One of the most wonderful things about inviting new people into your life, is how much you learn.  We would like to honor and celebrate the Muslims living in Missoula and around the globe this Ramadan Season.  So to all of our friends celebrating Ramadan, we say “Ramadan Mubarak”!

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Here is a little primer for folks just learning (like me!):

For observant Muslims, Ramadan is one of the five pillars or central tenets of the faith. This arduous 30-day period, starting this year on May 16 in North America, is marked by complete fasting every day from dawn to dusk—not even a drop of water! In Montana, when Ramadan coincides with long summer days as it does this year, that means even longer hours of fasting. Young children and medically needy people, however, are exempted.

Muslims will tell you that this lengthy period of daily fasting and sacrifice promotes spiritual reflection, strengthens one’s piety, willpower and fortitude and can even have some physical benefits like detoxifying the body and lowering cholesterol. 

Still, Islam recognizes the rigor of Ramadan. One of the blessings of the season is iftar, the fast-breaking community meal that comes every night after sunset. There is really no limit to the kinds of food that may be eaten, other than the everyday restrictions that food must be halal or permissible under Islamic law. Often dates are eaten in memory of the prophet Muhammad, who is said to have broken his fasts in this manner.

If you’re not Muslim but would like to support Muslim friends in this important observance, what can you do?

Be kind. Fasting can make folks cranky and hangry.

Be gracious. Ask your Muslim friends if there’s a chore or task you can do for them. 

Be generous. Get neighbors and friends together with those observing Ramadan for an iftar (but remember, it can’t start until about 9:30 p.m.or later).

Be understanding. Appreciate the deep spiritual and historical reasons for Ramadan.

If you would like to donate dried dates, feel free to drop them by the SLM office and we will be sure they get out to the families!

Thanks to SLM board president Clem Work for helping get this post together.