An Interfaith Ramadan Reflection by Dr. Erica Martin

Written by Kristina Alvarado
August 13, 2015

There are few places in the world where people of different contexts can not only talk together about working for social good, but actually make it happen. Faculty, staff, students and alumni at Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry are committed to that very thing?working from deeply rooted values with genuine openness to other and the needs of the world. Whether it?s an alumnus/a advocating for civil rights or a faculty member doing research on a root cause of cruelty, every month, we encounter stories big and small that express that commitment of the school. .?

This past month, Dr. Erica Martin, the school's instructor of Hebrew Scriptures joined the Pacific Institute at the University of Puget Sound for the Interfaith Ramadan Iftar Dinner. Dr. Martin not only works with students in the classroom to foster inclusivity and dialogue, but takes time outside the classroom as well. The word Iftar translates to break-fast. During Ramadan, the month-long period of fasting and prayer in the Islamic tradition, the iftar signifies the breaking of the fast at sundown. Dr. Martin, representing the Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry as well as Temple Beth El, was joined by other community leaders to celebrate the iftar. Here below are Dr. Martin's remarks that she shared at the special gathering.?

Are you interested in learning more? Dr. Martin will be teaching a special class on the text and context of the Quran during Winter Quarter. Talk to Colette for more info: or 206.296.5333


Dr. Erica Martin:

"I am honored to be invited to this lovely iftar. Ramadan is shockingly, delightfully counter-cultural. Our culture is obsessed with comfort. We strive to feel content and soothed at all times. We don?t want to be too hot or too cold, even for a moment. We drink coffee when we don't feel sufficiently awake and take pills to make us sleepy. We can dial our side of our beds to achieve the perfect level of firmness or softness. Even our diet programs sell themselves on that fact that we will lose weight without ever feeling hungry.

We have fetishized comfort and reject the idea that we should ever have to endure an unpleasant taste, sight, sound, touch or feeling. We are gluttons for our own luxury, pursuing an idolatry of the senses, surely a form of shirk associating partners with the divine.

Judaism and Islam have many things in common but one is that so many of our daily rituals and yearly calendar force us to eschew this comfort fetish and deliberately make ourselves uncomfortable--rising early for prayer, relinquishing our hard-earned dollars, rejecting certain foods and beverages, and now, in Ramadan, outright fasting from physical pleasures. This deliberate foray into discomfort is meant to teach us self-discipline, empathy for those who suffer, appreciation for what we have, and charity. To those observing Ramadan, I admire your fast. It is a beautiful jihad. Thank you for allowing me to participate in the joyful iftar (break-fast) at this day?s end. Ramadan Mubarak."