Jo Gowers, Asylum and Refugee Support Advocate, talks about Ramadan and our upcoming annual Interfaith Iftar.
Ramadan is a Holy and auspicious month observed by more than 2 billion Muslims, globally dedicated to reflection and becoming closer to God. Many characterise Ramadan by fasting alone but fasting is one element of Ramadan. Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, as Sawm (fasting) is one of the 5 pillars of Islam. Sawm allows Muslims to grow closer to God, helps with prayer clarity and allows fasters to gain solidarity with those suffering around the world. Some people aren’t able to fast for a whole range of reasons such as health or pregnancy, it’s important to remember not to ask people why they’re not fasting. Praying, Salat, is also a pillar of Islam and prayers made after Iftar are thought to be guaranteed with an answer. For those who can’t fast but observe Ramadan, prayer can be an essential part, as is supporting others with their fast. Praying five times a day is encouraged especially during Ramadan, to help aid the fast and connect with God further. Zakat, offering charity, is another one of the 5 pillars of Islam that has prominence during this month, where observers are encouraged to help those in need of support.
After abstaining from food and drink (yes including water), our Muslim siblings break their fast at sunset, Iftar, traditionally with a date and water, before making prayers. After this those in your company gather together to eat a delicious and nourishing meal, after a long day of fasting. During the period of sunset to sunrise, fasters can eat and drink as much as they like, and Suhoor is consumed as a pre-dawn meal before the fast begins again at sunrise.
Iftar serves as a special time during Ramadan, where families and communities can gather together in prayer, solidarity and with the will of becoming closer to God. Growing up in a deeply diverse community, I’ve always had Muslim friends, family and siblings. Some of whom I spoke to before writing this. In secondary school one of our classrooms was turned into a prayer room so those observing had a space to pray at lunch time. I remember fasting for a day or two each year to support my friends, and learn how they felt, so when I heard about SJP organising Interfaith Iftars, before I started working here and was a congregation member, I was enheartened. Over the last couple of years, we’ve not been able to host what was an annual event, which is why we’re thrilled to bring back our Interfaith Iftar.
I’ve always found so much inspiration in Ramadan and my Muslim siblings in how I can connect to God and my own faith. I’ve learnt how to use Lent to pray more and with greater clarity, seek to understand the experiences of others and most importantly help and serve others. The longer I’ve attended and worked at SJP, the more parallels I’ve seen to how Christian communities and Muslim communities both use these holy months, and the joy we can have in celebrating them together. In a world that tries to pit faith and religious groups against each other, taking time to stand in solidarity with one another and understand each other is a beautiful act, and one I believe helps us grow in our faith and belief.
This year our theme is Faith In Action, inspired by Zakat and the incredible people who create change in their community, society or our world, driven by faith. We’ll hear from some excellent speakers, who are doing nothing short of inspiring work, from a range of faith backgrounds. After which we’ll hear from an exciting keynote speaker (we cannot announce yet but trust me they’re good!) before fast is broken with dates and water and our Muslim siblings go to pray. Then we will enjoy a delicious meal together and have time to chat and engage with each other. It is said that a good deed done during Ramadan will be rewarded tenfold and it is with that energy and spirit that we can engage our Faith into Action and enjoy this beautiful evening. Please do join us on Wednesday 12th April for our annual (again) Interfaith Iftar and see the website for more details as they’re released.