Although Ramadan is seen as a time for self induced privations, the mood at the Iftar Dinner was a distinctly festive one.
Members of the community and civic and religious leaders gathered at the Islamic Center of Irving (ISI) on July 23 to share an Iftar Dinner. Iftar is the tradition of breaking the fast during the month of Ramadan, a month-long observance when Muslims do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset.
The group assembled an hour before sunset, and whiled away the last 60 minutes of discomfort listening to speakers including Mayor Beth Van Duyne, ISI’s Imam Zia ul Haque Sheikh, and Methodist pastor Rev. Dr. Wesley Magruder, who surprised Christians last Ramadan when he decided to participate in the fast.
The speakers stayed away from doom and gloom and decided to focus, instead, on the joyful aspects of fasting.
“We purposefully lose these things [food and drink], so we become appreciative of these things much more. And when we become appreciative of these things we become, in turn, more grateful to God, and we, therefore, thank him. And that increases our awareness of God and the blessings that he gives us day in, day out that we generally take for granted,” Imam Sheikh said.
Rabbi Frank Joseph from the Irving Havurah emphasized the similarities between the Islamic and Jewish traditions of fasting.
“They [the prophets] laid the emphasis not on fasting as mortification of the digestive system but on the awakening by means of it the individual’s slumbering conscience,” Joseph said.
Nouman Ali Khan, CEO of the Irving-based Bayyinah Arabic school shifted the conversation from the theological similarities between Judeo-Christian and Muslim traditions to his experience of Ramadan in the United States.
“Somebody actually asked me on my last trip, ‘Does Bush let you fast,’” he said. “So it took me a while to get over the absurdity of the question, but I find it pretty amazing there is a pretty negative assumption of Muslim life in America across the world.
“I think it’s [America] one of the most beautiful places to celebrate Ramadan. This is a month for you to have an opportunity to celebrate the joy you have, as the blessing of Ramadan, with your neighbor.
“You really need to let them know and celebrate with them, and when you make your Iftar just go over and – I know it’s going to be weird – knock and share some of that, but not the extra spicy stuff, just the normal stuff. Because they might completely misunderstand the gesture of spicy food.”