The Newark Partnership gave people of all faiths a virtual taste of the traditional breaking of the Ramadan fast during an online event April 14.
During the live-streamed event, local Muslims spoke about the significance and importance of the month of fasting and prayer.
The event, part of TNP’s monthly “Knowing Newark” series, began with an interactive quiz where people could answer questions about Ramadan.
Ramadan takes place on the ninth month of the lunar calendar, lasting from one sight of the crescent moon to the next, to commemorate Muhammad’s revelation of the Quran, the main text of Islam.
“After 30 days of fasting, you get into the habit of not eating,” said Naveed Baqir, a founder of the Tarbiyah Islamic School on Old Baltimore Pike. “You want to eat something and you have to think, am I fasting, is it over now?”
The fast, which involves abstaining from all food and drink, lasts from dawn to dusk throughout the month.
Nawrah Zamir, a former student at the Tarbiyah School and the first Delaware Muslim to go to the national spelling bee, said a lot of people don’t listen to music during Ramadan, as you beautify the Quran through reading it aloud, which is what she looks to instead of music.
“It humbles you. It slows down life and allows you to reflect and think about things other than food,” added Veronika Matulova, a convert to Islam.
The Indian Sizzler, a restaurant on Main Street, provided a free Iftar meal, the dinner eaten after sunset to break the fast, for people who registered for the Zoom event. The dish, chicken tandoori with rice, included dates, a traditional way to break fasts.
Baqir said that fasting during specific times throughout the day, instead of of an outran ban on certain foods, shows how Islam values moderation.
“Islam is the religion of the middle. We do not go to extreme, you find a middle ground,” said Baqir. “For 30 days, we will not eat or drink anything, and we will exercise the best behavior in our daily lives, but we are allowed to drink from sunset to about an hour or so before sunrise. Not only are we allowed, we are actually encouraged to get up. You are not getting the full reward of the fast, if you don’t get up and have that few bites before sunrise.”
Baqir said that one of the reasons he helped organize the event was to dispel the myths people have about Muslims, which are often fostered by news stories and fear mongering instead of the actions of Muslims in their community.
The group was joined by State Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton, the first Muslim elected to the Delaware General Assembly. She mentioned how Muslims pray five times a day, but during Ramadan, there is an additional evening prayer. This causes her to sometimes be tired from the lack of food and drink, along with having to stay up late because of the additional evening prayer and breaking of the fast.
“We still have our responsibilities, but we have these added things that we’re working on,” Wilson-Anton said. “Reading the Qur’an more, trying to focus on spirituality instead of the worldly things that we are often caught up in.”
Baqir live-streamed a prayer from the Masjid Isa Ibn-e-Maryam mosque, located next to the Tarbiyah School, to end the event. As prayers rang out in the mosque, both the faithful listening in person at the mosque and people from any religion listening over Zoom had the opportunity to take part in a time of quiet contemplation.
“This month is a time of prayer and contemplation, which is needed in our neighborhoods and in our lives more than ever,” Newark Mayor Jerry Clifton said in a proclamation marking the first day of Ramadan.