Ramadan for Christians: iftar at the Muslim Community Center

Ramadan for Christians: iftar at the Muslim Community Center April 15, 2022

There is a precious community in my (former) town of Rockford Illinois who can say: “Ramadan isn’t just for Muslims.” That community is the tightly-knit interfaith folks with whom my husband and I enjoyed some great times.

The ELCA Lutheran church I attended (and a number of other Protestant congregations), and the mosque my husband attended – along with the vibrant Baha’i group, the Unitarians, and other faith communities – had close connections and did some great times together.

But I give a lot of credit to our Muslim community for its courageous outreach. They hosted several large events each year for the whole city, in which they helped us understand Islam better, busted some myths, and shared great food. No evangelism, just neighborliness.

“Pray” by Teseum is marked with CC BY-NC 2.0.

One of those events was always a Ramadan iftar. They offered an incredible buffet and the most gracious hospitality – people who had been fasting and cooking all day were serving non-Muslims, making sure we were taken care of before they had a bite to eat.

Each table in the packed gymnasium included a member of the Muslim community or two, and they engaged us in lively conversation about regular things (busting the myth of “otherness”) and happily answering any questions we had.

(By the way, f you are interested in learning a bit about Islam, or if you question “business as usual” in Christianity – subscribe to my newsletter, and we can journey together!)

Here are a few comments from non-Muslim friends who attended this event:

“The food was amazing, and it was a real festive atmosphere. Nobody tried to convert anybody. It was just genuine friendliness.”

“I’ll admit I felt awkward at first, but that went away when we started talking. We all had pretty much the same interests. I was like, OMG these are just people! Not strangers. We hugged at the end.”

After the meal, we were told that it was time for the evening prayer, and we were invited to come into the mosque and observe. “Come and watch us pray.” Wow. That’s intimacy.

Not everyone was ready to go that deep, but happily a large number accepted the invitation every year. The Muslims at our tables, whom we now knew personally, made us feel comfortable about it.

One of my friends who attended events with me remembered this:

“Whenever we were at the [Muslim Community Center] for gatherings, I always found people so kind. But it was another experience entirely to enter their holy place of prayer…taking off my shoes to enter that holy space and finding it so beautiful and full of peace.”

Another said,

“I look forward to the event every year (it was sad to miss it during the pandemic). It really surprised me the first time they invited us to watch the prayer. I almost didn’t go, but I’m glad I went! I’m embarrassed to say that I always pictured Muslim folks going into sort of a trance when they bowed and everything – like zombies – because, how can you connect with God when you’re doing that? I mean, that’s not how I connect with God!

“But as I watched, I saw people who were devout, really seeking God. Kneeling, bowing, and touching their foreheads to the floor. I realized this every bit as legitimate a way to worship as any other way, and it’s very humble. I came away with a lot of respect, and I’m ashamed of my former ignorance and arrogance. (Don’t print my name, please!)”

We don’t need to be suspicious of how other people worship, just like they don’t need to be suspicious of how we worship. Seeking God is a good thing. We are all not just spiritual beings, but also cultural beings. We learned our style of worship as well as our theology – and God inhabits the worship of God’s people (Psalm 22:3).


FEATURED IMAGE: “Pray” by Teseum is marked with CC BY-NC 2.0.

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