Ramadan Reflections '13, Day 5: Iftar Friendships
"Have background checks been completed on our guests? How do we know they are coming for iftar and not for other purposes?" my husband jokingly asked.
'Do you have any ice-breakers if we're all a little nervous?" he added. I think he was serious with this one. I told him I wasn't pulling in any classroom games for this purpose!
But Asif did have a point. Not many initiatives within the Muslim community (or general community overall!) require an open door policy whereby trust is placed in an organization allowing unfamiliar persons into your home. But with the Western Muslim Initiative's Iftar Friendship Program, which I was VERY excited about us hosting, you had to trust that things would work out.
The program is based on the premise that there are many Muslims, whether they be converts, reverts, or otherwise practicing, who are breaking their fast alone. The program allows such individuals to sign up for iftar at host homes. It's a brilliant concept and is in its second year running. Edmonton has a similar program called "Open Door" and supposedly, according to a CBC radio interview I heard, it's going extremely well. We were excited to be hosting two community members yesterday.
It can be a little nerve wracking, since we're so used to having iftars the way we do, and everyone can be so different with their process and preferences. I wondered if the food had enough salt and if what we had cooked was to their liking? Is fruit OK to break the fast along with dates and water, or should I add something else? Shoot, I thought, should I have cooked an ethnic dish? Ah but it takes hours of toiling over the stove and my energy is shot! I hope they feel comfortable enough in our place.
It was an awesome evening! Funny enough, both beneficiaries had so much in common with Asif and I, sharing interests and even a mutual culture that's rare to find among fasting Muslims. We did our best to be warm and welcoming, and it was fun to go with the flow and see how others in Calgary treat their iftars. There were lively conversations and jokes, and seeing how different we all were yet here we were gathered together, eating for the same cause and taking part in the same process. SubhanAllah, it was amazing! I was disappointed when the evening came to an end and wished we could host further dinners such as this one.
There's something to be said about causes that unite humans, and Ramadan is one of them. While we're all from different walks of life, we're participating in the same cause for the same reasons. We told our guests that our door is always open and they're welcome for iftar anytime. I remember breaking 3-years worth of fasts alone when I lived away for school. It wasn't fun or easy, toiling through a day of classes on an empty stomach and then sitting alone at the dining table with one's food. I could relate to their experiences.
I think all Muslims should take it upon themselves to have open doors during this month, Iftar Friendship Program initiated or not. It's an enriching experience and adds more substance to the essence of Ramadan. It also perhaps gives us a feel for what Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) did during the inception of Islam to ensure that newcomers to the faith were supported and welcomed.
And Allah knows best.