The religion of Islam teaches that we should care for our souls as well as our bodies. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Ramadan presents us with a powerful opportunity for soul care. Muslims engage in the spiritual practice of fasting, where they leave off drink, food, and intimate relations. The fast lasts from sunrise to sunset for twenty-nine to thirty days.
Muslims see themselves as part of a long line of religious communities that have fasted to obey the commands of God. We read in the Qur’an:
“You who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be mindful of God. Fast for a specific number of days, but if one of you is ill, or on a journey, on other days later. For those who can fast only with extreme difficulty, there is a way to compensate- feed a needy person. But if anyone does good of his own accord, it is better for him, and fasting is better for you if only you knew. It was in the month of Ramadan that the Quran was revealed as guidance for mankind, clear messages giving guidance, and distinguishing between right and wrong. So any one of you who is present that month should fast, and anyone who is ill or on a journey should make up for the lost days by fasting on other days later. God wants ease for you, not hardship. He wants you to complete the prescribed period and to glorify Him for having guided you, so that you may be thankful. [Prophet], if My servants ask you about Me, I am near. I respond to those who call Me, so let them respond to Me, and believe in Me, so that they may be guided.” Chapter 2:181-183
While we refrain from partaking in physical nourishment, we turn our focus to extending patience, forgiveness, and love to those around us. As we see in the verses fro the Qur’an, the deeper reason we fast in to grow in God-consciousness and kindness to our family, friends, and the broader community.
May the blessings of God rest upon you,
May God’s peace abide with you,
May God’s presence illuminate your hearts,
Now and forevermore.
Imam Shane Atkinson spent twenty years caring for patients as a Board Certified Orthotic and Prosthetic Practitioner. In 2011 he was awarded an Ijaza (Masters level traditional degree) to teach Islamic theology, law, and spirituality. He entered the Clinical Pastoral Education program at UNC Medical Center in 2015 as the first Muslim in their Chaplains Department. He completed a rigorous four units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), and now teaches in UNC’s CPE program as well as serving on their Professional Advisory Group. Since 2015, Shane has served as Associate Imam at As Salaam Islamic Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. He was named the recipient of the 2019 Muhammad Ali Spiritual Leadership Full-Tuition Scholarship to support his graduate studies in the Master of Divinity program at the Chicago Theological Seminary.