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The Big Iftar

February 14, 20233 min read

Blog for The Big Iftar

By Julie Siddiqi MBE

 

As we move closer to Ramadan, the excitement and anticipation is once again building. For people who are not Muslim, it’s perhaps hard to understand, why Muslims could get excited about Ramadan,the idea of 30 days of fasting throughout each day with no food and water would seem more like punishment! But as a month it truly is a Blessed time and even in a place like the UK where Muslims are only around 7% of the population, there is a buzz in the build up and then through the month itself. 

 

Of course, it can be challenging but the inner work that takes place during the month is what really counts. We focus a lot on the eating or not eating of food but fasting is much more than that. There is one main place in the Qur’an itself which talks about fasting, including this verse: 

 

“Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you so that you become mindful of God” Qur’an 2:183

 

And Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, said: “If a person does not avoid false talk and false conduct during the fast, then God does not care if he abstains from food and drink.”

 

Giving time and money in charity, helping people, being mindful of others, avoiding gossip, being kind and soft with people, praying, connecting to God, thinking about our lives and how we can be the best versions of ourselves. These are all important aspects of Ramadan. 

 

Through The Big Iftar project I have been privileged to be invited to share food with people in Ramadan in so many settings.  All special in their own ways. 

 

Coventry Cathedral was one that stands out for me. The Dean Revd John Whitcombe and I had connected as friends on a leadership programme, he wanted to host an Iftar, went back to his staff and within 6 weeks it was happening, unheard of in a Cathedral calendar in terms of speed of organising! In that event and in so many since then, the humility, care, generosity and love with which the ‘interfaith iftars’ have been hosted is truly something so special it’s hard to fully describe how it feels.  

 

Alyth Synagogue in London is like a second home to me now. This year will be their TENTH Iftar!  Hearing the call to prayer being recited in a Synagogue in London is truly a beautiful thing and I hope others can experience it this year if they haven’t before. 

 

And one other Iftar that I will never forget was in a Primary School in Oxford. Supported by brilliant headteacher, Rachel Crouch, the staff and parents made it happen in the most beautiful way. We sat on small children’s chairs in the school hall and prayed Maghrib prayers in the playground.  Those moments will always stay with me. 

 

So as we move closer to Ramadan 2023, I am excited and humbled once again as invites and information comes to me of the wonderful gatherings that are being planned by so many people up and down the UK, Muslims and people from all backgrounds and ages.  

 

In times when the world feels like it’s on fire, when we are made to feel by those who shout loudest that there is far more bad than good in the world, when division and hate seem to top the news agenda, I urge you to reach out to each other, be soft, be kind, be open, be generous. Spread the love and hope whenever you can, in person and online.  

 

Ramadan is a beautiful time to see that in action. I hope to see you at an Iftar over the coming weeks. 

 

Julie Siddiqi MBE

Co-founder, The Big Iftar

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