In 2011, Servants ran a ‘Ramadan Reflections’ series everyday through the month of Ramadan, looking at life in some of the Islamic settings that Servants works in – India, Indonesia and Southall in the UK. As the end of the month of Ramadan is approaching, this fortnight’s From the Archive Friday revisits this post from a member of the Jakarta Team as she participates in her first Ramadan fast. To read the other posts from the series, use the search icon to search for Ramadan, or click on the tag at the end of the article.
May I introduce … THIRST
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul longeth after thee,” the familiar psalmist writes. This week that verse has taken on new meaning for me, as I join in the Ramadhan fasting. The verse has been contextualized in my head to be: “As the Ramadhan-fasting-person-in-Jakarta’s-90degree-weather longs for stream of water, so our souls longeth after thee.”
This is the first time in my life that I have experienced living in a Muslim community. This is my first Ramadhan. It is the first time I have ever denied myself water.
Thirst at times is the only thing I can think about.
It has been a beautiful experience with my neighbors. Beginning at 2:30am, children and other volunteers go around the neighborhood playing drums, pots and pans, large water bottles, and anything else that makes noise– to help the neighborhood wake up. Calls of “Sahur! Sahur! Bangun!” ring out across the neighborhood. Those who are fasting must wake up, eat and drink before the 4:30am call to prayer. Some of us go back to bed, others stay awake. And then begins the daily fast; no food, drink, cigarettes brushing teeth, or swimming until sundown and the Mosques once again call out the Magrib pray time.
It has been a week of receiving generosity. Neighbors bring me plates of food and bowls of sugary, calorie-packed drink (sweet potato, banana, coconut milk, jello, and sugar). They invite me to join them in the evening Break Fast meal. My neighbors love that I am joining the fast, and take pity on me as a single person far away from my own family. They invite me into their homes and into their lives.
I have gotten varying answers when I question people about the purpose of the fast. One of the most intriguing answers is that Ramadhan is a month to help the rich feel what it is like to be poor- to be hungry and thirsty. And yet it seems like a hard burden for the poor to carry- this fasting. Those who work long hours collecting trash, building houses, or walking the streets selling things find Jakarta’s sun too much to bear if not drinking. It is slightly ironic that the rich get to go home from their air conditioned office jobs early during fasting month. The poor do not have that luxury. In Islam, it is easier to be holy if you are wealthy. One can fast, give the necessary sacrifices and offerings, and make the pilgrimage to Mecca. But for my neighbors, they do the best they can…to follow the traditions that have been handed down to them and their community.
One sixth of the world is reported to be Muslim, which means a large percentage of the world is fasting right now. My neighbors are beautiful people, teaching me about generosity,community, and rest. Ramadhan is no longer just a fact on a page that I read about in World Religion class in high school.
It is a privilege to be sharing life with these people. My prayer is that as we are thirsty and hungry, our Father would make Himself known to us. That we would drink from the living water and thirst no more.
Please pray for …
– the experience of physical hunger and thirst to correspond to spiritual hunger and thirst
– a deeper understanding of Jesus as the bread of life (John 6:35), and living water (John 7:37-38)
Did you know …
Hinduism and Buddhism, both from India, were the first religions to make a lasting impact on Indonesia, and the two religions became intertwined during the 8th century. Islam arrived through trade in the twelfth century, before any significant Christian missionary efforts took place. Its success is due primarily to the similarities this mystical and devotional type of Islam shared with the Hindu-Buddhist culture. Islam entered Indonesia first in Aceh, and then spread eastward primarily through coastal trading routes. The religion continues to prevail to this day with 88% of the population adhering to Islam.
[Written by a member of the Servants Team in Jakarta.]
[Servants works in a number of Islamic settings, including India and Indonesia. This month is the month of Ramadan (also known as Ramazan), the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which lasts about 30 days. It is a month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours and is intended to teach Muslims about patience, spirituality, humility and submissiveness to God. Each day this month we will be putting reflections, stories, and information about Islam on this website to help you learn more and pray for our Muslim friends.]