Breaking The Fast With Strangers
For people of the Islamic faith, Ramadan is a holy month of increased prayer
which requires the believer to abstain from any food and drink between dawn
One of the five pillars of Islam, the month's timing is determined by lunar
cycles, and this year it began on the ninth of July.
For the month of Ramadan, Muslim families in south-east Queensland have
invited non-Muslim guests for the 'Iftar' dinner. The project was initiated by
the Queensland Intercultural Society, whose aim is to promote understanding
and social inclusion in the community.
Murat Coskun and his family have not eaten alone since the beginning of
Ramadan, sharing every evening meal with friends and strangers.
"Ramadan is a month of sharing; despite the background, race or religion, we
share our food," Murat says, "it is also a time of charity."
"According to Islamic teaching, Ramadan is the month where the bounties are
multiplied, so a lot of Muslim's will save their charities for the month of
Murat's wife Canan says the family follows tradition by breaking the fast with
a date, before they follow with soup and the rest of the meal.
"During Ramadan, because we have been fasting all day, the dishes are a bit
more extravagant I guess, but it is very similar to what we have outside of
Ramadan," Canan says.
Ramadan is special rite of passage for Muslim's who reach a certain age
according to Murat, as his own 6 year-old son has been learning.
"He has fasted 5 or 6 of the days [of Ramadan], he's very enthuastic!" Murat
Tennessee Muslims Feel Blessed Coming
Ramadan After Federal Court Rules in Their Favor
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is always a joyful time for believers, but a
Tennessee congregation was feeling especially blessed this year as they
Opponents spent two years trying to halt construction of a new mosque for the
Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, but a federal judge ruled this week the
congregation has a right to worship there as soon as the building is ready.
"Ramadan this year reaches us at a very special time for us as a community,"
Imam Ossama Bahloul told the congregation at Friday prayers. "We have received
the good news about the federal court not standing on our side, but standing
on the side of the Constitution."
During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food and drink during the daylight hours,
breaking their fast at sundown and offering special prayers.
Although it is a time of deprivation, Muslims consider Ramadan to be a joyful
It commemorates the month in which Muslims believe God revealed the first
verses of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad.
Bahloul told the congregation on Friday that Ramadan also is a time of
forgiveness, urging them to ask God to forgive their sins and to strive to
"Do not to hold any hard feelings in your heart toward anyone, even those on
the opposition side," he said. " ... Pray for the opposition to get to know us
and to change their feelings."
Although there has been an Islamic center in Murfreesboro for 30 years, the
new building brought vehement opposition, including a lawsuit, a large rally
and even vandalism, arson and a bomb threat.
Islamic center leaders say the new building is needed because they have
outgrown their current space in an office park.
They say there are about 250 families who use the current 2,100-square-foot
building, along with about 400 Muslim students from Middle Tennessee State
On Friday, male worshippers spilled out the door of the old site and into the
parking lot until Bahloul asked them to squeeze together so that everyone
could come inside.
Unlike a Christian church where worshippers sit in chairs or pews, Muslims sit
on the floor during the service and prostrate themselves during prayers.
Because of the prostration, women are not supposed to sit in front of men. In
the current space, that means they must worship in a separate room, watching
the proceedings on a video monitor.
In their new building, both men and women will be able to worship in the same
room, Bahloul said.
College student Lema Sbenaty was among those mosque members celebrating the
court victory this week.
"I was thinking we might not be able to go in for a year," she said. "I'm so
happy. I'm elated."
Her father, Saleh Sbenaty, who serves on the Islamic center's board of
directors, echoed her excitement about the ruling.
"It came like a glass of cold water on a very hot day," he said. "The whole
community is celebrating this milestone achievement."
On Friday, mosque members learned that Wednesday's federal court intervention
came just in time.
A local judge was ready to grant a request from mosque opponents to force
Rutherford County to shut down construction. The judge said in an order issued
late Thursday that the issue was now on hold indefinitely.
Bahloul said he expects the congregation to be in the new space within days,
but joked that there is just one problem.
Through their difficulties, mosque members have received so much support from
people in Murfreesboro and around the country that there is no way even the
new building can fit everyone who has asked to be a part of its opening.