I fasted today, November 3. The last time I fasted was together with five others in the Christian Peacemaker Teams group in the middle of our month-long intensive “peacemaker boot-camp” together. I am willing to fast on days where religious festivals converge, but it has not been even close to the spiritual discipline of my choice. I don’t do it often.
This time, it had to do with supporting with my friend who is making a transition from Christianity to Islam. It’s easier to fast when you know there are others. We had a chance to pause to pray together at noon (salah a duhur) today as well.
Our mutual hero-friend Dr. Omid Safi wrote this piece about today’s fast. His piece is the real highlight of my post.
A few pull out quotes: “In all such cases, the crucifixion of Christ, the awakening of the Buddha, and the martyrdom of Hossein, these events become a symbol, a map, of something fundamental about the nature of universe: that there is sin and it must be redeemed, that there is attachment/suffering and it must be transcended, and that there is injustice and one has the cosmic responsibility to rise up against it.
In all of these cases, what happened there is also projected against all time and space. Christians look not back at the crucifixion of Jesus, but see that act of redemption as shaping their lives here and now. For Buddhists, the key is not how that Indian prince became awakened, but rather how we are to be enlightened. And for Shia Muslims the question is not what Hossein did on the plains of Karbala in Iraq in the month of Muharram of the year 680, but rather what are we doing today.”
I haven’t fasted for awhile, because it used to trigger my eating disorder habits. Those come from digestive system issues / it being hard to digest all that is coming at me from the world around me, in this location. So a fast tied to social justice was already pushing it for me. But what’s been great is that I can now really look BACK at that time and know that I have grown a lot since then and will not actually be sent reeling by a 12-hour fast. I’ve embraced more both/and.
And Dr. Safi connects the fast with what is happening in Iraq TODAY, which is critically important to pay attention to…especially what is happening to Yazidis and other groups…
He closes by saying, may we “realize the daily relevance of the teachings of a beautiful and meaningful Islam. We may avoid the trap of what some have called pious irrelevances, and cultivate a potent, politically aware, spiritually charged, effective and affective faith that is put to the service of today’s Hosseins.”