We called it “The Month of Blessing,” and I still remember the butterflies in my stomach as the days approached. Yes, we fasted during the month of Ramadan, but it was not the fasting itself that I looked forward to. It was waking up early in the morning, before dawn, to pray and eat with my family; it was spending the day joyfully and charitably with my colleagues; it was gathering as a community after sunset to reconnect with one another and share life with each other; it was the pursuit of God’s pleasure and restored relationships with loved ones.
For Muslims, Ramadan is the month of relationships.
Now that I’m a Christian, the Gospel never ceases to overwhelm me. That God would take on human flesh out of love for mankind is a message worth living and dying for. It is a truth we should share without compromise. The heart of the Gospel is relationship: so that we could be in restored relationship with God, He entered into our world at the cost of His humiliation. (Philippians 2:6-8) In the process, we were able to know the heart of the Father through the life of the Son. (John 14:9)
For Christians, the Gospel is a message of relationships. His words leave little room for confusion: “As I have loved you, so love one another.” (John 13:34)
Now that I see the world through the lens of the Gospel, what Ramadan means to me is an opportunity to love Muslims as Jesus loved us. Just as He was willing to enter into our context so that God might be glorified, so also we can commune with Muslims during Ramadan so that Jesus might be glorified. With open hearts and open doors, what better opportunity is there to build bridges? It is only once we love and trust each other that the Gospel can be most compellingly shared.
Muslims are often willing to open their fasts with non-Muslim guests and friends, and I love joining them. Usually, I decide to fast with them and let them know that we will be opening our fasts together. There’s no harm in that since they know I’m a Christian; if they ask why a Christian would fast, I let them know that Jesus expects us to fast, and cheerfully! (Matthew 6:16-18)
Some might be hesitant, worrying that Muslims are too different; but was not Jesus different from the “sinners” and tax collectors he ate with? (Mark 2:15-16) Some might worry that their reputation might be sullied, but did they not also malign Jesus? (Luke 7:39)
There is one serious concern: that people might think we wish to follow Islam. But as long as we are clear that we believe the Gospel and confidently follow Jesus as our Lord, then let us truly Follow Him. Let us love our Muslim neighbors as ourselves while letting them see us love God with everything we are. May we embody the Gospel during Ramadan, living God’s message of relationships during the month of relationships, for the Glory of Jesus.
Nabeel Qureshi is a speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministry. He holds an MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School, an MA in Christian apologetics from Biola University and an MA in religion from Duke University. His first book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity, just released from Zondervan. Find him on his website, www.NabeelQureshi.com