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Letters

November 16, 2004



Ramadan seen through the eyes of devout Muslims

What a great article on Oct. 15, "Enough faith to fast." Though I also fast for my faith, for years I have been impressed with Muslim friends' commitment to fasting during Ramadan.

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To read that Ramadan existed among Arabs before Muhammad was news to me and encouraged me to consider fasting with my friends. I'll pray for peace to come for the people of Iraq and for Arabs everywhere.
Jenny Utech
Redmond, Wash.

Your article on fasting left readers with a distorted view of a faith and a practice that is followed by more than 1 billion adherents:

• While it is true that the month of Ramadan does predate Islam, there was no specific obligation or tradition of people fasting for the whole month.

• Muhammad did not see himself as the founder of a new religion, nor do Muslims ever refer to Muhammad as the founder of the religion. The Koran refers to Abraham as the progenitor of all three monotheistic traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), which teach submission to God - the meaning of the word "Islam."

• The purpose of Ramadan is not to be a perfect Muslim for one month. In fact, Muslims believe that only God is perfect. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims are to pray and ask forgiveness for their sins. It is true that Muslims are taught that God's grace and mercy extends very far and many opportunities are given for one to redeem oneself from sinful behavior, but it is also necessary for the person to refrain from committing the act in order to receive forgiveness for past acts.

• There are other requirements in addition to fasting during Ramadan - additional prayers to be offered, giving alms, and the refraining from all prohibited activities. And one can do all this without knowing for certain if one's sins are forgiven.

• Islam specifically teaches against excess, but then again, whoever developed Lent probably never anticipated Mardi Gras.
Dr. Miles K. Davis
Leesburg, Va.

The Nov. 5 article, "Waging 'inner jihad' on an empty stomach," does not even come close to the real "inner jihad" a Muslim endures. Fasting on an "empty stomach" is so much more than just feeling hungry. It is a shame that while the writer is Muslim, she could still not exemplify the wholeness of Ramadan and the real blessings that come about in fasting.
Hena Syed
Arlington, Texas

As a Muslim American living in Kuwait, your "Ramadan diary" caught my attention, but I'm very disappointed with the author. There are millions of sincere Muslims who look forward to Ramadan and do all they can to improve their faith during this month. Many of them even speak English.

Can't you find even one of them to write such a diary?
Ann Ronayne
Kuwait City

Ideological dangers to studying abroad

Regarding the Nov. 10 article "New surge of Americans studying in the Arab world": There is a downside to this increase. With constant exposure not only to anti-Israel and anti-US propaganda, but also to blatant anti-Semitic rhetoric emanating from the media and the people in these nations, the students may return to the US with a militancy against all of our values. In extreme cases, such students have participated in terrorist attacks against the US overseas.

If American students want to be exposed to a culture more endowed with US democratic traditions where many Arabic courses are offered, a better choice would be Israel.
Nelson Marans
Silver Spring, Md.

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