dispatches to and from

nathan f. elmore

Dispatches to and from faith, culture, and things in between

Ramadan Renderings/Eid al-Fitr

I am a Christian pastor who works as a collegiate minister with the Virginia Baptists at Virginia Commonwealth University. One of my areas of vocational interest and spiritual work is Christian-Muslim relations, including text-centered dialogues or conversations. During Ramadan 2011, I read through the entire Qur'an, in English, via Tarif Khalidi's 2008 translation (Penguin Books). What follows is a personal, meditative rendering of the Qur'an portion of the day. This rendering is devotional in nature, not scholarly. And it comes in the form of textual observations, spiritual reflections, theological questions or poetic responses.

 

Nigerian Muslims praying in the central mosque in Abuja upon Eid al-Fitr [Photo: Associated Press via Huffington Post]

 

Russian Muslims outside the main mosque in Moscow upon Eid al-Fitr [Photo: Associated Press via Huffington Post]

 

Eid al-Fitr

Rendering from Qur'an 94:1-8 (Tarif Khalidi's translation)

http://quran.com/94/1-8

 

Have We not soothed your heart?

Have We not relieved you of the burden that weighed upon your back?

Have We not exalted your renown?

 

With hardship comes ease.

With hardship comes ease.

 

When your work is done, turn to devotion,

And make your Lord your sole quest.

 

Although it appears the immediate context of this sura (Qur'an 94) is a personal message for Muhammad, nonetheless I thought it appropriately thematic for a final Ramadan Rendering -- upon the festival that breaks the fast.

For Jewish or Christian readers, this chapter must certainly channel the Psalms of the Hebrew scriptures. Notice the series of rhetorical questions, the use of repetition (including an adage), and the beautifully spiritually provocative last line, which binds any reader to consider a quest worthy enough to be our sole quest. It is indeed a fine piece of poetic speech -- a lyric that does a lot, and with very few words.

For my Muslim friends, upon Eid al-Fitr, while you contemplate the month that is now past, as you reflect on what you've learned and how it might matter, may your hearts be genuinely soothed. May you eat and drink relief.

Although undoubtedly the month of Ramadan is, for many Muslims, a religious ritual to be experienced as "a happy slavery," still the adage must ring true: With hardship comes ease. May the God of the heavens, earth and everything in between give you rest.

Christians and Muslims may differ as to the medium of God's provided rest. But we both know, as God only knows, that spiritual rest is a gift from Him.

 

 

A Muslim woman celebrating the arrival of Eid al-Fitr in Tahrir Square in Cairo [Photo: Reuters]