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This year during Ramadan — the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar when Muslims believe the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad — I was in solidarity with my Muslim sisters and brothers throughout the world by reading the Quran. But here’s the thing: I am a Roman Catholic.
My copy of the Quran, with more than 1,700 pages, has sat on the top shelf of my bedroom bookcase among other sacred texts for 14 years. Typically I would use it as a sporadic reference and resource to better understanding Islam, reading a few short passages at a time.
However, this Ramadan something at the core of my being was calling me to read the Quran in its entirety. And so my monthlong Ramadan journey began.
Each day and evening, the prayerful poetry in the Quran held me in a meditative mode of peace as I read without being aware of the passage of time.
When I finished reading a week before the end of the month, I felt as if the Quran was almost endless, reaching beyond the confines of my calendar days. I didn’t want to read the last page. I didn’t want to be finished.
The Quran inspired me, taught me and helped me to remember my essential holiness and how that holiness in the image of God should be reflected in the world.
As Ramadan comes to a close this weekend (Aug. 18-19) with Eid al-Fitr, I find myself focusing on the blessings I have been given through the grace of God while reading the Quran.
The Quran encouraged me to continuously be aware of a gracious and merciful God who cherishes humanity and cherishes all of creation. I came to believe more firmly during my humble Ramadan experience that being cherished by God is an example of divine love beyond the limitations of any one language, symbol and imagination.
Certainly this has implications for how we treat each other and care for the world.
Many chapters, or surahs, in the Quran had me reflecting on the diversity and opposite realities in nature (night/day, male/female, darkness/light, beginning/ending, life/death) and reaffirming that God is found in both. This insight into sacred polarity is a perfect teaching paradigm for respectful interreligious dialogue, which is never about win/lose, right/wrong profiling and divisiveness.
Among my greatest lessons from the Quran was to be reminded to have faith, seek the truth, praise God, pray, forgive, be kind, be peaceful and take care of people who are most vulnerable — those who are oppressed and often forgotten.
Perhaps the commentary found in the conclusion of my Quran says it best:
“What can we do to make Allah’s light shine forth through the darkness around us? We must first let it shine in our own selves. With the light in the niche of our inmost hearts we can walk with steps both firm and sure: We can humbly visit the comfortless and guide their steps. Not we but the light will guide. But oh the joy of being found worthy to bear the torch and to say to our brethren: I too was in darkness, comfortless, and behold, I have found comfort and joy in the grace divine.”
After reading the Quran during Ramadan, I am again convinced that there are more commonalities between and among religions than there are differences that isolate and divide.
(Kathleen K. Duff serves on the Diocese of Albany’s Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. She is a campus minister at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons School in Schenectady, N.Y. A version of this column first appeared in the Albany Times Union.)
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