Home CommentaryStudent Life Adventures of a Jew at an Iftar

Adventures of a Jew at an Iftar

by Archives September 15, 2009

It’s 7 p.m. on the seventh floor of the Hall building, and about twenty women are waiting patiently for the call to eat. My stomach rumbles as I eye a table laden with salads and samosas. They haven’t eaten anything since before sunrise, if they were up that early- it was sometime around 5 a.m. this morning – and neither have I.
It’s Ramadan here at the Muslim Prayer Hall. During the annual, month-long Islamic festival, Muslims refrain from smoking, drinking, swearing, having sex and eating during the day. I’m attending an iftar, the daily breaking of the fast at sundown during Ramadan. The Concordia Muslim Student Association holds their iftars during the school week.
“We try to get as many people involved as possible, besides the Muslim population at Concordia,” says Rasim Hafiz, VP external of Concordia’s Muslim Student Association. The fourth-year electrical engineering student is organizing the free nightly iftars at Concordia this Ramadan. He is busy much of the time in the evening, coordinating both food and people.
The whole process requires a lot of manpower and generousity. In order to serve food for the iftars at Concordia, McGill and Universite de Montreal, 30 people spend the day preparing food. They work out of the kitchen of a woman named Sabriah, “the godmother of the Muslim community” in Montreal, who also runs a women’s shelter. In addition to helping out on other initiatives around Montreal, she has helped with the iftars at Concordia for the past 8 years. It can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000 to feed 400 to 500 people a night at the three universities. Volunteers pick up the food from Sabriah, and transport it to their destinations.
The food can change night to night, and the menu can range from Pakistani to Arab, Italian to Malaysian, truly reflecting the diversity of the people praying that night.
Suddenly, someone’s phone goes off: it’s the iPray application signalling that it’s time to break the fast. Religion has gone digital – this app plays the athan, the call to prayer, for each of the five times a day Muslims are required to pray. Another woman has a program on her laptop that reminds her of the time to pray.
After a quick snack of water and sweet dates, men and women head inside the prayer space for worshipping. Soon, each gender is lined up on each side, People’s Potato- style, waiting for the main course.
I’m here as a curious observer, but I also haven’t touched a crumb all day. I slept in that morning until 10 in order to stave off hunger. I was hankering for food by 11:30, and chewed a piece of spearmint gum to disguise my bad breath as I dashed off to class. It was mercifully short, and I reached the seventh floor around 1:30 p.m., where the lingering smell of rice and salad from the daily People’s Potato tickled my taste buds. I recounted my day thus far to my fasting friend, and she told me that gum wasn’t allowed. Oops. Apparently, your mouth should feel what it’s like to miss chewing on anything. By the end of the day, I felt sluggish. Food was on my mind. I started craving French fries.
When the women file out, everyone piles salads on their plates. When I finally eat, I don’t feel the wave of relief I had expected – first breaking the fast with a date felt anticlimactic to what I had been anticipating.
I feel quite sated when more food arrived: basmati rice, tandoori chicken, tomato soup, and… french fries. Perfect.
Most of the women I spoke with were students, but a handful were friends and family from the community. Keemia, a 16-year-old high school student in a pink hijab sitting next to me, came with her mother; she was cutting the pasta salad into smaller bits for her infant son. Her husband is a researcher working on his PhD in urban design at Concordia. She enjoys coming to this iftar because it’s easier for her to get to the Hall building than the Iranian Islamic Centre in C

Related Articles

Leave a Comment