From the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
The Living Tradition we share draws from many sources:
Wisdom from the World’s religions inspire us in our ethical and spiritual life.
We find ourselves heading toward the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan on this July day, 2014.
Millions of Muslim adults around the world mark the holy month by fasting from dawn to dusk, taking no food or drink. They also refrain from smoking and sexual intimacy. Exceptions are made for the elderly, young children, the ill, pregnant and nursing women, travelers, and those doing heavy manual labor. This fast is the third of the five Pillars of Islam, and is an obligation for believers. The fast ends with the Feast Day, Eid-al-Fitr, occurring with the rising of the new moon, on July 29 this year. Practicing Muslims see this fast as a time of mental jihad, a time of personal spiritual quest, performed without spilling anyone’s blood.
Thus we mark this time by acknowledging the star and crescent banner in our sanctuary as symbolic of Islam, one of the major world religions, and a source of wisdom teaching for us. Curiously, scholars tell us that neither the crescent nor the stars are mentioned as symbols of Islam in the Quran. However, the color green is mentioned several times. In Paradise, the faithful are said to be clothed in green silk. The new moon , a thin crescent, plays a role in ending the fast of Ramadan, suggesting that it might be a source of the crescent. However, one scholar noted that the symbolic use of the crescent moon and stars, predates Islam by several centuries , as ancient peoples used these symbols to pay tribute to their gods and goddesses of nature.
The crescent moon and stars first became affiliated with Islam in 1453, when the symbols appeared on a flag of the Ottoman Empire after its conquest of Byzantium (Constantinople). Eventually these icons appeared on the banners of other Islamic states . The custom continues today. If Muslims around the world today were asked to select an appropriate symbol for their faith, they might choose Arabic calligraphy of the one of the many names of Allah, since this calligraphy has formed the magnificent decorative art of palaces and mosques since the early days of the faith.
The medieval Persian Saadi, a prominent Islamic poet, tells us:
To worship God is nothing other than to serve the people.
It does not need rosaries, prayer carpets, or robes.
All peoples are members of the same body, created from one essence.
If fate brings suffering to one member
The others cannot stay at rest.
(prepared by Josephine Leach, July 21,2014)