Today marks the start of the extended Muslim festival of Ramadan. Doing a quick bit of searching I spotted that it now even boasts an official (UK) website! It is a period of fasting based on the lunar calendar, which lasts for 29-30 days between two sightings of a crescent moon as the cycle begins to wax. Unlike most Christian observances of the spiritual discipline of fasting, it requires abstaining from food and water during daylight but allows consumption at night. It moves forward a little each year compared to the Gregorian calendar and, while it falls in June, must be particularly challenging in the northern hemisphere.
I understand that the wider spread of Islam outside of its area of origin has led to various compromises being accepted by some communities in areas where daylight hardly or never ceases, such as using sunrise and sunset times from Mecca. Islam has certainly spread, which reminds me of an interesting meeting I went to Monday evening where Dr David Garrison explained the research behind his book A Wind in the House of Islam. Since the inception of Islam the general story has been that there have been many Christian’s who have converted to Islam (or been converted to; not quite the same!) but very few significant movements back in the other direction. Garrison defines a movement as more than 100 churches being established or more than 1000 former Muslims being baptised into the Christian faith over a period of less than twenty years.
That is, there were very few until recently. Up until the early twentieth century, there were almost none to be found in the historical record and two of those were from the late nineteenth century. However, there were several in the latter part of the twentieth century and there have been 69 movements documented already in the twenty first century, a remarkable shift. Compared to the overall numbers of people involved it is still only a small proportion but I think he may well prove to be justified in describing it as a “hinge”; it is certainly a measurable change. As faithful Muslims devoutly pray over the next month that God will speak to them, that is one prayer I could certainly echo with more optimisation than typical media reports on the state of Islam in the world would allow.