By Michael J. ARVIZU
Muslim members of the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge (ICLCF) hosted the seventh annual Ramadan interfaith potluck on July 12 at the La Cañada Community Center, in celebration and sharing of the holy month of Ramadan’s daily ritual of the breaking of the fast – the evening meal of iftar.
For most of the world’s two billion Muslims, Ramadan began on July 9. The holy month is a time of fasting, prayer and sacrifice, fellowship with other Muslims, and charity.
At the holy month’s foundation lies the ritual fast, or sawm. Sawm begins at the morning prayer, or fajr, and lasts until the evening prayer when the fast is broken with the iftar. During sawm, a Muslim is prohibited from eating or drinking. To alleviate the rigors of an all-day fast, a small morning meal –suhur – can be eaten at dawn before fajr. This ritual is repeated every day until the end of the holy month. Fasting, it is believed, allows adherents to become spiritually stronger and observe greater self-discipline.
And although sawm is difficult and can have a physiological effect on the body, it is not entirely impossible to faithfully observe.
“It’s challenging,” said longtime ICLCF member Levent Akbarut. “The amazing thing is, after the first week, you adapt to the new routine.”
Fasting, Akbarut said, allows Muslims to focus on what is really important and gives insights on how to improve themselves as they go about their daily lives by taking time throughout the day to focus, read the Koran and recite additional prayers.
Through the annual iftar potlucks, Ramadan offers the Islamic congregation an opportunity to share a little bit about the Islamic faith with the community, said Akbarut. The potluck is not an exclusive event, and spiritual leaders from denominations across the community are invited to attend.
Each year, a keynote speaker addresses the group. This year’s keynote speaker was Harvard and Islamic studies scholar Dr. Sarah Eltantawi. The potluck featured various stews of beef and chicken, as well as dishes from Pakistan, India, Iran and the United States. About 150 were in attendance.
Ramadan ends on Aug. 8. On that day, area Muslims will gather en mass at the Los Angeles Convention Center to celebrate the end of holy month, or Eid ul-Fitr, at a special service beginning at 7 a.m. The service is hosted by the Islamic Center of Southern California.