American Christians Keep the Fast of Ramadan

Ramadan 1428 / 2007

To our Muslim brothers and sisters everywhere:

All praise and thanks be to the one God whom we all worship, who has called you to worship Him after the manner of al-Islam, and us to worship Him according to the gospel of Jesus, whom both faith traditions hail as the Messiah: it is our deep wish that God strengthen you in your devotion to God, your love of God, and your trust in God during this month of Ramadan, and that everything that you do for His sake may be pleasing to Him.

We have joined you in keeping the fast of Ramadan this year, as a freewill offering to God accompanying our prayer for peace, justice, and a spirit of love to grow among the peoples of the Abrahamic religions. It is our desire that all over the world, if God so wills, Muslim, Jew and Christian can learn to stand together in brotherhood in the sight of their Creator, and encourage one another in faithfulness and good deeds. But we are mourning many of the deeds of our government and our people, as they continue to involve themselves in the affairs of Islamic peoples, and the lives of Muslim detainees held at United States facilities, without sufficiently caring or understanding what they are doing to the people whose lives they affect. To our sorrow, we see many American Christians trusting, supporting, and following policy-makers whose guiding principle seems to be “let us do evil, that good may come of it,” as if they did not know that our own scripture explicitly condemns it (Romans 3:8). In repenting our own complicity in this, we hope to lead our brother and sister Christians into repentance.

Our power to make the world’s leaders humble themselves, question their own behavior, and let their hearts be turned, seems very small. And yet we draw hope from our certainty that we are listened to by the true Ruler of this world, the Turner of Hearts, who sees everything and holds all power. This month we curb our natural appetites during daylight hours to be more mindful of the One to whom we must return, the Highest, our Helper. We perceive, sadly, that many American Christians lack understanding of what it means to be a Muslim. How better to change that than for some of us to join the Muslim world in its Ramadan fast? We also hope that such self-restraint as we gain from the fast might help restore a spirit of self-restraint to the worldly culture of the industrialized nations, in however small a way, for on our learning self-restraint now seems to depend the saving of the world from ruin.

Advised by Jesus himself to fast privately and without open display (Matthew 6:16-18), we make ourselves available for responses to this communication but without identifying ourselves individually by name. May God comfort you, sustain you in hope, and bestow on you every blessing.

Ramadan Fasters of Christ

Click to download a PDF of American Christians Keep the Fast of Ramadan

You may also be interested in The Fast of Ramadan, for Christians and Others.


15 Responses to “American Christians Keep the Fast of Ramadan”

  1. Ian Davis Says:

    Thank you for a kindness to a people not your own, yet very much your own.

  2. Vicky Chapman Says:

    Appreciate the intent, but please get your facts straight. Jesus is *not* in any way a ‘Messiah’ in the Islamic faith. The Islamic faith has no ‘Messiah’. To Muslims, Jesus was born of the virgin Mary and could do Miracles, and indeed brought the message of God to the people (like any prophet does) but he did not die on the cross nor was he resurrected. He simply ascended to heaven and will return in the Last Days to help defeat Shaitan (Satan).

  3. Lucky1346 Says:

    There’s no soft way to say this so I’ll just say it: You are making a mistake thinking that celebrating Ramadan will head off the jihad to bring about the global caliphate.

    The difference between the two mandates, of Jesus – son of God – and Muhammed – prophet of Allah, is that Jesus told us that our Earthly home is just that, a place for our corporeal beings, gifts from God, and God waits for us in Heaven. Muhammed claims to be the sole source of information (the Suras) from Allah, and that Earth is the place where Allah’s people (the Muslims) will reign.

    Being kind to your neighbor, a Muslim in this case, is one thing, but celebrating his religious feasts as a show of solidarity seems contrary to the mandate of Jesus Christ, speaking for his father, God.

    Submission and servitude to God is not the same as submission and dhimmitude to Allah.

    I appreciate the goodness factor in the Quaker religion, but I fear you are being duped by a religion that doesn’t – and won’t – return the favor.

    Jesus wasn’t a push-over and I don’t think God is, either. Don’t let this mantle kindness become like the shroud of Judas.

    • Thy Friend John Says:

      Dear Lucky1346:

      I’m very grateful for your intention to correct me, and may the Lord reward you for it. I think your perspective on several things is incorrect, though, and I’m afraid that the cause of truth might be injured by my neglecting to answer you. By this I mean that more than one visitor to this blog site might come away with false pictures of Christianity, of Quakerism, of Islam, and of the motivation behind my taking up the fast of Ramadan. And the world cannot afford more ignorance. Worse than that, if I didn’t answer you I’d be ashamed to face my Lord Jesus.

      I took up the fast of Ramadan because He told me to. He – Jesus Christ. This, I believe, was His answer to my prayer, “what can I do?”

      I was deeply concerned that, at the time, professed Christians in the United States were demonizing Islam and Muslims, and cheering on U.S. invasions of Islamic countries, in a way that, in my view, were shaming Christianity and the good name of my Lord. I had no interest in military or political outcomes. It was not on my agenda to do Islam a “favor” that I expected the world’s Muslims to “return.” God is not interested in our doing favors in order to be repaid; that’s why Jesus had us invite “the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind” to our feasts, the ones that cannot repay us (Luke 14:13-14). God wants us simply to tell the truth, ask for His guidance, and do what’s right.

      Neither did I think my fasting would “head off” the alleged “global jihad to bring about the world caliphate.” I am not an idolater; I was fasting to God, not to political forces. And, in any case, I believe that whatever tiny percentage of the world’s Muslims might be angry enough to want to bring about a world caliphate by force, they “would have no power except it were given them from above,” John 19:11.

      I regularly pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,” and that just about sums up my politics. On Election Day, 2008, I didn’t vote, but fasted for twenty-four hours and prayed for good government – again, because that’s what I felt my Lord wanted of me, when I turned to Him in prayer, concerned that I might be unfaithful to His testimony of non-violence (Matthew 5:39, 44; Luke 9:51-56; Matthew 26:52) by voting for a Commander-in-Chief.

      I think that you yourself, brother Lucky, might find yourself more at peace with God and with your fellow men and women if you detached yourself from worldly political outcomes. If God wants you to fight for a righteous cause, let Him put the spiritual weapon in your hand – remember that our weapons “are not carnal, but spiritual,” 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 – and then let Him direct your use of it. Do not rely on your own opinions, but let Him give you “a mouth, and wisdom,” Luke 21:15, as occasion arises.

      Now, about Islam: the most important thing about the world’s Muslims is that God, whom they call Allah, loves them and wishes them to love Him. If they were worshippers of idols of wood and stone, or of guns, sex and money, we would be right to stand aloof from fellowship with them, as Paul advised in 1 Corinthians 8 and 10 and 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. But they are worshippers of our God, the Creator of the Universe, the God of Abraham, Moses and Jesus. What can we say to such worshippers of the right God but – as Paul said to the worshippers of “the unknown God,” Acts 17:23 – “the God you revere is the one I proclaim to you?” (New Jerusalem Bible translation)

      Muslims hail Muhammad as the last prophet that God will send to the human race, but they do not claim that he is the sole source of information about Allah; in fact they hail the Biblical patriarchs, and Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Job, Jonah, John the Baptist and Jesus as prophets, and emphasize the similarity of all true prophets’ messages: there is one God, and only He is to be worshipped; He wishes people to turn from evil to good, and to love justice, mercy, truthfulness and lovingkindness; and the way to become such a good person is to surrender one’s own will to the will of God. The way of Islam is the most excellent way to do that, they say, but good Christians and good Jews are also dear to God, and their faith is to be respected and supported. Pretty close to the Christian Gospel, isn’t it? Pretty close except for the status of Jesus, and the role of His crucifixion and resurrection in our salvation. I can give you chapter-and-verse citations in the Qur’an for all these tenets if you’re interested.

      There are, of course, differences of nuance: there are many teachings of Jesus that aren’t included in Islamic tradition (and conversely, Islamic tradition has preserved many alleged sayings of Jesus that aren’t included in the Gospels). The Qur’an says nothing about the teachings of the Christian Apostles. The precious prophecies of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Joel, fulfilled under the New Covenant with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the writing of the Law on the believers’ new hearts, are reflected in the promise of an inwardly received criterion of right and wrong in Qur’an 8:29, but somehow the gift of the Holy Spirit promised in Christian scripture seems bigger than anything I’ve found recorded in the Qur’an. Also, I don’t see Islam’s allowing for my becoming a New Creature in Christ, which has been a matter of personal experience for me, and so I remain a Christian, as I was called to be, not tempted to convert to Islam. But I respect it and hope to deepen my understanding of it.

      You say that for Christians, God waits for us in Heaven, but for Muslims, Earth is the place where Allah’s servants, the Muslims, are to reign. This is absolute baloney. First of all, Jesus said “the kingdom of God is within you,” Luke 17:21, and Paul said that it was righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, Romans 14:17. True, we may long to be free of the flesh and present with Christ, as Paul did, but if we are faithful we are at home with God and Christ right here, right now, and God has ways of making us know that. What Christ warns us against is becoming too attached to the good things of this life in the flesh and forgetting God: that’s the only thing wrong with this world of suffering and ignorance that we temporarily find ourselves in. It’s not that God is absent.

      Neither is Allah absent from this world for the Muslim, but neither are the good things of this world the objects a Muslim should be striving for. If anything, the reader of the Qur’an is warned more often than the reader of Christian Scripture that He or She will shortly be standing before the Judgment Seat on the Last Day, about to be flung into hell or gently led into Paradise. The Muslim who forgets this Judgment and sets his heart on wealth, power and world conquest is clearly as far astray as the Christian who does so. Friend Lucky, please check your sources of information on Islam. They have not told you the truth.

  4. Sam Says:

    “All praise and thanks be to the one God whom we all worship, who has called you to worship Him after the manner of al-Islam, and us to worship Him according to the gospel of Jesus,…”

    With all due respect I ask why would God call anyone to worship Him after the manner of al-Islam when the Bible clearly states that there is NO OTHER name given in Heaven or Earth by which men must be saved, referring of course to Jesus?

    I will be fasting for Ramadan also but I do it because I feel that if these poor people who are clearly spiritually decieved do it, how can I NOT do it. Also, I wish to show solidarity with my Muslim friends to show that I care about them enough to endure with them. My desire is that while I am focussing on God, He will use that testimony to speak to my Muslim friends of His love for them so that they too will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

    There is ONE mediator between God and man – Jesus Christ and the way is straight and the way is narrow and by His own admission He (Jesus) is THE way, THE truth and THE life and NO ONE comes to God except through Him.

    May His peace be upon you all!

  5. John Edminster Says:

    Thank you, friend Sam, for this reminder; I think I haven’t dealt with this problem adequately, in my writings to Muslims or on this blog generally.

    Let us both pray to the liberal Giver of all wisdom (James 1:5), and Bestower of the Holy Spirit of Truth (John 14:15-17, Luke 11:13), that this conversation between us might bring us both closer to that ultimate knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ in which eternal life consists (John 17:3).

    It’s true that our Scriptures affirm that “there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Peter, speaking in the Holy Spirit, in Acts 4:12), “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11). As John puts it, “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12).

    The problem, for both Muslims and us Christians, is that we see as through a glass, darkly. Many Muslims see Christians as involved in the unpardonable sin of ascribing a partner to God, namely Jesus Christ, not realizing that, as all Christians should understand (but some do not), Jesus Christ has no will to do anything but the will of God the Father; they are One. Or they are offended by Christians’ use of the metaphor of begetting to describe the relation between God and Christ (and those of us who, enjoying the new life in Christ, share in His sonship). On the Christian side, we’ve historically tended to consign everyone to hell who doesn’t agree with our doctrines, as if Judgment Day were going to be a theology final rather than a weighing of our hearts and consciences. Our own Scripture should warn us against such smugness about ourselves and such presumptuous judging of others: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 John 4:7).

    My reading of this one line tells me that any Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or pagan saint that loves truly, loves the Source of creation and consciousness, loves the whole of creation, friend and foe alike, loves the Good enough to die for it — Jesus Christ lives in that person, and what we find admirable in that person is nothing other than Jesus Christ shining through that personality, which is to say, the boundless goodness of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

    This does not mean that I expect that when I leave this flesh and see things as they really are, I’ll change from a Christian into a Unitarian-Universalist or a Baha’i or someone who holds that all religions are one. I live in Christ and Christ lives in me: that’s an experienced reality, not to be denied or renounced.

    What I think more likely is that good-hearted people of other faith traditions, waking up to reality as it really is, will experience themselves as parts or cells of a larger Holy Organism, through which they have eternal life in communion with God the Creator of that Holy Organism — “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature” (Colossians 1:15). And at THAT every knee shall bow: how could it not?

    In the meantime I’m inclined to believe that Muslims are called to strive to be good servants of Allah in the spirit of al-Islam, Buddhists to strive to be good practitioners of the wise and compassionate Dharma, Jews to love God and their neighbors as they were always commanded to, etc., just as Christians are called to be Christians, for in every faith tradition there is ample opportunity to grow in godliness and lovingkindness, and thereby to please God; and when it pleases God to inspire some soul to make a quantum-leap from one less spiritually nourishing faith tradition to another that promises to serve that soul better, then I pray that you and I may stand ready to show the reasonableness and attractiveness of the Christian faith that I am sure we both would be proud to give our lives for.

    • Daniel Gilliéron Says:

      Dear John,

      I’m a Baha’i from the West living in China. I have great respect for your views and convictions and actually share them (except for the function Jesus fulfills in your life which is assumed in my existence by Baha’u’llah). If all people held similar views to yours, the world would be a much more peaceful place. In wisdom and moderate speech you are superior to most commentors whose contributions I get to read…

  6. Kate Says:

    Hi Sam, I mean you no disrespect.

    However, this statement you made was very troubling to me:

    “I will be fasting for Ramadan also but I do it because I feel that if these poor people who are clearly spiritually deceived do it, how can I NOT do it.”

    That’s very offensive.

    Personally, I have no doubt in my mind that the God worshiped by Muslims and the God in my own life are one and the same.

    You may not agree, and that is fine.

    However, if you don’t respect Muslims’ belief system, in my opinion, undertaking their spiritual practices alongside them is offensive. Hoping they will see your dedication and be led to convert to Christianity as you suggest is at best a bit misguided.

  7. Thy Friend John Says:

    Dear Daniel,

    What a delight to get your comment! It comes to me on a morning when I’d just advised a friend to keep prayerfully silent rather than respond to a detractor who was defaming us by e-mail, and so it feels to me like a kiss from God for my faithfully saying the right thing _as well as_ a friendly letter from you, Daniel.

    For such wisdom and moderate speech as I exhibit, all thanks are due to God, who is doing marvels to restrain and retrain my tongue and pen; I didn’t always say such wise and moderate things. A little over forty years ago I complained of insect bites to a Buddhist nun who said, matter-of-factly, “Ah, yes. You are in the Hate Group.” And was I ever! And still am; but, by the grace of God, now in recovery.

    May Jesus and Baha’u’llah bless us both. I look forward to hearing more from you,

    Thy Friend John

  8. Trevor Says:

    I think today (or yesterday?) (give or take a moonrise/longitude/dateline) was id ul fitr the end of Ramadan three years after your original post and at a time when the Koran and one American pastor are very much in the news.
    Both the Koran and the Bible (as one BYM Quaker from my local meeting wrote recently re the Bible) contain sections ‘which are repugnant’.
    By the serendipity of the internet I came across your blog by way of a search for “naked quakers” – which brings up also interesting recent books, one British and one American.
    I found your comments, especially that in reply to Sam, deeply moving bringing me close to tears. As a newish attender in London UK, trying to make sense of it (what is this ‘God thing’ exactly?) I will add the blog to my quaker reading list.
    Thank-you and happy id ul fitr

  9. Thy Friend John Says:

    Thank you, Trevor, and God bless you! Your drawing my attention to my response to Sam (dated 7/8/09) reminds me that I’ve already written a sturdy-looking statement (and therefore don’t need to re-invent one!) of how I can be a Christian, agree that “at His name every knee shall bow,” and still respect the non-Christian faiths of others without feeling secretly superior, or perhaps secretly guilty that I’ve been privileged with a theological correctness that my Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim neighbors lack.

    If I harbored either of these toxic sentiments in my heart I’d be in violation of Philippians 2:3, now, wouldn’t I? And then my neighbors could all have a good laugh at my pretensions to Christianity, and, come to think of it, so would I; and after we’d all had a neighborhood community feast together and laughed to our heart’s content, I might go into my closet and ask my Savior to do me the kindness of healing me of both illusions, both the secret superiority and the secret guilt; and then I might steal over to a window and look out at my neighbors, still partying in the street, and see them all transformed into holy angels shining with divine light. Wow!

    To continue this fantasy just one more step — I can’t resist it, Trevor — I might then “take hold of the skirt of one who is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you,” Zechariah 8:23.

    Yes, I agree, both the Bible and the Qur’an contain material that I find repugnant, such as Ecclesiastes’ categorical put-down of women (7:28), which I take to be a mere statement of one man’s opinion; but nonetheless I hope never to follow Thomas Jefferson’s example and take a razor to Scripture to cut out the parts I don’t like, believing with the author of 2 Timothy that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, [and] for instruction in righteousness” (3:16). If something offends me, it may be that God has yet to open its true, spiritual meaning to me. Or I may see that God, who is Love (1 John 4:16) inspired the passage, but the human writer had a mind-set that made God appear wrathful and terrible. But God will guide us to the right understanding of Scripture if we ask for it.

    Finally — yes I am a naked Quaker! And my wife can confirm it! I just don’t show it most of the time.

    Wishing thee a blessed Id ul-Fitr, a blessed Jewish New Year, and a blessed life, I am thy friend forever,


  10. Trevor Says:

    Thanks John
    I only saw your interesting reply to-day as I received an email reminder regarding your new post.
    A few days after my comment was written I did get round to starting a blog to record my experiences and learning as a new attender. I hope some of the history and links may be of interest. I hope to add a list of international Quaker blogs and forums later.
    Your knowledge of the Bible (and the Koran) seems extraordinary. I won’t even hope to study that far but today I have been reading the interesting translation and commentary on the ‘Gospel of Thomas’ by the British Quaker
    Hugh McGregor Ross.

  11. Thy Friend John Says:

    Dear Trevor,

    Thanks for this — and good hearing from you again!

    My familiarity with the Bible and the Qur’an is a by-product of my doing a lot of writing that calls for scriptural citations, my wondering “now where is that phrase found?” and running to the concordance to look it up. I’ve done this largely because I want to help my fellow Quakers regain the familiarity with Judeo-Christian scripture that they had in centuries past, and while they’re at it (since we live in such a multi-cultural world, and since God has revealed Him/Herself in many parts and places (see Hebrews 1:1) in all the world’s sacred writings), I’d also like to help them get more familiar with the treasures to be found in the Qur’an, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Yoga Sutras, and the texts of Buddhism. All these are so much more nourishing, once the Holy Spirit opens them for us, than the newspaper or so much of the other stuff we divert our minds with! (Though this is not to say that, if the Lord so willed, the Holy Spirit couldn’t “open” any text to us, even a telephone directory, a pornographic novel or an advertising flyer. There is no limiting the Lord!)

    But I confess that I’ve done all this Bible study partly to impress people, perhaps to compensate for a deeply felt sense that I’m not, after all, a person with very much to offer. (My wife and children tell me otherwise, but this sense of smallness, I think, was set deep in my childhood.) But I’ve prayed the Lord to heal me of all these ego-pathologies, both the overinflation of self and the undervaluing of the creature that He/She did, after all, create in His/Her own glorious image. And knowing that the Lord hears my prayer, I look forward eagerly to freedom from bondage to the ego, for myself and for all of us, so that we might all know ourselves truly as we are. But as you can see I’m not there yet.

    And therefore I feel permitted to blog, and to preach and prophesy as I feel led by the Holy Spirit, but not yet to teach from direct knowledge, as I might if I had once been fully awakened to the presence of God.

    Interestingly, I’ve felt myself commissioned to do what I can, and reassured that it’s of real value, in spite of my not being “awake” yet. In mid-life, asked to name what I most wanted for myself, I felt led to say “obedience” rather than “enlightenment,” because it came to me at that moment that if I were obedient I’d do the very same things I’d do if I were enlightened. And then, somewhere around the turn of the millennium, I got the message in meeting for worship, “I awaken whom I will, when I think best; and comfort thou the ones that are still asleep.” In other words, though I still see as through a glass, darkly, i.e., am one of the sleepers myself, I know enough of the goodness of God to be a comforter to my fellow sleepers. And we so need comfort! The world seems a frightening place indeed, with humanity, ears stopped to the warning evidence, seeming set on cooking the planet into uninhabitability. But God is wiser than our foolishness, and can be trusted absolutely!

  12. Trevor Says:

    Thanks John.
    A lengthy reply! I think your ideas are very encouraging. ‘Through a glass darkly’ I think is George Eliot? Not so sure about trusting God absolutely – perhaps it’s up to us to fulfill God’s purpose – or not and leave our grandchildren the uninhabitable planet.
    I returned to my local meeting today after 6 weeks absence in Spain (where there are almost no quakers or meetings).
    Best wishes from London

    • Thy Friend John Says:

      Welcome back to London! In what part of London do you live? (I’ve only been there once, for one week on my honeymoon with Elizabeth; I liked very much what I saw of it, except that I was disappointed that the Isle of Dogs was not the big boggy meadow full of wild golden retrievers that I’d been naive enough to visualize).

      “Through a glass, darkly” might well have come from George Eliot, but she would have gotten it from the King James translation of Paul: — First Corinthians 13:12.

      I’m aware that we’re God’s arms, legs and voices here on earth, and that if we don’t listen to God’s voice we bring needless suffering onto ourselves and others. I’m not suggesting that we sit back and enjoy our cigars while we wait for God to rescue the earth; but I do urge those who share my concerns about the earth to wait for God’s guidance and not just rush forward in self-will to do what seems the plausible thing — threaten our congressman, or try to humiliate British Petroleum, or throw money at environmental interest groups.

      I think there’s great wisdom in the apostolic advice “The servant of the Lord must not strive,” 2 Timothy 2:24 — I know that most Biblical scholars discredit Second Timothy as not genuinely from Paul’s hand, but this verse was “opened” to me some years ago and I feel the truth in it: that if I shout at the ignorant, or threaten the evildoers, I tend to perpetuate the adversarial mind-set in them that keeps them from being rightly led. We all like to say “I’ll show them,” but when our fist lands on their jaw it fails to show them anything except that they’re now justified in hating us.

      So unless God sends me as a prophet to Wall Street or Washington with a fiery warning message, I’m more inclined to expect my task to be something like singing lovingly to the plants and the waters, or simply praying to God to save us from our own collective stupidity. Mind you, this is not my natural inclination; my natural inclination is to name outward enemies and then fight them, as my father taught me that a proper man should do. But I am asking Christ to give me a new nature, and the new nature I’m being given seems to want more to overcome the adversarial spirit in myself than to target other people and institutions. I think that God is trying to teach us that the Archimedean point of leverage “by which we might move the earth” is within ourselves. I speak tentatively here because I don’t yet know the truth of this; I take it by faith.

      Thank you for your interest in my thoughts! It’s making me take them out and see what they are. I need such people as you in my life, Trevor, and I greatly appreciate what you’re doing for me.

      In God’s light, or so I hope,


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