Holi-month…?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcYppAs6ZdI&NR=1[/youtube]

Moving on.

To give you a brief background, Islam (according to Muslims) was the religion practiced by all the prophets from Adam, to Noah, to John the Baptist, Jesus, and finally Muhammad (peace be unto them all). Islam simply means “submission,” however in a more specific way, it is peace through submission to God’s will.  Abraham is considered the patriarch and religious father of them all. Christians and Jews are considered “People of the Book.” We’ll dive into all of this later.

The month of Ramadan is special and particularly holy because this is the month in which the Qur’an was given to Muhammad (pbuh-peace be upon him) for recitation by Allah (God) via the angel Jibril (Gabriel). Ramadan is therefore the ninth month of the Islamic calendar year and the first day is recognized by spotting the new moon the evening before. During this month, Muslims (who are physically able) observe a fasting period between dawn and sunset where we abstain from food, water, sex, gossip, idle chatter, profanity, anger, and conflict. There is nothing holy about going hungry and thirsty without reason. Fasting during Ramadan serves two purposes:

  1. Increased empathy for the poor and starving. Charity and good will are one of the Five Pillars of Islam. By experiencing hunger and thirst during the day for Ramadan, we have a greater capacity to understand the plight of those suffering around us.
  2. A method of purification via self-control. Fasting is prescribed in many faiths as a way to separate ourselves from the mundane needs of the world and focus on the divine. Fasting during Ramadan is viewed as the path to increased blessings through holy and noble intension.

This first day of Ramadan for me is interesting because the sick are pardoned from taking the fast. I’m a tough cookie, so I think I can handle it, but my wife (who is a nurse) will undoubtedly nag me about fluid intake. We’ll see how it goes.

Other than fasting, one of the great practices of Ramadan is reading the Qur’an (which literally means “the recitation”) in its entirety. This is usually done in the evening after we break the fast and say evening prayers. The Qur’an is divided into 30 sections, so I should have no problem.

I have to admit, this month makes me nervous and has for some time. You would think that after seven months of nose-diving into different faiths that I would have this thing down, but when it comes to Islam…I don’t know. Like the Latter-day Saints, I have a history with Islam–a much darker one–that I am not proud of (more later). I also find the prayer (salat) techniques and the Arabic language very intimidating. My efforts this morning with the dawn prayer (Fajr) were horrible, so I hope Allah has a sense of humor and patience with me as I try to honor this practice.

So there is the foundation of this month. As you know, we will cover all of these topics in greater detail (complete with awkward photos) as we go. I simply wanted to introduce myself (Andrew Bowen in case you didn’t know) and, inshallah, I won’t make too much a fool of myself or the religion of 1.2 billion people this month as I explore Islam.

Assalamu alaikum

 

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Colin_Faux

    For the Masjids that allowed me to pray with them, I just followed along. It seems you already know more Arabic than me :), you’re a quick learner and fully immerse yourself. It will be interesting to see your responses and experiences. I’m sure you’ll do great! Get well soon. Where will you be attending? What books are you going to study from?!

  • http://www.muslimahinprogress.blogspot.com Nancy Shehata

    Salaam Alaikum and good morning! May Allah give you shifaa, that is, may He cure your cold. Summer colds are no fun and fasting on top of that is a challenge. InshaAllah you’ll do okay.

    It sounds like you are off and running. Don’t worry about your efforts at praying, if they seem clumsy and you are self-conscious. It’s always like that when you are learning something new. Of course, there are a bunch of pesky letters in Arabic that just don’t exist in English, so you have to learn when an “h” is an “h” or something else :).

    I look forward to seeing your story unfold and your background with Islam as well. Many blessings to you!

    • abowen

      Good to hear from you again, Nancy. Thank you for the encouragement. The idea, I suppose, is just to stick with it. Inshallah, I will get into the groove of things.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Umm Yasmin

    wa’alaykumusalam!!!

    Oh mannnn I’ve been hanging out for this month all year (I’m Muslim) dead curious to see how you’ll find it. And you got SICK on your first day of Ramadan!!! If it’s a consolation, sickness is expiation.

    As Colin says, best idea is to find a mosque or some other Muslims and join in with them to learn how to pray the salat. It’s way confusing on your own at first, but once you do it a few times with other Muslims it gets easier.

    I highly recommend having a bit of a listen to Shaykh Ebrahim from South Africa. He makes it all make sense: http://sites.google.com/site/wwwzawiaebrahim/audiodars2011

    Best of wishes, and Ramadan Mubarak!!! May Allah fill this blessed month with lots of goodness for you and your family!!!

    • abowen

      Assalamu alaikum!

      Glad you’ve hung out with me thus far. I hope I meet your expectations this month. I will join a local masjid this month for communal salat so, inshallah, I’ll get a better idea of what’s going on. Thanks for the website link!

      Peace,

      Andrew Bowen

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Abubaker

    Im sick and ill for the first day of ramadan today aswell. I hope it didnt go too bad for you. Good luck with reading the Koran. Its a great book. Just remember that inside it some passages are directed specifically towards Muhammed as in when God says ‘Say to them’ but its ok becuase nearly all english translations will read the verse as ‘Say to them (Oh Muhammed)’in brackets to clarify or similar.

    Good luck with the project inshallah.

    • abowen

      Thanks for the advice! Sorry you caught a cold as well. Hopefully we’ll get over them soon!

      Peace,

      Andrew

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Chris Healy

    dang, sorry to hear about that cold. I’m looking forward to this month; I’ve always wondered what Islam “tastes” like, if you will. The general feel of it and such. I’m sure you’ll do great, as per usual. You wouldn’t be asked to keep going harder unless you could do it. Rah, rah!

    • abowen

      Thanks for the cheer, Chris! Go harder, yeah!

  • http://Fasting Art Sherwood

    How ’bout that, day 1 and we already have common ground. My faith (LDS) also observes the fast for those very same reasons (we just obstain from food or drink for 2 meals). We also stress combining the fast with fervent prayer and fasting for a specific purpose. Fasting without prayer is simply going hungry. Ours is typically held on the first Sunday of every month.

    You mentioned that Muslims fast during Ramadan. I assume they don’t do this the whole month, do they? Or do they just pick any day out of the month?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Shawn

    Art: Muslims fast the entire month — but only when the sun is up. They don’t starve. But it can be quite a challenge to get through the entire day — strictly, not even a drink of water is permitted.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Umm Yasmin

    Art wrote:
    “You mentioned that Muslims fast during Ramadan. I assume they don’t do this the whole month, do they? Or do they just pick any day out of the month?”

    Oh gosh no (fast the whole month). Well… we do, but we break our fast each evening at sunset. So there’s no food, drink, sex from between dawn and sunset each day. But in the evening we’re not fasting.

    I really like the emphasis and connection the LDS make with fasting and using the money saved to go to charity. Muslims tend to pay their zakat to give to charity at the end of the month too.

    • abowen

      See? There it is. A connection! That connection, regardless of how small or seemingly insignificant, is always enough.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment JoelCannon

    As a Mormon I believe that our Heavenly Father answers our prayers and works thru inspired spiritual leaders (which we call prophets). I believe that all religions share this same fountain of truth, so I find it interesting to see how much I have in common with people of other faiths. I find Islam to be surprisingly similar to Mormonism, and that the few differences are just misunderstandings (aka “the teachings of man”). I feel this same kinship with Judaism, Catholicism and others.

    • abowen

      Joel,

      There are common threads, for sure.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Laurelle

    Tip from personal experience: plan adequate time for your Qur’an reading. Some of those sections are short, especially in the beginning, but as you go on you’ll find some are loooooong…

    Also, I’m glad and interested to see you participating in Islam specifically. I’ve been in despair lately over a lot of comments I see on the internet whenever Islam comes up. People so often mock and condemn when they have no understanding beyond the sensationalism they’ve seen in the media (and if that’s your idea of understanding…). Hopefully this will get at least a few people to reconsider their blind hatred and prejudice.

    • abowen

      Thanks Laurelle, I’ll do my best as always to present Islam in the most objective way. You won’t find any toxic rants here…

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Sabradell

    I feel that Allah is commending your sincerity and not laughing at your attempts at the prayers in Arabic. Intent is what matters, as long as one is sincere I think any deity would be proud to count you among their followers.

    • abowen

      Sabradell,

      Thank you for your confidence.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Saleha

    I was introduced to ur articles by a friend on facebook and i must say i really am impressed with the way you are handling islamic ways. Will be following your notes and sharing them. It’s not easy for a non-muslim to take up all these prayers and fasts in such a short time so i hope u don’t give up:).

    • abowen

      Saleha,

      Thank you for following along!

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