Let’s share our Ramadan joy with our non-Muslim friends
We’ve been waiting for the blessed Ramadan for a year and now it has finally arrived. Though we go without taking a morsel of bread or a sip of water the whole day (for about 14 hours), yet the auspicious month brings great spiritual joy to us.
During Ramadan, while we are individually enhancing self-improvement (see my article, Article 18 under Practical Islam, in the blog), let us also enhance harmony with the non-Muslims in Singapore – by sharing our Ramadan joy with them, specifically with your close non-Muslim friends who would love to observe Islamic practices at close range.
You can put some effort to do two things in Ramadan: one, invite a few of your non-Muslim friends for iftar (breaking of fast meal), perhaps at week-ends; and two, invite them to your home for Eid ul-Fitri (Festival of Charity) or Hari Raya celebration.
Let me first and rightly begin with the Muslim greeting of “Assalamu-alaikum” which means “Peace be upon you”. Your non-Muslim friends may like to know more about this phrase which contains the word “peace”. This is an international greeting phrase of all Muslims in the world, whether they are America Muslims or Chinese Muslims or Arab Muslims or Indian Muslims or Japanese Muslims – they all greet with the phrase “Peace be upon you”, a beautiful phrase indeed which our Prophet Jesus Christ, too, used upon meeting his disciples as indicated in the Bible (John 20:21).
The word “Islam” itself comes from the root word “salema” (salam) which expresses the meaning of peace.
The response to “Assalamu-alaikum” is “Wa-alaikum Salam”, which means “Peace be upon you, too”? Your non-Muslim friends would be glad to know it. And perhaps they may begin to use the Islamic greeting correctly when they meet their Muslim friends. Furthermore, nowadays there are so many converts to Islam, some of your non-Muslim friends may have converts in their families.
Since the Muslim greeting “Assalamu-alaikum” is so commonly heard by the non-Muslims in Singapore, surely there would be some non-Muslim friends of yours who would greet you with this phrase, and it would be good to respond in the Islamic way – to further enhance our togetherness and harmony. (Some of my non-Muslim friends greet me in the Islamic way.)
In this regard, Islamic scholars say that when a non-Muslim greets a Muslim with the salam in the proper manner, the Muslim ought to respond properly.
An article in The Star, “Nothing wrong if non-Muslims use salam, says mufti”, mentions that the Mufti of Perlis Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin said that when non-Muslims greet a Muslim ‘with all honesty, that is, they truly wish us peace.’”, the Muslim ought to respond.
The Mufti said: “Islam teaches us that an honourable greeting must be replied appropriately. Therefore, Muslims should answer such a greeting fully.”
Now that we are in Ramadan, while we develop themselves spiritually it is an opportunity for us Muslims to spread peace in the Islamic way. Various activities could be organised towards achieving this end.
But individually you can invite some of your close non-Muslim friends for iftar (breaking of fast) at your home on week-ends. By making such an invitation, your non-Muslim friends could receive some learning points like:
- Why Muslims fast;
- The don’ts of fasting month (not only total abstinence from food and drinks but also from smoking and marital sex in the day);
- The importance of breaking fast time – not before the time or too late, and how to know the exact time – from prayer time-table or azan;
- How the Islamic calendar works – 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar;
- Eating (small meal) together with family members, even friends and neighbours, and
- Have time for maghrib prayers (while your non-Muslim friends wait or watch).
You may even take your non-Muslims friends to the mosque for iftar. Here, the learning points may include:
- Observing mosque etiquette (no wearing shorts or short skirts)
- Listening to the azan (What is azan and the message in the azan)
- Watching how iftar is undertaken – dates, bubur and drink – why?) and
- Learning how Muslims get ready for the maghrib prayers (and about the way Muslims pray and why in such a manner).
No Muslim in the mosque would ask you why you bring your non-Muslim friends there. In fact, they would be glad to have them.
You may even take your non-Muslim friends to Darul Arqam (Muslim Converts’ Association of Singapore) for iftar on Saturdays. Here, they will be able to see converts, many of whom may be doing their fast for the first time upon conversion to Islam.
You may also invite your non-Muslim friends to your home for Hari Raya (Eidil Fitri) during which they may learn:
- About Ramadan experiences;
- About the importance of Hari Raya – day of forgiveness;
- That the occasion is a special gathering of family members, relatives and friends – how they dress, what they do.
- That although it is a celebrative day, there should be no wild merry-making as it is a religious function. Drink parties are actually haram (prohibited) in Islam.
Muslims are people who are friendly and uphold the virtue of peace and harmony.
Islam is a deen (God-conscious righteous way of living) that embraces peace, brotherhood, charity, compassion and tolerance. It’s a deen that instructs its followers to share the Islamic perspectives with non-Muslims to gain religious harmony among all the followers of the various religions.
Wishing you Ramadan Mubarak and that your blessed Ramadan ibadah has begun positively and joyfully.
By: Shaik Kadir
2 Ramadan 1435 H (30 June 2014)
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