Happy Lent, the essence of Lent from a Muslim perspective

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I am pleased to share my thoughts about Lent.

As a token of solidarity, today, I join my Christian friends and give up drinking soda for the next 40 days to honor their practice.

Years ago, my daughter observed Lent, and I am glad she did, she got out of the addiction of Dr. Pepper, what a good thing it was!  People give up smoking and this period of 40 days is renewal in every sense, whether you are Christian or not, you can join in the process of reflection and purifying and being in tune with fellow beings.

Lent reminds me of 3o days of Muslim Ramadan; 7 days for Jain Paryushan of Jains; 8 days of Jewish Passover; and 9 days of Hindu Navaratri. The essence of all these events is renewal of the soul and reflection on life.  I am happy that these actions are designed to make better humans out of us.
Every faith is composed of a set of unique rituals to bring discipline and peace to human life. Fasting is one of the key elements of observing Lent.
The spirit and intent of Lent lies in a human transformation in a forty days long inner spiritual journey of finding oneself in tune with spirituality.

God has no need for the hunger or thirst of someone who hurts others, violates their dignity or usurps their rights, said Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The fasting of the stomach must be matched by the fasting of the limbs. The eyes, ears, tongue, hands and feet all have their respective fasts to undergo. The tongue’s temptations, for example – lies, backbiting, slander, vulgarity and senseless argumentation – must be challenged and curbed to maintain the integrity of the fast.

Consciousness of behavior and vigilance over action are the most profound dimensions of lent: the fasting of the heart focuses on the attachment to the divine. That is when Lent really becomes a source of peace and solace, and goes beyond the rituals to bring forth kindness, charity and caring.

True fasting is self-purification; and from this, a rich inner life that bring about values such as justice, generosity, patience, kindness, forgiveness, mercy and empathy – values that are indispensable for the success of the community.

Knowing about hunger is different from knowing hunger. Empathy is not an intellectual equation; it is a human experience. Our hardness of heart often springs from our distance from the human condition of others. The poor, sick, disenfranchised, oppressed – we rarely walk a mile in their shoes, not even a few steps. “Rest assured,” cautioned one teacher, “if you do not taste what it feels like to be hungry, you will not care for those who are.”

For fasting to be truly universal, its benefits must extend beyond the fraternal ties of Christians and must extend to forging a common humanity with others. Fasting is meant to impart a sense of what it means to be truly human, and its universality is reflected by its observance in Baha’i, Buddhist, Muslims, Hindu, and Jain, Jewish, Sikh, Zoroastrian and other faiths.

Lent will come and go with such stealth that we cannot but be reminded of our mortality. What is it that we value and why? Habits, customs, even obsessive behavior like smoking can be curtailed with relative ease in the face of a higher calling.

I am pleased to borrow the following specifics about Lent from Wikipedia.
The traditional purpose of Lent is the penitential preparation of the believer-through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. Its institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events of the Passion of Christ on Good Friday, which then culminates in the celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
During Lent, many of the faithful commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxury as a form of penitence. The Stations of the Cross, a devotional commemoration of Christ’s carrying the Cross and of His execution, are often observed. Many Roman Catholic and some Protestant churches bare their altars of candles, flowers, and other devotional offerings, while Crucifixes, religious statues, and other elaborate religious paraphernalia are often veiled in violet fabrics in observance of this event. In certain pious Catholic countries, grand processions and cultural customs are observed, and the faithful attempt to visit seven churches during Holy Week in honor of Jesus Christ heading to Mount Calvary.
According to the Synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent forty days fasting in the desert before the beginning of His public ministry, where He endured temptation by Satan.[2][3] Thus, Lent is described as being forty days long, though different denominations calculate the forty days differently. In many of the Christian churches, Lent is regarded as being forty days long, but the Sundays between Shrove Tuesday and Easter Sunday are not typically regarded as being part of Lent; thus, the date of Shrove Tuesday will typically be slightly more than forty days before Easter Sunday.
This event, along with its pious customs is observed by Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, as well as some Baptists and Mennonites and others.
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Mike Ghouse is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a speaker thinker and a writer and a frequent guest on Fox TV with Sean Hannity and a regular on National syndicated Radio shows talking on Pluralism, Politics, Islam, Justice and cohesive societies. His work is all listed at www.MikeGhouse.net

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