Ramadan – a time of fasting as well as devotion through prayer and giving to the needy

The ninth month of the Islamic calendar and one of the five pillars of Islam, Ramadan, when Muslims over the age of puberty fast during daylight hours, is a time for people of the Islamic faith to show gratitude to Allah, devote time to prayer, ask Allah for forgiveness and read the Qur’an as well as help those people in needy.

If you don’t know much about Ramadan perhaps you should start with the absolute basics on PBS; moving on to the Daily Telegraph’s summary of Ramadan (though strangely they have extra information about the Eid Ul Adha festival which is after Hajj rather than Eid Ul Fitr which is after Ramadan); and then perhaps ending with the iWonder review of Ramadan from 2016 or the BBC schools page.

I really like this highway code from Australia about Ramadan:

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Dhikr is saying Allah’s divine names, verses from the Qur’an, or sayings of the Prophet in order to glorify Allah.

Duda is calling out and conversing with God, so in everyday English we might say it is prayer.

Today an Imam from London travelled to London Bridge and Borough Market where the terrorist attack had taken place on Saturday evening to “show solidarity” to Londoners who suffered and lost their lives in the attack. Imam Abdul Arif, 27, from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, said “I’m a Londoner, I came here because it happened to my home city and it happened in the name of my religion. I came to show solidarity and to show it’s not in my name.” He was breaking fast and finishing his evening prayer as part of Ramadan when he heard the news of the attack.

“Ramadan is a time when you should be worshiping and serving humanity more than ever and these people perpetrated such a crime. My hope is that everybody is united and show the individuals who want to divide us they won’t be successful.”

Grandma prays to Elrond from Lord of the Rings rather than Saint Anthony

It was widely reported over the weekend how a Brazilian grandma had been accidentally praying to Elrond, Lord of Rivendell from Lord of the Rings rather than Saint Anthony.

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Now that the grandma knows she’s not been praying to Saint Anthony’s little statue she’s bought a proper new one to replace Lord of Rivendell. The NY Times to the Metro all reported this story.

Who was Saint Anthony? Born Fernando in Portugal he took the name Anthony when he joined the new Franciscan Order. He was good friends with the slightly more famous Saint Francis of Assisi. Francis is known for his love of nature. He felt that all God’s creations were part of his brotherhood. The sparrow was as much his brother as the pope.

In one famous story, Francis preached to hundreds of birds about being thankful to God for their wonderful clothes, for their independence, and for God’s care. The story tells us the birds stood still as he walked among him, only flying off when he said they could leave.

Another famous story involves a wolf that had been eating human beings. Francis intervened when the town wanted to kill the wolf and talked the wolf into never killing again. The wolf became a pet of the townspeople who made sure that he always had plenty to eat. Student doing the legacy GCSE Religious Studies this summer might refer to Saint Francis of Assisi when discussing Christian attitudes to animals in the Religion and Life paper.

Van Niekierk – the signs were there

Back in March 2016 Wayde Van Niekierk from South Africa ran a sub 10 second 100m race, to make him the first athlete to run under 10 seconds for the 100m, 20 seconds for the 200m and 44 seconds for 400m. On Instagram afterwards Wayde wrote “Wow! Finally reaching my dream of sub 10.” Meanwhile the former world and Olympic 200m and 400m champion Michael Johnson wrote on Twitter: “Sub 10, sub 20, sub 44. That’s crazy. Great things could be ahead.”

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So fast forward to August 2016 and the Rio Olympics and we shouldn’t have been surprised to see Van Niekierk not only winning the 400m gold but also smashing Michael Johnson’s world record that had stood for 17 years. The BBC reports  about not only the terrific events on track with Van Niekierk race from lane 8 wowing athletes and spectators, but also about how Van Niekierk is coached by Ans Botha, a 74-year-old great-grandmother who has been coaching track and field since the 1960s. His mum Odessa was a talented athlete who competed at national level but was barred from international events under South Africa’s apartheid regime of racial segregation, which did not end until 1994. His cousin, Cheslin Kolbe, also competed in Rio as part of the bronze-medal winning South African sevens rugby team.

Interviewed after his blisteringly fast 400m Gold medal win Van Niekierk said: “I believed I could get the world record. I’ve dreamed of this medal forever,” said Van Niekerk. “I am blessed.”

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He often refers to his faith in God during interviews and is a devout Christian who attributed Saturday’s success to his religion, “I am really just blessed and thankful to the Lord for this opportunity.” When interviewed before Rio about his expectations he said, ‘I always want more but it’s no use me going on my knees every race and saying “God take over and control my race”. I’ll be happy with whatever comes my way – I’m so grateful. This is a new competition but I’ll put my best foot forward. We don’t know what time will win, but I hope the time I run is the winning time.” In an interview straight after his win he said that he kneels down and prays every day, but he obviously knows that humans have free will and can’t rely on rewards from God to make things happen.