Apparently, the Arabic word Iftar translates as “breakfast”—not the cereal and toast to set you up for the day—but literally the meal eaten by people of the Muslim faith to break their fast at sunset during the holy month of Ramadan.
Despite being non-Muslims, Elaine and I have been invited by friends within the local Islamic community to attend Monday’s Iftar at a restaurant in Middlesbrough, and (for one day only) I have agreed to follow the fast that is obligatory for all adult Muslims.
The fast is followed from dawn to sunset, and is more than simply not eating. The drinking of any liquid is not acceptable, nor is smoking. Those observing Ramadan will also refrain from sexual activity, and may even stop swearing and avoid arguments during these periods.
Obviously this has now put paid to the tirade of expletives I would have hurled at Elaine after she turned down my intended plan of spending an extra hour in bed, and grabbing a crafty Woodbine after a hearty full English on Monday morning...
There are some exceptions to the requirement to fast, essentially medical, although travel may also permit relaxation of the rules. I have to be honest and say that whilst I should be fine not eating, I will definitely struggle without any fluid, especially as I will have my customary one hundred mile commute. I am taking this seriously, and will try my best, but if I start to feel dizzy at the wheel, I might have to play the travel card.
I am incredibly grateful to Imran for the invitation to join him and other members of the Muslim community on Monday evening. I have said before that I do not class myself as religious, but as far as I’m concerned, you do not have to be any particular creed or colour to be a good person—and I have genuine respect for Imran, Zak and those others I have met whose lives are enriched by their faith.
It is that respect, along with the friendship that has subsequently grown, that makes me happy to take the chance to improve my understanding of the community (and world) I live in, and I will definitely also take some time for quiet reflection on Monday... although I reckon my contemplation could well be interrupted by the mental image of an ice-cold can of Coca-Cola!
I will write about my experience on Tuesday... for now there’s a massive bar of chocolate in the cupboard that’s got my name on it.