Ramadan similar to Lent

By 
  • July 14, 2013

TORONTO - Catholics aren’t the only ones who go hungry for their faith. On July 8 or 9, depending on lunar sightings, Canada’s one million Muslims began a month of fasting.

Ramadan, like Lent, requires both acts of charity and the discipline of fasting. Dependent on the lunar calendar, the Muslim month of observance shifts slightly from year to year. A midsummer Ramadan will require Toronto Muslims to go without food from about 5:45 a.m. to about 9 p.m. — more than 15 hours — every day.

“It does provide a challenge. That’s where faith comes in,” said University of Toronto student Sameer Zaheer. “You rely on your faith to help you get through things. You hope to increase your faith through acts of devotion to God.”

Zaheer is part of the Muslim- Catholic Student Dialogue organized by the Toronto archdiocese’s Office for Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. As a Muslim who has visited Catholic churches and served meals at St. Francis’ Table, Zaheer sees the connection between Ramadan and Lent.

“There are definitely parallels that people need to understand,” said the master’s candidate in biomedical engineering.

The link between fasting and charity is something Muslims are very aware of, said Zaheer.

“One of the reasons for Ramadan is to empathize with the poor — not just sympathize. It’s not to say, ‘I feel sorry for you’ but to say, ‘hey, I know what it feels like to be hungry and thirsty.’ ”

At the end of Ramadan Muslims give Zakat, an amount equal to 2.5 per cent of their last year of savings, to charity.

While there’s more than 120 students from University of Toronto, Ryerson and York University who have at some point participated in Muslim-Catholic Student Dialogue events, it’s a core of 15 to 20 students who regularly come out to dialogue meetings and joint social service activities. The group has been active since 2010.

The experience of learning about Islam directly from Muslims isn’t limited to university students. During Ramadan many mosques and Muslim organizations invite the community to participate in evening iftar meals when they break their daily fast. At an iftar dinner, Catholics are likely to learn that Ramadan is about more than fasting.

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