On the dawn of June 28th, Muslims, 23% of the world’s population, will celebrate Ramadan. For one month during the day, they will refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and copulating until after sunset. The story about Ramadan is the last one in my series that unites us, despite the division manifested by different religions.
Much of the Western knowledge of the Muslim religion may be based on the limited and negative press about militant Islamist groups, who are known to behave violently toward one another and the rest of the world. The observance of Ramadan is considered one of the five pillars of Islam, as commanded in the Holy Quran by Muhammad, who was born in about 570 CE in the Arabian city of Mecca. Muhammad received his first revelation from God at the age of 40 on the month of Ramadan. Three years later, he began to preach and publicly proclaim that God is One. The Islamic religion then spread very quickly in the Arabian world.
There are about 1.4 billion Muslims who live all over the world. I recently learned that there are more Muslims (344 million) in India and Pakistan combined, than in the entire Middle East (317 million).
I do not think any of us can comprehend what influences other people’s beliefs and actions, but at least I’ve tried. For intellectual curiosity, I have read the Quran, albeit in English, as well as some books about Islam. (I have read about other religions as well.) My conclusion: unless you are Muslim, or adhere to any other religion, you cannot truly understand why people do what they do.
But then I found something in common with other traditions. After Ramadan ends, there is a huge feast for three days. Muslims in each country have their own traditional meals. But no one has yet said no to a good cheesecake, especially one produced by the company Sara Lee with the stamp of approval for Halal (similar dietary restrictions to Kosher rules for the Jewish religion). For instance, those cakes do not contain pork or alcohol. Thank God—I would not eat those either.
We usually recognize representatives of various religious groups by their specific attire. Women who practice Islam wear a head scarf (Hijab), which covers their hair. In the Jerusalem market, I photographed a display of brightly colored hijabs. In some countries, women also cover their regular clothing when in public with a long cloak called Abaya. My images that you see here were taken in Jerusalem and San Francisco. Despite the difference in practice, we all belong to the same group—humans. Let’s behave and treat each other as such. Let’s share cheesecake together!
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