Iftar at Zainabiya Islamic Centre

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A Muslim has two brothers: one who shares the Muslim Faith and one who shares in his humanity. Both are equals. These words came from the Imam of Zainabiya Islamic Centre that was recently fire bombed following the tragic murder of Lee Rigby. My husband and I, both Christians, along with other non-Muslims, were present to hear these words through a kind invitation from the mosque. It is an invitation which illustrates the determination of this mosque’s community (Khoja) to take a risk and open its doors to the wider community, to share a Holy time of prayer and the breaking of the Ramadan daily fast. It could have, understandably, closed its doors and tightened security in response to this recent shocking and retaliatory act. 

Never having been inside a mosque, I was curious and interested to visit the Zainabiya Centre. On arrival I was directed to the ladies’ entrance, asked to remove my shoes and guided into the mosque. Here I was welcomed and offered the opportunity to sit on the floor with the other women or on a chair if I preferred. The evening’s programme was explained and a screen at the front of the room projected the proceedings in both Arabic and English. 

The Imam focused on the significance of the holy month of Ramadan. It is a time when Muslims across the world abstain from permitted things like food and water from dawn to dusk to identify with the hungry, thirsty and those in poverty. Prisoners and debtors were also prayed for. This contemplation of each Muslim’s own blessings and others’ misfortune had led the young people in the mosque to give practical care to the community of Milton Keynes. Food parcels were presented to those working with the homeless and items donated to the Food Bank. The mosque community was also involved in preparing regular meals from a local church. Such neighbourliness and charitable giving reminded me of my own Christian Scriptures in which we meet Jesus in the doing of charitable acts – ‘Doing these to the least of my brothers you do it unto me’ (Matthew 25).

Three Muslim young men then gave recitations from five sections of the Qur’an that they had worked hard at the Madrassa to memorise. The Imam picked out a verse from any of the sections and the reciter had to then continue the passage!! The Imam from the Madrassa emphasised that committing the words of the holy Qur’an to memory with understanding, meant that they could speak to the heart of those who had learnt them in life’s varying situations.

I was moved to witness the praying of the ladies who covered themselves before praying to make the Self more invisible so that Allah might be more manifest in worship. At the close of the prayers we were offered dates to signify the opening of the fast. The lady I sat next to spoke to me of the sweetness of breaking the fast. There are two sweetnesses, she told me, one is the sweetness of a drink and the second is the meeting of the Lord. I came away from the evening feeling privileged to have shared in this Holy time of Ramadan having gained more understanding of this Holy Month and a sense that God’s love moves deeply and profoundly in the hearts of all his people.

Rachel Bond 

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