During the holy month of Ramadan in 2018 the Qatar-America Institute hosted a series of iftar in celebration and in reverence of the holiday. These iftars served as educational opportunities for those not familiar with the traditions of Ramadan – or Islam in general – to witness them in an open and educational setting.
Iftar, meaning “breaking the fast” in Arabic, is the meal eaten at sundown during Ramadan. Iftar is one of the religious observances of Ramadan and is often done as a community, with people gathering to break their fast together. Iftar is taken right after Maghrib (the fourth of five daily prayers), which is around sunset. Traditionally, the fast is broken with dates before prayer, after which the main meal of salads, appetizers, desserts and juices is served.
In recognition of Ramadan, four iftars were hosted at QAI, each highlighting individual themes: the history of Islam in America, interfaith commonalities, family heritage, and the shared traditions of Ramadan and Islam. As part of QAI’s goal of bridging cultural ties between the American and Qatari people, these iftars offered a unique opportunity for hundreds of members of the local DC community to engage and celebrate together. While each iftar was different, they shared a purpose: to create lasting connection by sharing in the cultural richness of others.
QAI 2018 Iftar Series Photo Gallery
QAI 2018 Iftar Series Details
Islam, Ramadan & America
QAI debuted its iftar series with a presentation on the rich history of Islam in the United States as led by Amir Muhammad, President of the American Islamic Heritage Museum. This night was the debut of the “Islam in America” photo gallery in the QAI office.
Islam & the World Religions
The second iftar hosted Rabbi James Hyman of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, Imam Talib Shareef of the historic Nation’s Mosque, and Reverend Steven Martin of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA. All three engaged in an interfaith dialogue from the perspective of their respective religions.
Islam & Family Traditions
This was an iftar of traditions and heritage which focused on the role of Islam in the family, such as the dynamics between family members, especially in regards to women and children. This night also highlighted the ADAMS Center’s young American Muslim choir (ADAMS Beat) and a traditional Qatari celebration for children celebrated in Ramadan called “Garangao.”
Islam, Culture & Arts
This was QAI’s last iftar of Ramadan which not only featured Iftar and Ramadan rituals, like henna, Arabic calligraphy, and oud music, but also celebrated traditions of Muslim holidays and Eid Al-Fitr, the closing event of Ramadan. The closing remarks were provided by Imam Yahya Hendi, the Muslim Chaplain at Georgetown University.
Special thanks to the Qatar Cultural Attaché’s Office for their support with the Iftar Series, and thank you to Imam Yahya Hendi, for providing the Qatar-America Institute with prayer mats.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Muslim calendar and the holiest month in Islam. It is obligatory for all able-bodied Muslims to fast (sawm in Arabic) during this month. It is observed globally by Muslims as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Muslims observe this holy month by fasting (refraining from consuming any liquid, food, smoking, or some other activities) from sunrise to sunset. Muslims should also engage in providing charity and alms (zakat and sadaqah in Arabic) to those less fortunate.
How do Muslims observe Ramadan?
Muslims observe Ramadan in several key ways. All Muslims attempt to give up bad habits and fast during this month. The start of the fast observed before dawn is called the “suhoor” and the breaking of the fast, after sunset, is called the “iftar”.
It is also expected that all Muslims read the Islamic holy book, The Qur’an, in order to come closer to the word of God (in Islam, Qur’anic text was handed down from God to the archangel Gabriel, who revealed the text to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH)).
Muslims also attend mosque prayers held after the breaking of the fast known as “Taraweeh”, in which “Surah’s” (chapters) from the Qur’an are recited over the month.
Why does the month of Ramadan change every year?
In Islam, Muslims adhere to a lunar calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar used in the West. The Islamic Calendar, also known as the Hijri Calendar, consists of 12 months but only 354-355 days. The calendar was established in 622 A.H.
Due to the difference between a lunar calendar and a solar calendar, the month of Ramadan drifts 11 days, each year. That is why Ramadan moves on an annual basis and does not have a set month in comparison to similar Abrahamic religions observed in the West.
The end of Ramadan is celebrated by commemorating the day of Eid. The day can be translated as “the festival of breaking the fast”. The celebration not only celebrates the end of fasting but also indicates Muslims’ gratitude to God in providing them the strength to practice self-control.
The festival occurs when the new crescent moon is sighted in the sky, marking the end of the month of Ramadan.
At Eid, it is also obligatory to give a set amount of your income to charity so that it could be used by the less fortunate to buy new clothes, food, and other provisions that would allow them to take part in the festivities.