Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Eidkum Mbarak!

For my Muslim readers (in case I still have any), Happy Eid. For any who aren't aware, Eid is the holiday signifying the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. Perhaps I should give even more detail. Ramadan is a month in the Islamic Hijri calendar. The Hijri calendar is a lundar calendar with 12 lunar months in which the year zero is the year of the Hijra (622 AD), when Mohammad emigrated from Mecca to Medina to finally escape persecution of the Quraysh, the tribe living in Mecca of which he was a member. Since the lunar year is shorter than a solar year, the dates of Ramadan (and every other occurence on the Hijri calendar) slip back 11 days on the Gregorian (Western) calendar every year.

Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed. I have to confess I'm not completely clear on this point and a quick search didn't clear up my confusion. The Quran was revealed to Muhammad over a period of 23 years. I assume that the first revelation took place in the month of Ramadan as I'm fairly certain it wasn't only revealed over 23 years only in the months of Ramadan. If someone knows the details to this, please feel free to clarify.

Regardless, Ramadan is considered a very holy month in Islam and it's mandatory (with exceptions for children, those who are sick or pregnant, and probably a few others) to fast during the entire month. Since it's a lunar month, Ramadan begins when the first sliver of a moon is viewable and ends after 29 or 30 days, again, when the first sliver of a new moon is visible. Because the month's beginning and end are based on the location of the moon, which differs depending on your location on the earth, the beginning and end of Ramadan are sometimes different in different countries. For instance, this year, Ramadan was only 29 days, ending Monday night, in most of the Arab countries, but it was 30 days, ending Tuesday, in North America.

As I mentioned before, Eid is the holiday at the end of Ramadan. Technically, eid is just the Arabic word for "holiday" (I'm pretty sure) and the Eid at the end of Ramadan is actually Eid al-Fitr. I know there are other eids throughout the year but I don't know their names or what they celebrate. Yesterday was the first day of Eid in some countries and now it's Eid everywhere.

On a somewhat related note, I finished reading the Quran again, which was my goal of Ramadan. It's my understanding that it's customary to read the entire Quran throughout the month of Ramadan so I figured that seemed like a reasonable and useful goal. Like I mentioned in my comment to CES, my new goal is to tear through the Bible with the same fury I did the Quran. However, that's my bedtime reading. My commute reading is "The Prophet & the Messiah : An Arab Christian's Perspective on Islam & Christianity". I just picked it up and started it today so I can't give you much information except it's written by a Christian who grew up in Syria, a predominantly Muslim country. In addition to growing up around plenty of Muslims, he was sincerely curious about Islam and, thus, studied it, even getting his PhD in Islamic studies. He is now a professor at All Nations Christian College in England. As I read, I'll tell you if he has any interesting insights. It seems like most of my reading has been very heavy on the Islamic side. This is only natural as, growing up Christian, I know much more about Christianity than Islam. However, I figured I should balance the side out somewhat.

Actually, now that I think about it, my readings have been fairly even-weighted between Christianity and Islam. I've read St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, a book about Catholicism, one about Orthodox Christianity, and I'm sure even more, those are just off the top of my head. However, this analysis of Islam from a Christian point of view should hopefully be an interesting addition.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Jesus in the Quran

Right now I've completed 21 of the 30 juzes in my Ramadan reading of the Quran. I've covered a few mentions of Jesus so far and I truthfully can't remember if there are any others in the remainder. In any case, everything I've read so far and everything that I recall of Jesus in the Quran is just when he is an infant or talking of his illusioned crucifiction.

What struck me as odd was something I read in the surah Maryam. In verse 33, baby Jesus states:
"So Peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)!"

What I find strange about this is the fact that the Muslim view of Jesus states that he did not die but was raised to heaven (actually, on further investigation, it turns out this is even disputed in Islam). I would think that Jesus, being a prophet, wouldn't talk of his death if it were not actually going to happen.

As usual of late, my lack of time limits the length of my post so that's all for now.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My return

... as from one man's face many likenesses are reflected in a mirror, so many truths are reflected from the one divine truth. -St Augustine, Enarr. in Psalm 11

Shortly before my hiatus, I had come to the conclusion that many religions contain truth and right and thus people of those many different religions can be right. Thus, I was temporarily appeased in knowing that I was following what I was sure to be one reflection of God's divine truth. This lasted for a while but eventually I became again disturbed. I still believed that I was striving toward truth but the details began creeping into my thoughts and disrupting my peace. I again became unsure of some of Christianity's doctrines and my temporary tranquility slowly faded.

Eventually I realized that, although many religions hold truths, the goal (or at least my necessary goal) is not to follow partial truth but to strive for absolute truth. Thus, I return to my quest somewhat reluctantly. Life is much easier when one has internal peace and certainty. I went from having that a few years ago, to losing it as my quest began, to regaining it temporarily, to losing it once again now. However, I know that regardless of my present uncertainty, my future peace will be greater than ever for I will have truly tested my faith and dug deep into my beliefs. Once I settle down, I'll have much more confidence in my faith having traveled far to reach it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

I'm back!

After almost five months being gone, moving, and starting a new job, I'm finally back. I hope some of my readers remain because I hope to start posting regularly again.

Happy Ramadan to all. Now I've got to cut this short because I need to finish reading today's juz so I can stay current. I've been doing a pretty good job of keeping up with one juz each day so I can finish reading the entire Quran during Ramadan.