Iftar at Old Kent Road Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre
- Created on Wednesday, 07 August 2013
One might think that all Iftars are the same: Muslims, after a day without food and liquid from dawn to sunset, break their fast with any meal.
Yet it is not. Iftar is this particular moment when one senses the varieties of cultures among Muslims. One can appreciate various traditions surrounding this moment of sharing.
Iftar at Old Kent Road Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre was a travel to Nigeria without flying.
Imam Salaami invited friends of local Churches from Southwark and others to come to join with Muslims for Iftar. I attended; I represented the Christian Muslim Forum.
Despite being a Muslim, it was my first Iftar within a Mosque, like many other guests. I am not familiar with West African traditions particularly Muslims, so I was delighted.
While we waited for the call to prayer of the sunset, Maghreb, the signal to break the fast, Siriol Davis (from the Diocese of Southwark) told the background of the Mosque.
Previously a pub it has the particularity to have the men’s entrance at the rear and women at the front, contrary to many other Mosques. It gives an idea of the place the women hold in this community. It is fascinating, as in some Mosques there are not even a prayer room for women.
Among the guests was a Nigerian woman, a Christian, she shared with us some of her memories of the Month of Ramadan in Nigeria; Iftar is a big celebration there, where everybody is invited Muslims and non-Muslim alike .The invitation is extended outside families and friends circle.
A few minutes before the time, we split to join respectively women’s and men’s prayer rooms, an opportunity for the non-Muslims to observe the ritual prayer.
Thus, we have spent the last minutes of the fast among the women and children, bottle of water and fruit in hands; a quiet time for the last wishes addressed to God. During the adhan call to prayer, women were repeating loudly God is Great “Allah Akbar”. It impressed me; in some Mosques I have attended for prayer, one can barely hear voices of women during worship.
Soon after we drank water and ate our fruit, the Imam gave the signal to start reading the prayer.
After the prayer, we joined the rest of the guests gathered around the Imam for the main meal. Our Christian friend, from Nigeria, was our guide among women for the discovery of Nigerian traditional meals. I learnt from her that their traditional porridge is part of the Suhur the pre-dawn meal.
The non-Nigerian women and I, amused her and her Muslim compatriots (who joined us) when we tried to master the technique to eat with our hands, a dish with a sticky sauce that did not look nice but was delicious.
Next year, if it pleases God, I will “fly” to another Mosque for Iftar to discover new tradition and culture.