Friday, August 26, 2011

Reflections on Ramadan

The corresponding video can be found here:

8/26/2011 10:42 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: logs in on 8/26/2011 10:42 am (et).
8/26/2011 10:42 am (et) Moderator: logs in on 8/26/2011 10:42 am (et).
8/26/2011 10:49 am (et) Susan: private message to Moderator: logs in on 8/26/2011 10:49 am (et).
8/26/2011 10:56 am (et) Christa: private message to Moderator: logs in on 8/26/2011 10:56 am (et).
8/26/2011 10:57 am (et) Josef: private message to Moderator: logs in on 8/26/2011 10:57 am (et).
8/26/2011 11:00 am (et) Moderator: Welcome! This is Rebecca from the InterFaith Conference (IFC) and I will be your moderator. As this is still new, let me explain how this will work. On the right, you will see a video playing of our current topic to get the conversation going. If you have a comment and/or question send it along to me, the moderator. As long as I deem it appropriate, the comment will be posted to everyone and the speaker will have the opportunity to answer your question.
8/26/2011 11:00 am (et) Moderator: Today, our topic is ‘Reflections on Ramadan.’ The reflection is from Ms. Farhanahz Ellis, the Interfaith and Outreach Director for the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS).
8/26/2011 11:01 am (et) Laura S: private message to Moderator: logs in on 8/26/2011 11:01 am (et).
8/26/2011 11:01 am (et) Moderator: As always, I would like to remind you of the rules of our engagement. This is a respectful place where we come together to learn more about the religions of the world. Whether you agree or disagree, we welcome your comments and questions that are posed in a respectful manner. Please no profane or offensive remarks, they will not be posted. Also, this is a place of learning, so please refrain from ‘soapboxing.’ If there are any issues or questions about this, they can be submitted along with the comments pertaining to our topic. I am here to make this a pleasant and educational experience for all, so enjoy and remember there are no stupid questions, just hostile ones!
8/26/2011 11:01 am (et) Moderator: You can now view the beginning comments on the right. As you listen, please feel free to start sending questions or comments (YES, we want your comments). Also, the video will remain within the sidebar, so feel free to return to it as you wish. Our chat window automatically refreshes to keep the flow going, but if you wish to view the whole of the conversation, just hit the archive button. And lastly, PLEASE do not use double quotes as it leads to some issues.
8/26/2011 11:09 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: You mention that other traditions fast, do you find that the spirituality you gain through observing Ramadan can act as a bridge with other traditions?
8/26/2011 11:10 am (et) Moderator: Christa said: What is the significance of light? Why does the fast last from sunrise to sunset?
8/26/2011 11:10 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Indeed, it is. If done properly the benefits of observing Ramadan should last all year long. And it translates to the relations with other faiths
8/26/2011 11:12 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: In my understanding of this practice, light is the parameter used to unify the way the observances are followed regardless of the location of the person.
8/26/2011 11:12 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: Do you find that it is a topic you can bond over? Do you find other traditions that look for or experience the same benefits in fasting?
8/26/2011 11:13 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: From what I've heard, most Muslims - even those who are not otherwise 'religious' - observe Ramadan. Would you equate this to the 'Christmas-Easter' only Christians or Jews who only go to synagogue for the High Holidays?
8/26/2011 11:13 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: The practice of fasting in every tradition goes to bring us closer to G-d, so, yes, it is very easy to bond over this.
8/26/2011 11:14 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: In addition to all the virtues and values represented by Ramadana, it also seems to be a major communal time for Muslims - communal gatherings to break the fast (daily and for Eid), and simply communal in the sense that countless Muslims around the world are doing this at this time.
8/26/2011 11:14 am (et) Hengist: private message to Moderator: logs in on 8/26/2011 11:14 am (et).
8/26/2011 11:15 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Each person practices at the level that makes them comfortable. And the fact that they keep the fast tells me that there is a bond between them and their faith.
8/26/2011 11:15 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: What was your experience when you started fasting as a kid? Did you have a 'test drive' of fasting before doing it full force? How many years of 'test drive'? was this a gradual increase of the 'test' until it was complete fast?
8/26/2011 11:16 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Ah Laura S. very observant lady! Yes, you got it; it is a very communal event in a very communal faith
8/26/2011 11:17 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Sadly, I have no experience of my own with fasting as a kid. I'm a convert/revert. So I started fasting late in life.
8/26/2011 11:17 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: Do you find that community a hindrance or a help when reaching out? I mean, it could be somewhat insular I imagine
8/26/2011 11:18 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: For Susan, could you please elaborate a wee more?
8/26/2011 11:19 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: Well, just that a community can either encourage people to reach out or it can encourage being somewhat detached
8/26/2011 11:19 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: staying only within the group, in the comfort zone
8/26/2011 11:19 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: and you just dove right into it full force? I have a student this semester who says he is fasting for Ramadan even though he is not a Muslim. He has many Muslim friends and has been fasting with them for several years.
8/26/2011 11:19 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: That's interesting Laura, why do you think your student does that?
8/26/2011 11:20 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: And how does that resonate with you Farhanahz?
8/26/2011 11:20 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: For Susan, it could be challenging; but I love to take all in as part of my "spiritual boot camp".
8/26/2011 11:20 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: to support his friends? for identify with them?
8/26/2011 11:20 am (et) Moderator: Josef said: Do you know of any scholars or schools of thought that connect Ramadan to living lightly on this earth / protecting the environment?
8/26/2011 11:21 am (et) Moderator: Hengist said: Re: Susan's question, people could be joined within their community to those who fast in the same way, but also to the larger community of people who fast in different ways, often for similar purposes.
8/26/2011 11:21 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Laura S: Yes, my first ramadan came a week after I converted. But I have had Muslim friends for a long time, so it was not difficult.
8/26/2011 11:22 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Actually, the whole of Islam Scholarship goes to care for the earth and everything it houses.
8/26/2011 11:22 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: Hmm, I mean I am sure they receive some type of spiritual benefit from joining their friends, but I find it interesting that a non-Muslim would turn to Islam to find some spirituality
8/26/2011 11:23 am (et) Moderator: Hengist said: In our fast, we also refrain from eating or drinking between sunrise and sunset, and I had friends who, not fasting, not of my belief, but, from friendship, would awake before dawn and join me for breakfast.
8/26/2011 11:23 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Susan, I have a couple of friends (non-Muslims) that fast during Ramadan as a diet! Funny isn't it?
8/26/2011 11:24 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: That must be pretty effective, haha
8/26/2011 11:24 am (et) Moderator: Christa said: I feel that these people are really in tune with the community aspect of the practice and want that in their lives regardless of religious beliefs
8/26/2011 11:25 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Farhanahz, Do you think the way Muslims these days (in Muslim lands) go crazy after dark for all night (party, gorge, etc) kind of negates the values of the daytime fast?
8/26/2011 11:25 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: I think so Christa. We human beings sometimes do things without fully understanding what the results could be. But this do not dimish the benefits we can receive from those actions.
8/26/2011 11:25 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Laura S- YYYYYYEEEESSS
8/26/2011 11:26 am (et) Hengist: private message to Moderator: logs off on 8/26/2011 11:26 am (et).
8/26/2011 11:26 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: What is the point of bringing spirituality in during the day, to push it out the door during the night. The fasting is a spiritual exercise, not a type of torture!
8/26/2011 11:27 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: Farhanahz, you work in interfaith, is there special outreach during this time, besides the interfaith iftar you mention
8/26/2011 11:28 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: Although I imagine al the charity work is also a great way to connect with people of other faiths
8/26/2011 11:28 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Susan, yes, there is. We work with other faith communities and religious organizations doing acts of charity to those in need.
8/26/2011 11:28 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Farhanahz, you mentioned being a convert to Islam. How long ago was that and could you share a bit as to why you decided to convert? (I am always interested in peoples' stories of conversion)
8/26/2011 11:29 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Laura, thanks for asking. I became a Muslim on Sunday, February 6th, 1994 at 2:13pm.
8/26/2011 11:29 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Good memory huh?
8/26/2011 11:30 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: That's like remembering your day and time of birth. I suppose it is like a rebirth
8/26/2011 11:30 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: But it must have been gradual and long in coming to that point (gestation)
8/26/2011 11:30 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: I was born and raised a Catholic. (Shout-out to my Catholic possee). After "test driving" different faiths, I found that Islam is the one that works for me.
8/26/2011 11:31 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: what was it about Islam that stood out more than the other faiths you explored?
8/26/2011 11:31 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Laura S, yes it was gradual. It took me 15 years to get to the conversion day, LOL
8/26/2011 11:31 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: WHat is the interfaith iftar like? I don't think I have ever been to one, but I know in Seders, where there is a set ritual they take time to explain a lot of the rituals
8/26/2011 11:32 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: I found Islam more in tune with my personality and my spirituality. Perhaps we can elaborate more about it over coffee?
8/26/2011 11:33 am (et) Moderator: Josef said: Has anyone in this chatroom made their Hajj, or plan on making it soon?
8/26/2011 11:34 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Susan, we do not have a very elaborate ritual for the breaking of the fast as there is in a Seder. By the way, ADAMS holds a Passover Seder every year, if you provide me with your contact info, I can see that you get invited next year.
8/26/2011 11:34 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Why would a Muslim mosque hold a Passover seder?
8/26/2011 11:36 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: Jews fast for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, does Ramadan have any of the same connotations of atonement?
8/26/2011 11:36 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: In Islam we are called to commemorate the liberation of our Jewish Brs and Srs from Pharaoh with the fast of Ashura. Joining them in a Seder is not far from it.
8/26/2011 11:37 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I (as a non-Muslim) went to an Iftar a few years ago. The Dar al Nor mosque in Prince William county held an interfaith programe earlier in the afternoon and then invited anyone to stay for Iftar. I think I was the only non-Muslim who did stay.
8/26/2011 11:37 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: I wouldn't dare to make a comment on it Susan, as I'm not knowledgeable on what the Yom Kippur fasting encompases. But atonement must be a big part of the life of a Muslim, not just during Ramadan.
8/26/2011 11:38 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: What did you think of it Laura S?
8/26/2011 11:38 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: well it would certainly make an interesting dialogue, just looking at the different ideas of fasting in traditions
8/26/2011 11:39 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Yom Kippur fast is just one day but a full 25 hours straight. I wonder which method of fasting is harder - 25 hours straight but just one day or 30 days but where you get to break the fast after dark
8/26/2011 11:39 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: In my book, 25 hours straight wins, LOL
8/26/2011 11:40 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: But Ramadan in August must rough...
8/26/2011 11:40 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Got to admit, I haven't been able to fast this year for health reasons.
8/26/2011 11:41 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: The Iftar was interesting, First there were MANY Muslims there. Men downstairs, women upstairs. I shared dates with them and then observed while they prayed the sundown prayer, then the meal was served. I only had a chance to chat with one older women who was next to me but many of the others there made me feel welcome simply by including me in sharing food and sitting with them.
8/26/2011 11:41 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: 25 hours 'wins' meaning it is harder or easier?
8/26/2011 11:42 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: H A R D E R !
8/26/2011 11:43 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: But I can just imagine how rewarding my Jewish siblings feel it is once is finished!
8/26/2011 11:43 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: then, at the end of Yom Kippur fast, there is the same sort of communial gathering - family (and friends) gather to break the fast with a traditionally dairy only meal
8/26/2011 11:44 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: I guess it is similar to the Catholic Paschal fats
8/26/2011 11:45 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: It is only an hour, but we are expected to take part in Communion after that as well
8/26/2011 11:45 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Yes, Susan, in a sense it is
8/26/2011 11:45 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: But most of the waking hours of Yom Kippur are spent in pray in synagogue. Unlike Ramadan where Muslims go about their daily life while fasting
8/26/2011 11:46 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: In Islam we believe that our reason for being is worshiping G-d, therefore everything we do, if done correctly, is an act of worship.
8/26/2011 11:46 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: I know that fast is meant to prepare us in a way, to center ourselves before taking part in Mass, do you find Ramadan similar?
8/26/2011 11:47 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: Although I guess I could make the leap from what you just said, Ramadan is a preparation for the year and the year is meant to be worship as Mass is...
8/26/2011 11:47 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: Maybe?
8/26/2011 11:47 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: As a preparation for an upcoming event? Yes, I do
8/26/2011 11:48 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: I don't mean to equate the two, but it is much easier to get a handle on it when I can compare with what I know
8/26/2011 11:48 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: In a sense, perhaps we can say Ramadan is preparation (renewal time) for the coming year as sabbath is renewal for the coming week
8/26/2011 11:48 am (et) Moderator: Josef said: I spent last Ramadan in Istanbul, and it seemed that many Muslims were not practicing the fast. Has this been a trend for Muslims in other secular nations? I also have friends here in the US that stopped practicing Ramdan in college. Do the five pillars of Islam appear in a specific sura or extracted from parts of the Qur'an and hadiths? Do you forsee traditions changing as significantly as they have with other religions?
8/26/2011 11:49 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Oh, dear! Susan, I did not think you were. LOL
8/26/2011 11:49 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Got it Laura!
8/26/2011 11:49 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: Ok, I just wanted to make sure, I would hate to be misunderstood in that sense
8/26/2011 11:51 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: I know Catholicism has definitely changed its fasting requirements over the years, I mean there are still traditionalists who fight the shortening of the Paschal fast from Vatican II, but the Church would say that nothing substantial has changed, would the practice of Ramadan be able to change without losing its substance?
8/26/2011 11:52 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Josef, in my personal experience, Ramadan is the one practice that Muslims in non-Muslim countries treasure the most.
8/26/2011 11:53 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Farhanahz, do you find it difficult to remember to stop what you are doing throughout the day to stop and pray at the specified times? I recently starting having to take eye drops four times a day and have a hard time remebering the stop and use them the two midday uses.
8/26/2011 11:53 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Ah Susan, if you allow me, I won't go there. Otherwise my next family reunion will be a shouting match between my "secular" "traditionalist" and "who know what" Catholic relatives, LOL
8/26/2011 11:54 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: Hmmm, maybe another way to phrase you find the substance of Ramadan to be in the fast? Or is it another part of the month?
8/26/2011 11:54 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Laura, I work at a Mosque, so that makes it easier. But the truth is that I learned to plan my day around the prayer times, so that makes all the difference.
8/26/2011 11:56 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I find it interesting that I am able to compare my experience with medication to the Muslim experience of prayer times. (people on HIV drugs use a watch alarm to remember - do Muslims tend to do this to remember when it's time for prayer?)
8/26/2011 11:57 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: I had a friend in college who had an app for that!
8/26/2011 11:57 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Susan, my view on the substance of Ramadan is the finetuning of your life for the rest of the year.
8/26/2011 11:57 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Some do, some just look at the sky for the clues
8/26/2011 11:58 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Some even write it in their agendas
8/26/2011 11:58 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: That's interesting because I can definitely see comparisons with other traditions there. It seems almost everyone has a time to reflect on life and bring it more in tune with beliefs
8/26/2011 11:58 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: sort of what the High Holy Days are for Jews
8/26/2011 11:59 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: You got it Laura!
8/26/2011 11:59 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Laura, are you a Jew?
8/26/2011 11:59 am (et) Moderator: Hi Everyone, it is about time to wrap up. I hope you have enjoyed the chat, but please finish any remaining thoughts.
8/26/2011 11:59 am (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Because I see that it comes easy for you to find the similarities
8/26/2011 12:00 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I was raised Jewish but I have spent more years of my life as a student of comparative religion
8/26/2011 12:00 pm (et) Moderator: Thank you for your participation today. Our chats will again be moving time slots as classes begin again. The new slot will be Thursdays from 1-2:00 PM EST. There will be no chat next week due to the Labor Day holiday, but we will resume on Thursday 9/8 with a discussion of interfaith commemorations of 9/11. Also, keep your eye on our website,, for a tentative chat schedule for the next few months.
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8/26/2011 12:01 pm (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Thanks everyone! Have a great day
8/26/2011 12:01 pm (et) Moderator: Ramadan Mubarak
8/26/2011 12:01 pm (et) Moderator: Josef said: Thank you!
8/26/2011 12:01 pm (et) Farhanahz Ellis: Ramadan Kareem to every one 

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