The month of fasting has begun. In fact, for 2017, we are more than half way through the month of Ramadan. This year, Ramadan began at sundown on Friday May 26. For Muslims, the day usually begins at sunset with night being the first segment of a day's cycle. This is similar to Jewish tradition, wherein sundown marks the beginning of a day. For those familiar with Judeo-Christian traditions, or the narrative of creation found in Genesis, the first book of the Jewish Torah, a repeated phrase throughout the first chapter is, "And there was evening, and there was morning--the first (second, third, fourth and so on) day." So for Muslims, this should not be considered a new development, but rather continuation of a traditional perspective.

Ramadan is one of the pillars of Islam, one of the five main practices of believing Muslims. The month is considered holy primarily due to the belief that God began to reveal the Qurʾan to Muhammad during this month. A general belief amongst the faithful is that it is easier to hear from God during the month of Ramadan. As a result, many Muslims will intentionally strive to be more faithful during this month, exerting effort in fasting, as well as in reading the Qurʾan. There are special gathering times at the mosque in the evening, the time between sunset prayers and evening prayers. During this time the Qurʾan will be read as a community, and special lessons will be given. As a book the Qurʾan is divided not only into chapters and verses, but the whole text, approximately the same length as the New Testament, or Injīl as it is recognized by Muslims, is divided into thirty parts, making it easy for a believer to read through the entire Qurʾan in one month's time.

The month of Ramadan is set aside for fasting. Fasting as a spiritual discipline is not unique to Muslims. It has been practiced by Jews and Christians for centuries. However the form of fasting required of Muslims is set. The Qurʾan gives specific instructions concerning fasting. These can be found in the second sura of the Qurʾan, surat al-baqara, from verses 183 and following. Simply described, fasting requires that from before dawn, at a time when there's enough light to tell the difference between a black thread and a white thread (see verse 187 of surat al-baqara), Muslims must refrain from all eating, drinking (including water), smoking and sexual relations. At sunset, all of those restrictions are lifted until just before dawn the next day. There is a special meal which many will each late in the night, much closer to dawn, in order to help them make it through to the next sunset.

Although the Muslim faith tradition may be unfamiliar to some, and even strange, this does not preclude that many Muslims will fast with complete sincerity. Many hope that during this month, they will become closer to God and that their fasting, as a service and worship to Him, will be seen as acceptable in His sight. If you know a Muslim, and during this month of fasting you meet them, give them a word of encouragement to continue to seek God. Pray for them that during their holy month, that God will reveal more of Himself to them. Pray that He will even visit them in their dreams--for this is the month of revelation for them. Many will be open during this time to hearing from God in a unique way. Before the end of the month, you can wish them a "Ramadan kareem," as in the same way they may wish you a Merry Christmas or Happy Easter. Wouldn't it be wonderful if God would reveal more of Himself to all of us? May we be listening and looking for Him, not only now in Ramadan, but always.