United Methodist Rev. Wess Magruder has not only decided to observe the Ramadan fast this year with his Muslim friends, blog about his experience, but break his fast with Muslims as well. Last night, Magruder accepted the invitation of a local Muslim to eat “iftar,” the fast-breaking meal at the McKinney Islamic Association. Having succeeded in fasting from sunrise till sunset for eight consecutive days, the pastor appreciated God’s grace in this communal meal. Most importantly, this celebration reminded him of the main reason why he had decided to fast: neighborly love.
Magruder writes on his blog how he has been feeling spiritually stale lately and how he was yearning to the old Christian fast that he believes Americans are not big fans of. Therefore, Magruder turned to the Muslim faith for inspiration since he knew that Muslims have successfully been fasting for 30 days each year during Ramadan for over fourteen hundred years. The Muslim fast is a total abstention from eating and drinking during the daylight hours. Furthermore, the fast goes beyond the stomach to include the eyes, the tongue, the ears, and all limbs which are expected to be trained to submit to the pleasure of God by refraining from ill manners and moral vice. A few Muslims succeed in attaining a heart-fast where they become spiritually submissive to the divine as well.
Thus, Magruder’s blog includes a lot of comparative religion as well as spiritual efforts for a quest for the Divine. “I feel a constant “buzz” [during the fast] in my head,” he wrote. “This buzz serves a useful purpose, by the way. It keeps me conscious of God, of God’s presence, of God’s will that is bursting to become real in the world. And so when something else isn’t going on in front of me, the buzz reminds me to speak to God.”
Another main reason that the pastor took on the Muslim fast is his Christian ethics of loving God and loving neighbors. “But there’s another reason that I have chosen to ‘act like a Muslim’ over the next thirty days. I truly want to stand in solidarity with my friend, [Imam Sheikh] Yaseen, and his congregation in Plano. I want them to know that I do not resent their presence in my community and country. In fact, I am very glad that they are here.” (The New MethoFesto)
Not realizing what his blogging experience might trigger, Rev. Magruder woke up on July 26, the seventh day of Ramadan, to a flooded email inbox with comments from his blog. His blog posts have been picked up by local Muslims and Christians as well as by nation-wide readers who sent words of encouragement, advice, and support. The Huffington Post Ramadan Liveblog even included his posts. “I am overwhelmed by the response,” Magruder wrote.
Most Muslim commentators gave the pastor “high fives,” advice on surviving the fast, and thank you notes for sharing the experience online. One particular reader, Osman, invited Magruder to the break-fasting meal at the McKinney mosque mentioned earlier. Thus, this individual initiative on the part of a loving Christian neighbor was received with outpouring love and compassion and resulted in more friendships.
However, not all blog readers are Muslim. A few are Christian fellows who appreciated Magruder’s initiative in building bridges within the Abrahamic faith and in sharing the Muslim experience. Others were not quite impressed as they believed that this fast is a tough one and meaningless. Some non-Muslim readers also expressed their critical views about Islam and Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia as far as tolerance and the status of women. In a nut shell, the blog turned out to be an interfaith dialog where people from every faith contribute a thought or two and carry on a civilized conversation.
The DFW Muslim community has always been blessed with friendships, alliances, and bridges it shares with the larger American community. But this year, as more non-Muslims like Rev. Magruder are choosing to observe the Ramadan fast with Muslims as signs of compassion and solidarity, American Muslims locally and nationally are appreciative of such initiatives to close gaps between faith traditions and bring more understanding to our nation. American Muslims know that they are not alone in fasting this year because they are home.