[FOUNTAIN]The Many Lessons of RamadanThe Muslim fast of Ramadan began on Nov. 16. During the Month of Ramadan, Muslims fast; they may eat and drink during the night until they can plainly distinguish a white thread from a black thread. At dawn they resume the fast until nightfall.
Due to the Islamic tradition of fasting which dates back to the beginning of the religion, the Month of Ramadan, meaning the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, is better known as "the month of fast."
For Muslims, Ramadan has an important meaning. The month celebrates the period when Prophet Mohammed received the Holy Quran from heaven.
The month also marks the first great victory against the "heathen" at the Battle of Badr in 624. Fasting during Ramadan is a way to bow to God. Among Muslims, fasting is considered an act of approaching God through an attribute of angels. Muslims believe that because angels do not eat food, they are free from sin. Muslims believe fasting allows them to achieve the pure and innocent characteristics of angels.
In Asia, Zen priests taught that fasting is one of the ways to become hermits with miraculous powers. Zen priests believed that benevolent hermits eat fog and drink dew. Such lessons promoting fasting is aimed at inducing believers in Zen to abandon all their desires.
Buddha once said that fasting is not the way to reach spiritual awakening, but encouraged people to abstain from food and drink when they feel sick as a way to maintain health. In modern times, those who believe in fasting say it clears the mind and strengthens the body's natural power of recovery. Christians and Jews also have traditions of fasting. Although faiths differ, fasting is common.
Fasting during Ramadan also is intended to allow Muslims to experience the agony of hunger and motivate them to show love and mercy toward the poor. As a part of fundraising for famine victims, we often starve ourselves to understand their pains. Therefore, the Month of Ramadan is a time to show charity.
On the Muslim calendar, Ramadan can fall in any season; this year, it began just before December, the month of Christmas. Interestingly, the traditions of Ramadan and Christmas are similar; family members gather and neighbors share presents.
This year giving alms to the war victims in Afghanistan as a part of Ramadan and Christmas could give the followers of Islam and Christianity an opportunity to embrace each other. I hope the merciful and warmhearted assistance of international society will flood into Afghanistan.
The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chae In-taek