On the evening of May 21, QAI celebrated its second iftar in recognition of the holy month of Ramadan. The theme of this particular iftar, “Islam & the World Religions,” focused primarily on an interfaith dialogue between Islam, Christianity and Judaism, and where the three major religions share common ground and likeness among their respective faithful followers.
An iftar, which means “the breaking of the fast” in Arabic, is the meal eaten after sundown by observant Muslims who had been fasting during daylight hours. After the Maghrib prayer, the fast is traditionally broken by eating a date before feasting upon a selection of foods and drinks, some traditionally linked to the holiday.
QAI’s interfaith iftar welcomed three esteemed guests who conducted the interfaith dialogue for all in attendance to listen and participate in. The first guest was Imam Talib Shareef, President and Imam of the historic Nation’s Mosque in Washington, DC. Imam Talib is a retired Chief Master Sergeant of the United States Air Force after 30 years and has served as an imam in five U.S. cities and seven military locations around the world. He was the first imam with military service to offer prayer at an opening session of the U.S. Congress, and also led the historic Islamic congregational prayer at the Washington National Cathedral. He led, co-organized and spoke at various peace initiatives and interfaith Ramadan iftars nationally and globally, for example at the White House, the Pentagon, and for the first and subsequent iftars hosted by an Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.
The second special guest was Reverend Steven Martin, Director of Communications and Development at the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC), where he represents a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches from more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation. He’s also a filmmaker whose first major film received much media and public interest after 9/11. His new interfaith initiative is called “Know Your Neighbor,” born at a White House convention on religious pluralism.
The third guest was Rabbi James Hyman, CEO of the Institute for American Judaism, an ordained rabbi and a member of the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington (IFC). Rabbi Hyman believes in the value of education, and being open, respectful and welcoming when dealing with interfaith matters, especially interfaith families and couples. He also believes that the Jewish community has to be very sensitive to the different ways that people celebrate their identities and nurture them in an interfaith environment.
Before celebrating the iftar, the three honored guests shared in a discussion about faith, fasting and the commonalities between the three religions they each represented respectively. Imam Talib shared stories about how the early followers of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) were received by the Christian king of Ethiopia since they too were “people of the Book.” The three speakers shared some remarks on the importance of fasting for means of achieving higher levels of spirituality, a practice that is referenced in all three religions.
Following the dialogue, Imam Talib gave the adan, or call to prayer, to signal to those who had been fasting that it is now permissible to break the fast with dates and water. At this time guests were welcomed to a spread of traditional Middle Eastern and Qatari foods, sweets and juices, which was shared together with everyone partaking in the experience.
QAI believes these iftars are an excellent opportunity for community to come together to celebrate and share in one’s culture and to learn about traditions and heritage in an open and comfortable setting. While the iftars each have a different theme, the intent behind them remains the same: exploring how connection can be attained through sharing in the cultural richness of others.