DEBORAH POTTER, guest host: During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset and then break their fast with a meal called the iftar. At one mosque in the Washington, DC suburb of Falls Church, Virginia, several hundred people usually attend the nightly iftar, according to one of the imams, and this year they are welcoming even more, not all of whom are Muslim. The Dar Al-Hijrah mosque has announced a policy to allow in anyone who wants a meal. There are only two requirements: those who show up must be dressed appropriately and must be sober. Imam Johari Abdul-Malik is the outreach director at Dar Al-Hijrah. He says he can’t tell who comes to break the Ramadan fast and who comes simply because of hunger. For him, it doesn’t matter.
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK (Director of Outreach, Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center): The Prophet Muhammad said none of you are a believer if you go to bed with your stomach full and your neighbor’s hungry. So your belief, all this praying and all of your devotion is invalid if you can sleep at night knowing your neighbor is hungry. And in Ramadan this mosque feeds maybe 800 to 1,000 people every night, so I said, you know, if we are feeding that many people at night, will it matter if we feed an extra 100 people? One of the beautiful parts being in a very large and diverse mosque—I mean we speak over 37 different languages, have people come from every ethnic group. So when you look out across the community you see every complexion and style of dress and face, and so it is not possible to tell who is a Muslim and who is not a Muslim, and I have experienced it, and it is a good experience to know that you’re table is open, that your neighbor has gotten over the fear of you to join you to break bread. The Qur’an says that the food of the Muslim is lawful for the Jews and the Christians and that food of the Christians and the Jews are lawful to Muslims. This way we can all sit at the same table to break bread from the same God who has provided for all of us.
Thanksgiving has become our national day of “Thanks” in America, being thankful for what we have been blessed with. But it should also be a time of forgiving and seeking forgiveness. If we wish to be forgiven in the greater transcendent sense, whether you think of forgiveness from God, Allah or whatever you perceive the “Higher Power” to be, you must first seek forgiveness from people.
In America today we should all seek forgiveness from the first nations of this land for whatever role we continue to play in their oppression and genocide, whether by commission or omission. Our nation must seek forgiveness as a collective and we as individuals must do what we can to help the ‘first nations’ peoples in whatever way we can.
The founders my country drove the native peoples to the western and southern parts of the continent. Let us now consider that the closest people to the original inhabitants of this continent are our Hispanic neighbors. Perhaps granting them some honor in this land and giving thanks to them can help make up for what the founding fathers and slave masters did to the original people of this land.
As a Black American, I am thankful for my freedom from slavery and for the freedom to practice my faith, Islam, the religion that was taken away from many enslaved Africans. While I remember, I am not bitter. America is evolving as a nation, yet the work of healing this land must continue….i pray.
While many of us enjoy this national family day of feasting, let us recommit ourselves to service for the advancement of the powerful and universal ideals of “Thanks” and “Forgiveness”.