NPR reported this morning on Camille Shoieb, who married an Egyptian this past spring and adopted his Muslim faith the same day.  This week is her first Ramadan, a month-long fast.

Camille says she has “always had a problem with some of the teachings of the Christians, so Islam … just totally made sense.” She’s learning Arabic to be able to read the Quran, and wear a Burkah. And she’s trying be faithful to Ramadan.

Camille’s three daughters are also working on meeting Ramadan’s challenges. They get up early to have breakfast before sunrise, but then they’re ready for a snack before school starts.  Lunch is worse.  Camille had to write a note to the teacher to explain why the girls don’t want lunch.  (Michaela admitted at the end of the day she stopped at the water fountain.  “I was at the water fountain for five minutes.”)

Making supper is also hard.  After eating nothing all day, the cook in Camille wants to taste the sauce, lick the honey that dripped on her finger.  But not until after sunset prayers are over does supper begin, at 7.40 p.m.

What I don’t get about Ramadan is that it claims to be a 30-day fast.  The Islam legalists have reinterpreted the fast to be a “day” fast and a nighttime feast.  in some areas, they deprive themselves as long as the sun is up, and then gorge at night.  Even to the extent that some party too late at night and are in serious need of the forbidden coffee in the morning.  (When I visited Saudi Arabia, we were cautioned to be out of the country by Ramadan, because that little caffeine makes the local mean, and the religious fervor of the season makes things even worse for Americans there.)

What we in the church need to worry over is to not forget why we do what we do.  When we stand, sit or kneel, why we do what we’ve always done.  Mormons, Catholics and Jews have great traditions for fasting, to focus on their task as God’s people, to deny themselves for a greater cause.  But fasting the minimum just to be fasting based on some works mentality is a “vanity.”

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