As I wrote in my last blog post, Muslims Are Human Too, I will try to fast during Ramadan this year, and tonight marks the beginning of the Holy Month of Ramadan. A few days ago, I reached out on Facebook to connect with someone who celebrates Eid al-Fitr so that I could have the chance to get the whole experience of participating in Islamic traditions. I have received so many heartwarming comments and messages from people who support my decision, as well as Muslims who would like to give me the full experience of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr.
During Ramadan, I will also engage with Islam through the Qur'an, reading at least a little bit every day, and if possible, I will try to use this time to freshen up my knowledge of Arabic. This is the perfect time to go all-in, but I am sure my plans, ideas and perception of this coming month will change drastically almost on a daily basis.
I will document my experience with text, pictures, and if I feel like it, I might even record some of my experience. This will all be published on this blog, and I hope that some of you will stop by to see how I am doing, what I am learning, and last but not least, what I am thinking about this experience, Islam and Muslims who practice their religion in a Western society.
I realize that many might question my decision to participate in a religion that I am not subscribed to, and so I figured this would be a great opportunity to deal with some of the (to me, at least) most obvious questions that might come up this month.
Why are you doing this?
Throughout my studies, I have focused on the MENA region, Arab culture and civilization, Islam and Arabic. Having this experience will be essential for me to learn more than I can ever do by reading books and articles, and I strongly believe that more people should experience other cultures and religions to build bridges between people in a modern society where we all have to live together.
I also hope that other people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike can see that religion does not have to separate us, but that we can use our similarities to come together. It is also an attempt to humanize Islam. I am in no way attempting to be the "savior of Islam" in a Western society, but I hope that some skeptics of Islam will realize that Islamic traditions and values are in fact neither dangerous or "different".
Are you going to convert?
No. My stance on religion is the same as it has been for years: I will not subscribe to any religion until the day I know it is the right thing to do. If I one day realize that I am religious, then I will convert, but until that day, I will engage with religions to learn and grow, just like I am doing now.
Islam is one of the largest religions worldwide, yet it is one of the religions I have learned the least about in school. Given how I have chosen to study the MENA region and Arabic, getting to know the most important religion of the region and of the language I have studied is essential for me to know how to interact with Muslims and Islam.
Will you start going to Mosque?
Maybe. I do not know if this is something that will last a month or a lifetime, but I have no reservations towards the idea of building a network of Muslim friends and acquaintances, and even going to Mosque to learn more. I already have a network of Christian friends and acquaintances, and I have no reservations towards going to church either.
What does you friends and family think of this?
Most of them support this decision, some do not. That is how it will always be, but I think they all realize that I am doing this for myself, not for someone else, and that I intend to use my gained knowledge to build bridges, not burn the ones I already have.