By Kumail Jaffer
‘Flash mob Iftars’, a derivation of the spontaneous dance events, have grown in popularity and give Muslims a chance to share food at the breaking of their fast in the month of Ramadan, (Iftar), which occurs at sunset, both with the less fortunate and the wider community.
These events usually take place either at homeless shelters themselves or in public parks, and are generally free of charge to the public. They comply with the extensive sense of charity that is a special obligation on Muslim, especially in Ramadan. Events are all inclusive, with non-Muslims encouraged to attend, and act as a learning experience so non-Muslims can find out more about Ramadan, and the Muslim way of life.
Items that are brought to the events to share mainly include fruit, cakes, and drinks, but most of these charities outline that the most important thing to bring is a hot meal for the homeless, who rarely get the chance to have otherwise.
In Manchester, in Piccadilly Gardens, Muslims shared food with the homeless. Everyone brought food for themselves and a homeless person. Interaction with the homeless people is also a key part of this event. 50 people turned up to the weekly events. Jamila Kossar, an organiser, told The Muslim News that “Sharing food with the poor is the way of the Prophet, especially during Ramadan.”
This was similar to Flash mob Iftars in Blackburn, where people brought food for the homeless as well as themselves, and met outside the town hall. The organisers told The Muslim News that Ramadan “gives us a chance to reflect and empathise with those that have less than us and makes us want to share our Iftar with them.” Group co-ordinator Noordad Aviz told The Muslim News, “We are concerned about the plight of homeless people so we want to share what we have as a way of helping.”
Meanwhile, the weekly Iftar held in Lincoln’s Inn Gardens in London, which has been held for a number of years, follows much the same format as the other two. However, in order to accommodate to the guests’ needs, the two groups do not eat at the same time; instead, food is given out at 7.30 pm before the volunteers eat together at sunset. Food was donated and placed on communal tables for the public to share. The group says that there is no “better way to break your fast then by giving, reminding us of what Ramadan is all about.”
An idea called the ‘Ramadan Tent’ was organised in the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. A small marquee was set up and food was handed out to the attendees for them to eat jointly on the grass outside. The leader, Mr Salha, was pleased that they were “connecting with all communities on a more humanistic level,” and he felt that “It’s only right that as Muslims and Londoners we serve the wider London community in the spirit of Ramadan.”
An Iftar was also held in the Flag Market in Preston on August 3. Again, food was donated and then shared with the public, including the homeless. A successful event was held in the same manner last year.
The Aysha Awan Ramadan Project held Iftar with the homeless in Shepherd’s Bush. Again, these are non-discriminatory and aim to include the local community. The motivation was that “when you lose someone, you realise the important things in life and how we shouldn’t moan or complain about things when there’s others out there who struggle and find it hard to have a roof on their head or have normal food every day” – this relates to the charity being in honour after a deceased sister.
These are just a few of the many Flash mob Iftars that were held nationwide, with smaller events held in places such as Preston, where over 40 homeless people were fed in an event held this Ramadan. These Iftars also spread worldwide; for example, the Amal Women’s’ Centre Benefit Dinner was held in Massachusetts this year.
* A new initiative, ‘The Big Iftar’ was launched across the country this Ramadan by Mustafa Field, a Consultant, to “increase engagement with the wider community”. Field told The Muslim News that the initiative would help “de-mystify Islam to the local non-Muslim community” which is much needed in the present climate. ‘The Big Iftar’ was held mainly in mosques, in Leeds, Manchester, Bradford, Birmingham and London. In London Borough of Brent it was held at the Brent Civic Centre on July 26.