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Into a world of violent confrontation, hateful use of women, and little appreciation for basic human rights, an illiterate man came who prayed for guidance to heal his wounded world and repair the rift between religions.

Within a generation that man brokered one of the earliest constitutions in world history, taught his followers to treat women respect, care for minorities, and built the single most literate religious movement the world had ever seen.

Ramadan is a month long celebration of the opening of the heavens which led to the revelation of the Qur’an, through the Prophet Muhammad.  Muslims around the world are united in fasting during the daylight hours of an entire month, and use this time to remember the chaos into which the Qur’an was revealed.

Muslims around the world use this month for self-reflection and as a period to be more generous to those in need, sharing the traditional Ramadan feast after sundown with neighbors, friends, and even complete strangers.  At one Ramadan dinner there was a man I thought was a new member of the congregation.  I introduced myself, we visited for a while, and I asked why we hadn’t met before.  “This is the first time I’ve been here,” he said between bites.  “I was riding my bike on the rode outside, I heard all the commotion, and I wanted to see what was going on – so they invited me in!  This is great!”

After taking one of my kids to a Ramadan dinner, we had cleaned up and were heading back to the car.  “It’s like a whole month of Christmas,” she said excitedly, then more subdued – “Except you can’t have any fun during the day.  That part sucks.”

“Fasting is hard for many,” an Imam friend told me.  “But this helps to clarify our minds and steady our hearts.  And when we feast with our friends and neighbors, the food is all the sweeter!”  He went on to explain that many times, as we are faced with the specter of need ourselves, it helps motivate us to show gratitude and charity more often.

“It is a time to be grateful to our Creator, and to remember all the blessings which He gives us,” one teenager told me.  She went on, “My hunger during the day reminds me of all those who don’t have even the simple blessings I do, and this makes me want even more to help them.  And it helps me be grateful for the blessings I receive all the time that I’m usually not even aware of, like the air we breathe and everything around us.  Yes it’s hard to fast all day, especially when Ramadan is during the summer; when I was little that was very tough.  But now I actually look forward to it.”

A whole month every year to reflect on blessings and look for opportunities to share charity with others.

A wonderful holiday.