Christians will be aware that the Islamic month of Ramadan is occurring at the moment. Ramadan began on 23rd April and will finish on 24th May 2020.
The word ‘Ramadan’ is derived from a root meaning ‘heat’. The original month of Ramadan was during the hottest part of the Arab year.
Moveable feast begins at sunset
These days, as the Arab calendar is 10 days shorter than the Gregorian, Ramadan has become literally a moveable feast. Last year (2019) its dates were 5th May to 4th June. Next year it will be 12th April until 11th May. The ‘Month of Heat’ will actually take place over Christmas in 2032.
We are also aware that Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan and have a bit of a blowout after sundown. As it happens, Muslims probably consume more during Ramadan than at any other time. A lot of sheep-meat is consumed, especially during Eid al-Fitr, the last day of Ramadan.
Eid al-Fitr begins in the evening of Saturday, 23rd May and ends in the evening of Sunday, 24th May this year. Muslim days follow the Middle-East pattern of beginning at sunset the previous day (to us). So although Ramadan began on 23rd April, that was in the evening and was Friday 24th to them, in a manner of speaking. They will refer to each day by its Islamic date.
‘Religion of works’ is deeply spiritual
We dismiss Islam as a ‘religion of works’ because of its insistence on ‘doing things’. Muslims ‘do’ fasting. They ‘do’ alms. They ‘do’ their ‘hajj’ or pilgrimage. We think that because it is a ‘religion of works’ there is no spiritual content or spiritual power to it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Each Muslim regards himself as first and foremost a spiritual being. A spirit world of jinn (spirits: angels or demons – hence the word ‘genie’), charms, divination, holy days, spiritual proclamations, blessings and curses are everyday reality for Muslims.
For example, every time a Muslim speaks the shahada or cries it from a mosque, he proclaims and decrees his god is the only one and that a certain 7th-century Arab trader was and is his only messenger.
You see how, even though I know the power of Jesus Christ to deliver from and nullify such a claim, I will not even give it air-time. How the angels of heaven must weep each time they hear that proclamation, in whatever language. How they must long to hear Christians audibly proclaim, ‘Jesus Christ is King of kings, to the glory of God the Father.’
the prophet Isaiah declared and decreed:
Isa 40:5 … the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken.
Don’t offend the jinn!
Every Muslim believes a jinn sits on his right shoulder recording his good deeds, with another on the left, recording his bad deeds. That will be ‘good’ and ‘bad’ according to Islam. They are the ‘Noble Recorders’ and are referred to in the quran at Surah 50:17 and Surah 82:10-12. Whether a person is sent to Jannah (paradise) or Jahannam (hell/purgatory) is not, however, dependent on whether good deeds outweigh bad deeds. Everything depends on the mercy, so to speak, of Allah. Al-lah means, not ‘god’, but ‘the god’ and is pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable.
Some Muslims believe two more jinn, the ‘followers’, attend him before and behind as guardian angels.
Muslims take the jinn very seriously. A Pakistan village installed a generator, to give light at night. Its operator suffered a stroke. He did recover, but the village elders decided they had offended the jinn because it was to the latter the night belonged. So they never ran the generator at night again. Once more, before you dismiss all that as just ‘superstition’ remember one’s superstition is another’s spiritual reality. These things are real for Muslims. And which Christian does not acknowledge a spiritual realm?
Ramadan’s night of power
So we come to Ramadan’s night of power. The 27th day of Ramadan is Laylat al-Qadr (sometimes rendered Laylatul Qadr). It is also known as Shab-e-Qadr, and means Night of Decree or Night of Measures. Muslims regard it as the best, most powerful day of the whole year. They believe the first verses of the quran were revealed to Muhammed on this day in 610AD. For them, prayer made on this day is worth a lifetime of prayers at other times.
Muslim Oumar Soumahoro says of it: ‘Muslims are recommended to ask for forgiveness and everything that is most needed to them, with a guarantee that their wishes will happen if they were all asked with sincerity and purity … Muslims around the world will attend a series of prayers even longer than the one they did before with the primary intention to be forgiven by God from all their sins.’
Although the 27th day of Ramadan is universally regarded in Islam as ‘the day,’ their founder was slightly vague as to when it was. Many Muslims treat the whole last 10 days of the month of Ramadan as especially holy. We are already in those last ten days. Some will be up all night during them praying and reading the quran. And they will definitely be doing that on Laylat al-Qadr.
Night of Decrees
Because Laylat al-Qadr is a night of decrees, we need to be aware of its ability to inspire Muslims to bless their own prosperity and that of the Islamic world in general, at the expense of the world of unbelievers. Indeed, to them, the latter is a ‘house of war.’ Muslims always decree favour on Dar al Islam at the expense of Dar al Harb.
It will be no surprise to find Muslims up all night actively cursing Jews and Christians on Laylat al-Qadr using particular quranic verses.
Therefore it would be a good night for us to remember God’s promises to his people and proclaim and decree those from the Bible. Job was told, so long as he kept the ways of the Lord:
Job 22:28 Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways.
Every night from now until next Friday will be a good time to pray out loud:
Psalm 29:11 The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.
We can of course pray such prayers and remind God of his holy word at any time. Nevertheless, this coming Monday night, 18th May, will coincide with Laylat al-Qadr. We pray against the evils of Halloween. We can do the same here. Just be aware.
Because Laylat al-Qadr is such a powerful day in the Islamic calendar, Muslim terrorists have traditionally regarded it as a good time to launch attacks.
According to an article on news.com.au, ‘Security agencies are expected to be on high alert for the last 10 days of Ramadan, particularly on the Night of Power … Muslims traditionally spend the night in prayer and devotion which is said to equate to 1000 months of proper worship. But the significance of the event has also made it a target for terror attacks.’
Security forces are aware of the threat during the whole of Ramadan, but Laylat al-Qadr is particularly dangerous. In 2017 Fox News reported: ‘Law enforcement officials around the world are on high alert this week as ISIS calls for a surge of civilian attacks during Islam’s “Night of Power,” the holiest day on the Islamic calendar.’
In its time Islamic State launched numerous Ramadan attacks, and we should be wrong to think their demise has brought such threats to an end. It may be their sleepers are now embedded across the world. News.com.au also say: ‘Other Islamist groups including al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab have also used the holy month to inflict death and destruction on its enemies.’
May the Lord keep the city
So another focus for our prayer must be for our security forces to be given revelation of possible attacks and jihadist cells, not to think ‘lockdowns’ will stop them, and to pray for favour for those keeping us all safe. Pray for repentance for your nation, confessing your national sins, because we read:
Psalm 127:1 Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
Even right now, we can pray as Jeremiah told the captives in Babylon:
Jer 29:7 And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.