Wednesday, August 26

My First Iftar for Ramadan

Iftar is the evening meal during Ramadan.  From around 4-7, restaurants and food stands sell traditional Iftari food for Muslims to take home to their families.  I went to help out my friends as they sell their Iftari and was invited to participate.

Quick overview: The month of Ramadan begins at the new moon, the start of the crescent moon, of the 9th month of the Islamic calendar.  Muslims fast from dawn to dusk all day as well as refrain from impure actions and thoughts (and smoking!).  By doing so, they are reminded of Allah with each moment of hunger and temptation.  Practicing patience, gratitude and additional prayer brings them closer to Allah.  They rise at 3 or 4 to take the morning meal, then fast until the sun sets around 7 for Iftar, the evening meal.  Back to my first Iftar…

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As my brothers prepared for the meal, the electricity went out.  Candles were lit and the boys hustled around in the dark.  I sat near one candle as the massive plate of muri spiced with onions, dates, garlic and chili was placed on the table.  Gia mixed lemon sharbat and filled seven glasses.  They sat and explained that they must wait for the second to last call to prayer, the signal from Allah that today’s fast is over.  About three minutes later, I hear, “Didi, khabe – ekhon!  The muezzin’s call was clearly heard as the boys downed their lemon drink, basking in the sweetness of Allah and their first taste since dawn.  Then our hands dug into the platter of spiced crisp rice.  All you could hear was munching and breathing of seven hungry men finally breaking their fast for the day.  All I felt was the spices under my nails and their hands reaching for the same salvation.  Gia spoke, “Allah loves to see us share a plate – it brings our community together.”  I felt that too.

Towards the end of the meal, the boys were practically forcing more food down my throat.  It is this custom that I witnessed that when I share food with Bengalis, they feed my food back to me.  So, I smiled and raised a hand of full muri to Sumor’s mouth; he laughed and took the food.  Then I went around the table feeding one scoop to all the boys.  Of course, like true Bangla hospitality, they feed me a mishti each! 

It was so beautiful of them to share their meal and beliefs with me.   Each time some Bangla man on the street asked who I was, they all responded that I was their sister.  You can’t be more welcoming than that!  In one month, stay tuned for Eid – the last day of the fast!

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