Join Us on August 4 for an Iftar at IMAN

INTERFAITH NEWS

What is an Iftar?  
It’s an evening meal that celebrates the breaking of a day’s fast during the month of Ramadan, a special time in the lunar calendar of Islam.

What is IMAN?  The Ithna-asheri Muslim Association of the Northwest, a congregation of Shi’a Muslims in Kirkland, with whom All Pilgrims has a relationship of friendship and mutual care.  During the past two years, we have shared prayer services, dinners, conversation, and even a movie night with our friends from IMAN.  Beyond the upcoming Iftar, we’re hoping to schedule a second movie night for sometime this fall, to take place in our church.

When and where will this Iftar take place?  Saturday evening, August 4, at the IMAN Center, 515 State Street, Kirkland.  The evening will start at 7:00 PM with a short prayer service , and dinner will follow.

Why so late?  During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.  They eat no food and drink no liquids, not even water.  The sunset prayer marks the end of the day’s fast, and the custom is then to have a hearty (and usually delicious!) celebratory dinner, the Iftar.  If this dinnertime seems late to you, consider the fact that our hosts will not have had anything to eat or drink since before sunrise (almost 15 hours earlier) and that they are participating willingly in this self-discipline for an entire month.

Do we have to fast if we attend?  No.  Our hosts do not expect us to fast during the day; they are simply inviting us to join them in celebrating the end of their fast with good food and joyful conversation.  If you want to fast for the day to see what it is like, you are, of course, welcome to do so.

Why do Muslims fast during Ramadan?  According to the interfaith Website beliefnet.com, there are three reasons: (1) Through fasting, Muslims give special expression to their obedience to God, as fasting during Ramadan is believed to be a sacred commandment.  (2) Fasting serves as an act of self-discipline, helping Muslims focus on the spiritual aspect of their life, achieve a heightened level of God-consciousness, and develop a greater moral strength.  (3) By fasting, Muslims are made more conscious of those in our world who are hungry, poor, and marginal; thus fasting helps Muslims strengthen their social awareness.

Is every Muslim expected to fast?  Fasting is required of healthy Muslims over the age of puberty.  Those who are ill, below the age of puberty, or elderly and infirm are not required to fast.  Pregnant women are not required to fast, nor are individuals who are involved in extremely strenuous occupations.

Isn’t this a strange custom?  Throughout the ages, people of many faiths have practiced fasting.  Fasting is a familiar practice in both the Jewish and Christian traditions.  There was a time, not so long ago, when Roman Catholics and some Protestants commonly practiced a form of fasting during Lent, and many still do so.  For all who fast, it is a way of temporarily renouncing one’s physical needs for the purpose of focusing one’s mental, moral, and spiritual energies on God.

Is there a dress code?  We will all be expected to take our shoes off and leave them in the entryway to the IMAN Center.  For men, the dress code is minimal; dress comfortably and modestly (arms and legs covered—long sleeves, no short pants).  For women, the expectations are more restrictive.  The IMAN website says that, in addition to covering arms and legs, “It is customary  for women to cover their heads with a scarf,” and during previous visits, All Pilgrims women have graciously complied with this custom.  Click here for more information about visiting the Center.

Please mark the date of August 4 on your calendar and plan to join us.  Watch for more information, the opportunity to sign-up so we can give our IMAN friends an estimate of how many will be attending, and carpooling arrangements.

Being invited to an Iftar is an honor, and we hope to generate a good turnout.  Those of us who have visited the IMAN Center can testify to the hospitality and good will our Muslim friends have showed us — as well as how good the food is!