Community spirit at the Open Iftar feasts in London

Community. Charity. Prayers. Self-reflection.

These are just a few of the things that make Ramadan a truly special time of year for the many who celebrate it across the globe.
London trainees, Hafsah and Aiya, provide us with an insight into their Ramadan experiences, including attending some of the several Open Iftars held across London.

Hafsa Waheed, Trainee, London

Ramadan is an incredible month to spend as a community, alongside loved ones. We are able to engage in charity projects together, open our fasts at sunset (Iftar), and engage in meditation, reflection and prayers. This was my first Ramadan in London, and I was looking forward to experiencing it in a new city.

The Open Iftars organised by the 'Ramadan Tent Project' are held across London during Ramadan and attract people from all walks of life, faiths (and no faiths) to come together to eat together at Iftar time in the evening, providing opportunities to engage in conversation and make new friends. 'Iftar' is the meal that is prepared and offered to Muslims observing Ramadan when breaking their fast, so doing this alongside approximately 500 people was certainly a new experience!

The Open Iftars were held for the first time at several different iconic locations across the City, including the Royal Albert Hall, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Wembley Stadium, and Trafalgar Square. I opted to head to the Iftar held at Southwark Cathedral, help outdoors with stunning views of the City. It was great to see people who had just met sharing their experiences, talking about their backgrounds and areas they had in common whilst sharing food.

The Azaan (the Muslim call to prayer) was recited, and those who wished to, prayed outside as a large group. This was such an incredible moment to witness and be a part of.
This was one of those moments which truly represented London's spirit, one of making memories, meeting people from such a wide range of backgrounds and faiths, and truly coming together as a community. 

Aiya Al Jabiri, Trainee, London

I heard about the Open Iftar events in London through a colleague, so being away from my home in the UAE I made it a personal mission to attend at least one! The thought of uniting with people I have not previously met over a Ramadan meal was touching, and I did not want to miss out. I chose to go to the 'Open Iftar' event organised at London's very own Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) – what a venue choice!

So I found myself there amongst a group of people (of various backgrounds and ages), having conversations with people I had not met before about anything from how their Ramadan experience was going, to more about their day-to-day lives. Amongst the attendees I got the chance to speak with were a number of people who were not Muslim but who joined to sample an Iftar experience including a Syrian refugee who shared his story of how he is currently establishing his new life here in London. We were all sat on the floor (the best way to experience meals in my opinion, as you feel that extra bit closer to everyone you are with), and bonded with those who were strangers just prior to the event.

The V&A Iftar was also held on Earth Day, and we all received a reminder of the importance of caring for the planet in Islam.

It was a truly heart-warming experience, and as we sat there talking pre-Iftar, soon came the 'Adhan', the Muslim call to prayer, marking the start of the 'Maghrib' prayer time (which coincides with sunset and hence marks the time of breaking the fast). Our chitter chatter soon turned into sheer silence as we all attentively listened and observed the 'Muadhin' (person doing the Adhan), and after a long day without food and drink. Sat in the V&A, surrounded by ancient artefacts, I felt as if we were all getting an up-close-and personal experience of its rich history, and also contributing to that in our own way, since we were told that the Adhan was a V&A first!

We then all received our Iftar meal boxes, and passed these along to the end until everyone got their Iftar meal (adding to the community spirit!). After eating, we continued to talk for a while and then all headed off home, with full stomachs, and fulfilled souls.

We hope everyone who celebrates had a very special Ramadan indeed, and a warm Eid Mubarak to you and your families.