The way Ramadan is observed may be close to the way early Christians fasted. This is what William Dalrymple suggested when speaking on the radio recently. He had observed the similarities between the Coptic Christian and the Moslem approaches to fasting. The similarities made him speculate about how the modern practice of both must indicate drawing on a common heritage.
The Imam with whom we spoke earlier this week was also reminding us about the real nature of fasting. He suggested it is a level of discipline which teaches the participant that he or she need not be controlled by appetite and habit. My own very occasional and very sub-Ramadan experience is that it is astonishing what it does indeed teach one about oneself and about dependance of God, which makes it all the mores surprising that it is not a mainstream major natural prominent regular Christian activity in the way it is a Moslem one.
And, of course, real fasting, his mosque was reminding its children, includes abstaining from lies, from swearing and from what angers God, indeed is ‘invalidated’ by not including such things. This is all part of our heritage too: Isaiah wasn’t keen on those who thought they fasted but on those days sought their own pleasure, oppressed their workers and quarrelled.
The picture attempts to pick up some of the faded outline of a former Prior of Thornton Abbey on his tomb slab there.