Interview with a Muslim teacher on Beauty of Ramadan

http://www.readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0727_Najah_Bazzy_Beauty_of_Ramadan.jpgNAJAH BAZZY, head of Zaman International and author of The Beauty of Ramadan. Photo by David Crumm.Najah Bazzy’s mission in life is teaching people about Islam and the deep compassion that lies at the heart of all the Abrahamic faiths. She lives out this vocation every day. She co-founded a large Muslim youth group in Michigan and also travels the U.S. as an expert on cross-cultural health care. She heads Zaman International, a nonprofit that specializes in clothing, feeding and educating needy people in the U.S. and overseas. In her Zaman headquarters, a huge sign celebrates a program in Kenya to provide fresh water for families in a rural area. On another wall hangs a hand-stitched alphabet quilt produced in an educational program to teach women sewing skills as well as proficiency in English.

From her global perspective, Najah wrote The Beauty of Ramadan to help Muslims and non-Muslims understand the many complex traditions associated with the month of fasting. The book is especially helpful to community leaders who are trying to understand what Muslim families experience.

We asked Najah Bazzy to share with ReadTheSpirit readers her insights into Ramadan 2011, which is one of the most difficult in decades.

INTERVIEW WITH NAJAH BAZZY
ON THE BEAUTY OF RAMADAN

DAVID: How should we greet Muslims?

NAJAH: Just say Ramadan Mubarak.

DAVID: That’s pronounced Moo-BAH-rahk. But, if people don’t want to attempt that word, what else can they say to Muslim neighbors and friends?

NAJAH: Just say Happy Ramadan.

DAVID: What else can we do to wish Muslim colleagues well this month?

NAJAH: I think it’s beautiful when someone acknowledges that we are going through the fast by maybe leaving something on our desk that we can eat later when we break the fast. I do that myself for friends during Ramadan.

At least show some understanding to your Muslim colleagues. As Muslims, we do need to keep up our work during Ramadan, but it’s helpful if people working around us understand that we may be conserving our energy a bit throughout the day. During Ramadan, we may not be as energetic or as talkative as we are the rest of the year. We might take a quiet time during our lunch break to read the Quran and reflect. If you aren’t fasting and you normally eat your lunch in a cubicle next to a Muslim co-worker, think about eating somewhere else.

DAVID: You are an expert in cross-cultural nursing. Tell us more about the physical demands.

NAJAH: The Muslim seasons move through the calendar over the years, because our traditional months are based on lunar cycles. We haven’t seen a mid-summer Ramadan like this in about two decades. My thoughts immediately go out to all those around the world who don’t have air conditioning. In our fast, we are not even drinking water during the day. All around the world, there are so many people who do have to work everyday. Many work outside; many work in the fields. That is so difficult in mid-summer.

One beautiful thing this year is that children in our country are off school throughout Ramadan, which means there’s more family time. There isn’t the pressure this year on students and high school athletes who are trying to fast. It will be difficult, but I know I am really looking forward to the fast this year. As Ramadan inches closer, there’s this excitement that comes with it. God is preparing us for this experience. I actually can’t wait for August 1 to come.

DAVID: A great deal of the focus of Ramadan is prayer. What will people be praying about this year? What are you hearing?

NAJAH: I’m hearing that this will be a somber Ramadan. There is real concern about what is happening around the Muslim world.

DAVID: You’re talking about the Arab Spring? The popular movements calling for freedom?

NAJAH: Yes, we all are very concerned about people in Syria, Bahrain and Libya. So many vulnerable families are caught in unbelievably difficult, dangerous situations this year. I’m hearing a lot of people calling for prayers for freedom this year. We always pray for peace in Ramadan. So, prayers of concern for people around the world, for freedom, for peace. People are very serious about this. I’m hearing that there are small groups getting together to talk and pray and reflect this year. I’m talking about groups of women, youth and others who aren’t necessarily going to a mosque to meet. They just want to spend time together reflecting on issues in the world.

DAVID: You sound hopeful in the face of all of these concerns.

NAJAH: When we are in Ramadan mode, we have to focus on hope. God says that of all the sins, one of the greatest is losing hope. To lose our hope in God’s justice is a big problem. So, I think a lot of people are like me—feeling heavy hearted but focusing on prayer and in the end feeling hopeful.

Care to read more about Islam and Ramadan?

Care to read more from Dr. John Esposito? Here is ReadTheSpirit’s most recent interview with him.

Care to read more about Ramadan? We recommend The Beauty of Ramadan.

 

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Originally published at www.ReadTheSpirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.

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