This week was the start of the holy month of Ramadan in Afghanistan and although I do not profess to be an expert, this is my understanding of Ramadan as well as a general overview of the Islamic faith. Ramadan has a significant meaning in Islam, as it is one of the pillars of Islam and Muslims around the world are expected to make certain sacrifices throughout the month. Most well known is that Muslims must fast during the day, but aside from that, they are required to abstain from various temptations and pleasures in order that this deprivation may bring them closer to God. Furthermore, although Muslims are normally expected to pray five times per day throughout the year, during Ramadan, these prayers last much longer and have a much more significant meaning. Finally, although it doesn’t seem to be a necessary requirement, many Muslims will read the entire Koran before the end of Ramadan. Once Ramadan ends, there is a great celebration known as Eid, which has as much significance in Islam as Christmas would for Christians.
As far the Islamic faith in general, Muslims believe that the Prophet Mohammed was born approximately 600 years after Jesus and that not only was he a messenger of God, he was the last messenger of God. According to their religion, God spoke to Mohammed and that these actual words are captured in the Koran (this occurred during the month of Ramadan). The Koran is considered to be an uncorrupted version of God’s word. It is the belief of Muslims that the word of God, passed through previous messengers, including Jesus and Moses, became corrupted and distorted.
Their religion holds that not only should Muslims live according to the word of God as written in the Koran, but that they should emulate the life of Mohammed and live as he himself lived. Many Muslims however, accept that Mohammed lived almost 1400 years ago and that in modern times much of the Prophet’s teachings should be taken figuratively and that they should emulate the life of Mohammed in the context of modern day society. However, there are many Islamic fundamentalists and extremists who believe that to be a true Muslim, one must not view the word of God in a figurative manner, but that one must live exactly as the Prophet did. It is no surprise that many of these extremists also preach anti-Western rhetoric, but many also sadly condone the killing of other Muslims who do not strictly live according to the Koran.
For the most part, Islam is a very peaceful religion and the majority of Muslims do not engage in such extreme practices. However, the unfortunate part is that western media tends to focus on these extremists, giving a very distorted view of Islam. Western society is inundated with extremist concepts such as “jihad” leading to irrational fears about Islam and those who practice it.
As for me, Ramadan means that my work tempo will slow down somewhat as the Afghans will only work for half days. However, this will leave me with plenty of opportunity to advance a few of my more pressing projects in anticipation of the end of Ramadan. I hope that all is well back in Canada and I hope that everyone enjoys the last few days of summer that are left.