Last Wednesday, Elaine and I headed into Middlesbrough to attend an annual Iftar (breaking of the fast) hosted by members of the Islamic Diversity Centre. This is the second year that we’ve been invited to what is a fantastic opportunity for Muslims and non-Muslims to come together and enjoy company and conversation that effortlessly bridges cultural and religious differences.
I nearly used the word “divide” as opposed to “differences”, but that would have been totally inappropriate. We live in a society which I believe is enriched by diversity (not the dance group I hasten to add...), and when differences in backgrounds, culture, faith, and beliefs are mutually respected, then events such as last week’s Iftar turn from a simple gathering, to an understated, yet genuine celebration of humanity and friendship.
For various reasons, I didn’t fast last Wednesday, but I had already completed two days without food and water during Ramadan – and a third will follow early next week.
My main reason for fasting was and is no secret. I wanted to openly show my respect for the beliefs of two very good friends – Imran and Zak – and I suppose by definition for all those who follow Islam. I will never claim to understand a great deal about religion, but that does not prevent me from seeing how the lives of people like Imran and Zak are enhanced and deepened by the individual and collective faith they share.
My own spiritual happiness comes from the love of those who mean the most to me, my family and particularly my wonderful wife Elaine; and also from the friendship of those who have been (in some cases still are, and hopefully will remain) part of my life... those who have made some sort of positive difference (even if they don’t actually realise the impact they have had).
For me, the ability to reflect doesn’t come from a requirement to fast... that is my choice. But to fast, to reflect and then to be given the opportunity to share the experience with Muslims and non-Muslims alike... that is a privilege; so to Imran, Zak, and everyone involved with IDC... thank you.
I have to go now... it’s chocolate time (and I’ve checked Zak, they’re definitely not dates in disguise!)... but I will let you know how Day 3 goes next week.