Oct - Dec 2005, Ramadan

Rompiendo el Ayuno: A Promising Iftar

By Nylka Vargas

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

The call to prayer; the savoring of fresh dates, then followed by Salaatul Maghrib at 6:30 p.m., the usual on a busy Ramadan evening. The Islamic Education Center of North Hudson (IECNH) has traditionally hosted weekend iftars for families, sponsored by donors early in the month. This year, however, a few of us Latinas thought it would be nice to sponsor a dinner ‘para la comunidad’.

The iftar was our way of sharing the blessings of Ramadan with our local Muslim community, mostly Arab-speaking. Our local Muslim community does not always have the opportunity to know their fellow Latino Muslim. This has more to do with language and cultural barriers than with a lack of outreach methods or in-house programs.

For several years now, the IECNH ‘dawah committee’ has organized weekly classes and special events, such as the Annual Hispanic Muslim Day and monthly open houses where the atmosphere is familial. On Wednesdays, the preferred language of choice is Spanish, and public Shahaadas are often made. Except for a few masjid regular attendees, little interaction occurs beyond “Salaam Alaikum.”

However, on Saturday, October 15, 2005, we all proved otherwise at the Islamic Educational Center of North Hudson in Union City, New Jersey. The Latina sisters with lots of amor prepared multicultural dishes for a full house of about 150 worshippers. Diana Mariam Santos, who is married to a Turk, Neisy Lara and Flor Maza, who are both married to Egyptians, prepared greens, pasta, and Mediterranean style lentil soup (sorry no beans).

Istvana Lara, who is a Colombiana married to a Spanish Arab Muslim, sautéed and roasted the four trays of the finger lickin’ lamb (it’s Sunnah to eat every morsel!). But you can’t have a Latino dinner without Boriqua rice, pollo, y flan, all courtesy of Sevelinda Rodriguez, Shinoa Matos, and Orbelina Acosta. As for the rest of the gang, let’s just say some of us helped with the planning, preparation, transportation, or simply eating.

The hard work was definitely well worth the effort. You can always tell how good the food and service is by the long stay between the meal and the gathering for the khatira (short speech) before Taraweeh prayers. Not that iftars are all about that. Well, it does make for small talk, “Great soup, and well-seasoned chicken, what gave the rice that color?” Beyond that, I can’t say there was much “interaction” but sure enough a lot of warming of the hearts.

Islam is the religion of unity, the ummah, Ahl-us-Sunnah. This is most evident during Ramadan when the love is transparent on virtually every Muslim’s face. I pray that we initiate more of these cross-cultural get-togethers and share the blessings of Islam throughout the year. Amin.