Jul 222014

The Month of Fasting 2014 – Ramadan 1435, is winding down. There are only a few more days in the month during which Muslims all around the world fast from dawn ’til dusk each day. This year, Ramadan started on the 28th of June and ends, according to the calculation method, on the 27th of July. The end of the month is marked by the Eid ul Fitr celebration, which will be July 28 for most in New England, around the US, and many other parts of the world.

Many people in Groton who have attended Ramadan events over the last four years must be wondering: “Will the Groton Interfaith Council (GIC) sponsor a potluck event this year?” You are right to wonder because we did not hold any event yet during the month of Ramadan, but please keep your hopes high because we plan to hold it in September 2014 sometime when mostly everyone will be back from the summer vacation. So watch out for the date in your community newsletters and The Groton Line. This event is for everyone, any faith, and any age group. Now I would like to take you on a brief journey from the last year’s Ramadan event to give you some idea to anticipate for this year’s upcoming event.

Before I begin, I have to confess that I did have a small event at my home for Groton Interfaith members and friends from the community. It was a small cozy event but a great fun gathering. I am hoping to have more gatherings through the year. Hope you will join me.

So, let us flash back to the Ramadan gathering at First Parish Church in August 2013. People who attended the gathering were enthusiastic, excited, and present to learn and show their compassion to one another as a community. Hoping the same for this year.

Groton Interfaith Council team worked hard, impressively and cohesively. As always, GIC members helped bring our community together to enjoy the new beginnings and friendships and mouth watering foods. Everyone on the evening of August 4th brought delicious dishes that included sumptuous dates, roasted chicken, rice with chick peas, lentil soup, salads of various kinds, chicken with gravy, roasted vegetables, chicken and egg sandwiches, chick pea salad, chicken biryani, filled chilly peppers, potato curry, Quiche, and much more. Not to forget delicious desserts, tea, coffee and cold drinks. The members of the community also worked hard and helped tirelessly to set up for the evening and clean up after the event was over which was heart warming and exceptional to experience.

The evening was relaxing and informal. The guests started arriving and made themselves comfortable by chatting and meeting one another. I briefly spoke for about 15 minutes on the importance of the month of fasting and how traditionally many cultures and faiths commanded the practice of fasting. During the sunset prayers, people who were not praying had a chance to see and read the praying ritual. Everyone was remarkable in showing their respect to one another during the whole evening. We all mingled after the prayers and had our awaited evening meal together.

Here I have to mention an interesting remembrance that a gentleman has left with me. A Jewish man was introduced by one of the GIC members to me. He was holding the Quran in a beautiful wooden box which was given to him as a gift by his daughter. He told me that he had not opened or touched the Quran till that evening because he was not sure if he could. In his Jewish tradition he did not touch the Torah, the Jewish holy book, with his bare hands but used a stencil or a metallic hand instead to read the Torah. He asked me if it was harmless to touch the Quran and that is why he had brought the Holy Quran with him that evening to remove his confusion. I informed him that in Islam there was no such issue in touching the Quran and reading it. He thanked and cordially left the Quran on the table for others to see for the evening. This person’s demeanor, conversations and expressions were awe-inspiringly respectful.

While browsing the web, I came across an interesting article in www.todayzaman.com to share by Arzu Uranli. Her article began with Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi’s quote, “When you fast, good habits gather like friends who want to help.” The interesting point was when she talks about Rev. Andrew G. Butler, who told her “that the Peace Island Institute’s iftar dinner was truly inspiring for him because he felt encouraged by his Muslim friends, who follow their faith in a culture that is increasingly hostile to people of any religious faith. He said: Western culture increasingly places the individual at the center of the universe, and fasting during Ramadan is perhaps one of the most powerful means of denying self. It is my hope that Muslims in this country will be more willing to share their own stories of faith and how their spiritual practices contribute to their own sense of inner peace as well as a more peaceful world through the denial of self as a means to connect with the divine and one another.”

Hence, the evening ended with more new friendships and plans for future events that the Groton community would be interested in having, such as an interfaith panel discussion that was held this year on March 9th, 2014. Approximately 80 people or more showed up. For more information on this event and biographies of the panelists, please visit the GIC website http://grotoninterfaith.org.

Last year, the month of Ramadan was celebrated by Eid-ul-Fitr on Thursday 8, 2013, just four days after we had the fasting event in Groton. It was a week day but most of the people who observed Ramadan managed to get a day off and join the morning Eid prayers at their respective area Islamic centers or where ever the arrangements for the Eid prayers were organized. Eid-ul-Fitr is not observed with an official holiday in North America, therefore most of the elaborate celebrations took place on the following weekend of the 8th August. That being so, family and friends gathered to mark the end of Ramadan and the struggles that came along with fasting.

This year, we are hoping that Ramadan will bring some peaceful news for humanity and solutions to our chaotic world today. This whole month is the time for reflection, self-awareness, charity, bonding, and mending our turbulent relationships. The list doesn’t end here but for now I would like to leave you all with the hope that you will join me and our GIC team members on our next event in Groton. For information on past and future events, please visit our website on http://grotoninterfaith.org. We hope that all those who fasted would have detoxified their bodies, souls, and spirits as many have been doing since centuries. I also hope that such gatherings will help us build stronger relationships and communities. So that we can go beyond the insignificant and focus our energies to meaningful intentions of building a better future for humanity. Have a wonderful and safe summer.

Best wishes for all.