Iftar is an amazing time when the Muslim community breaks fast during Ramadan. I attended my first iftar last Friday, and was overwhelmed by the feeling of family and generosity. I mean generosity not only in terms of the bountiful food (what a delicious feast!), but also the generous sharing of music and stories.
In a cozy home near Dufferin station at sundown, dates and cups of water were handed out to each of us thirty people who had assembled for the fast-breaking. Evening prayer was held in the living room, and I was welcomed to join in: “observe and follow along if you so choose to.” So I copied the gestures of the people crowded in that little living room, feeling my way through that prayer.
Though I had felt slightly anxious and intrusive as I walked through the doorstep to meet so many new people in the context of their religious observance, I was instantly moved by the genuine smiles I was met with. The fact that this Muslim community offered me a space in their gathering and reached out to accommodate me–whether in translating the hymns they sung or inviting me to sit in their circle–truly touched me.
Being a musician, I was especially captivated by the music-making that took place after the feast. A group of us arranged ourselves in an inward circle on the living room couches and floor, and a few hymnal texts were passed around. Then, the drummer struck up, and to his accompaniment, some began to sing while others swayed right and then left, all the while chanting. Sometimes the singing would pause, and we’d let the constancy of the drum beat and chanting take over. My neighbour leaned in to explain what they were chanting and the symbolism of the swaying: each sway to the left–towards the side with our heart–coincides with the word “Allah”. In that way, we remind ourselves that our heart is always with god. I thought that was beautiful.
Just one last thing I’d like to share about that evening. To conclude the evening prayer, one of the prayer leaders left us with these gorgeous words: “Let us pray for a gentler, kinder, sweeter world.”