Saturday, September 15, 2007

Breaking fast ( iftar ) at a mosque

mosque decorationIn this blessed month of Ramadan one of the most beautiful things that the Muslims do is their breaking of fast in community spirit at a mosque. This is done universally in this time of the year, any mosque in the world you walk into during the sunset time and you wil see this extra-ordinary event.

Now when I say extra-ordinary, I mean it completely. Last evening I had the opportunity to break my fast in a mosque here in Southern California. It was my first visit and prayer in any American mosque and needless to say, my first iftar as well. I very much enjoyed being at a mosque during iftar (the Ramadan dinner) in the month of ramadan back in Singapore. Almost everyday in all the ramadan in last three years I broke my fast with other, sitting together. Infinite thanks to God and to my gracious host, I had this beautiful opportunity again.

If you ever get a chance, please experience this, and you can make it at any evening during this whole month of Ramadan which has just started (today, 15 Sept is 3rd Ramadan). Experience for yourself by visiting a mosque and being present at a breaking of fast event. The reasons I say it is extra-ordinary are many.

Just before going to the mosque I was watching a documentary film called 'American Ramadan' on Link Tv. There a jewish interfaith rabbi made a beautiful comment about this ramadan fasting where he mentioned that traditionally fasting was a very private mode of ritual, a personal one. You fast and nobody knows. But turning this private, me-only fasting into a community event, doing it collectively and dedicating it to God is simply beautiful. Specially the fact that such an ancient practice and ritual has been observed and transported from thousand of years into our present time and at the same time you find very much meaning in it.

And indeed one can see a lot meanings in this community practice of breaking fast together at the end of whole day of fasting. I was seeing people from virtually every corner of the world. Muslims of all color, race and background came together. They fasted without taking any food or drink for the last 13 or 14 hours, but everyone was looking so happy, so bright because they fast for their faith and they see each other doing the same act for the sake of God.

You see all these people under the beautifully decorated dome of the mosque (which symbolizes God's cosmos); some sitting, some standing, some kneeling in prayer, some meditating, some exchanging talk with each other in low voice, some reading the scripture, children playing somewhere in the background.

You dont hear the usual human complains about their mortgage, loan, tax, debt, their unhappy work condition - nothing. Every is for God, with God and trying to reach God. And when that happen collectively, you can feel the blessed energy than anything else you have every experienced. Coming together and remembering God has been mentioned with special significance in all the religions including Islam where its given a very beautiful form.

In New Testament we read in the saying of Prophet Jesus Christ, upon him be peace: For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, I am there in the midst of them. Matthew 18:20

In the recorded saying (Tirmidhi) of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace: God the Most High says, O my servant, you remember alone, I will remember you alone. And if you remember me in a gathering, I remember you in an exalted gathering. .

And then when the call of prayer was announced, followed by little intake of date, the sweet arabian fruit and water (which basically marks the end of fasting), everyone stood in line, shoulder to shoulder to pray. Men in one place, women in another - but all facing the same direction of the universal spiritual center, the Ka'ba and following the same harmonious movement. I was moved to see caucasian, born and rasied american muslims, black, hispanic, asian of many different places - all were standing together, humbling themselves in prayer in front of God. Its simply a beautiful beautiful experience to be part of and I am grateful for that.

If you every dreamt of unity of humanity, if you ever thought can't people just forget the differences and be together, you have to come to see people praying at a mosque to see that materializing so practically and beautifully. And its becomes a very rich experience when you see that in an American Mosque, because you find there people of almost every nation, even chinese muslims or muslims from latina america, believe it or not!

Then you realize the beauty of the Quranic saying: O Humanity! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and races that ye may know each other. The Quran 49:13

And here you are part of that knowing! Praise be unto Him! the Beautiful Master Planner!

After the prayer, people came down to take their food and all ate together. And many newly convert Muslims were saying enthusiastically how much they love this coming together and having this iftar. It is like a reunion every single evening of Ramadan. Reunion of whole community, a happy and blessed gathering. All you hear is the greetings of peace, you see people hugging and kissing, holding hands, smiling at each other and even crying out of love and joy. And needless to say, we had wonderful food to eat, cooked and served with love.

Come and visit a local mosque in your locality at the time of breaking fast during this ramadan. The breaking of fast is done immediately after the sunset. Even if you are not a Muslim (thats a misnomer, anybody who submits to the will of Divine is a Muslim in the universal view of Islam, and every child is born on that mode of submission to Divine), even if you are not fasting, you are welcome to join a break of fast gathering in any mosque. Just arrive a little early, introduce yourself to some senior person (ideally to the leader or imam of the moque) and tell your intention to be part of it. I am sure, you will be gladly welcomed. Unconditional and generous hospitality regardless of religion or race or anything has been very much an integral part of islamic faith. Prophet Muhammad himself was an ambassador of unconditional, boundles hospitality to everyone and it became a hallmark of muslim practice to serve other with loving hospitality.

[>] Find a mosque near your locality: Islamic Finder / IslamCity Mosque Search / United Islam
[>] Find masjid/ mosque: google module

Sadiq M. Alam
Los Angeles, California

:: Other Read:
. Ramadan with an American Twist by Omar Sacirbey
. Different Kinds of Iftar at Different Masjids by Umar Lee
. U.S. Muslims Kick Off Ramadan with Anti-Smoking Initiative
. Film Celebrates American Ramadan
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