“Is this supposed to be a month of fasting or feasting” Kwame asked. After seeing the loads of food lined up on the table before him, he contemplated on fasting the next day so he could join in the feast at sun set. The food before him was an assortment of every delicacy that could whet your appetite. Fruits well dished on one side, entrees on the other and the most refreshing drinks standing tall in papers containers.
Iftaar is an Arabic word which is literally translated as breakfast. In a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Allah talks about the two joys of a fasting person. The first is when he meets his Lord on the day of recompense. When all his deeds have been laid bare before him and there before him are mountains of rewards waiting for him. The second joy stems from the point of breaking the fast.
Fourteen hours without food leaves you dreaming of all the delicacies to devour the minute the Azan is called. It can make you hungry for things you would not dream of eating on a regular day. When the pure water hawker stops by the Trotro you are in on a Ramadan day, you look at the sachet of water with the gifted eyes of a wine connoisseur.
When the time comes to quench the thirst, the cravings usually disappear. After a sip of water, a bite from the watermelon and a gulp of Koko, stomachs get filled up. All the dreams of eating every food craved during the day disappears like baby tooth.
Some however do manage implode on food during Iftaar. Avariciously running through everything on the table, they grab all what their hands can extend to. Koko and Koose is not enough to keep them running in the immediate minutes after the break of the fast. Every rice meal must be piled on and if possible, any entrée with soup is welcomed. These are the Ramadan couch potatoes who struggled to attend the Taraawih prayers.
But Iftaar is not only about eating. It is very much about sharing. Prophetic traditions make mention of the blessings associated with aiding someone break his or her fast. Whoever provides even water to another person to break his fast, he gets the similitude of the blessings received by the fasting person. In mosques across the country, baskets of fruits and trays of food fill up storage rooms. There is a race to provide nutrition for the hungry stomachs waiting to break their fast. Poor folks provide water and orange, the middle class bring packs of rice and the Haves treat others to exquisite Iftaar dining at the uppity restaurants in town.
Iftaar affords Muslims with a chance to come together and share a story or two after hours of staying mute due to the weakness from the Ramadan hunger. The potential it has for communal cohesion is enormous. In other countries, it offers Muslim communities the chance to invite their Christian neighbors into the mosque to demystify Islam over a plate of Biryani and Samosas.