Ramadan, or Thanks for the Experience

I had a beautiful experience just a couple of years ago, thanks to Meredith College. My Arabic language class was invited to iftar (the post-fast meal) with a mosque in Raleigh during Ramadan.

I can’t express enough how appreciative I still am that the congregation members (is that the correct term?) were so gracious and friendly to us. Only about six of us were taking the class, so we were a small group huddling into the Islamic Center’s gym, where members had gathered to worship and enjoy fellowship.

Everyone was so nice. There was a bit of language barrier, since as students we weren’t incredibly proficient with the Arabic language, but our attempts to speak Arabic were met with enthusiasm and patience. The women were especially friendly, smiling and guiding us to seats and making us feel at home.

At sunset, we ate dates.  I have loved them ever since.

The food was delicious, and we were encouraged to eat more and more. I felt like I was at my grandmother’s house for Sunday dinner (which is lunch in other parts of the country, by the way). I was delighted with the flavors and textures that crossed my tongue, and our hosts were even more delighted with our enjoyment. That is true hospitality.

We were even allowed to observe the prayers. Once again I have to use the word beautiful, overused though it is in this post. The recitation of the Quran combined with the movements and genuflections was almost surreal, and the intensity and devotion of the people was palpable in the room.

I thank our instructor, Dr. Nasser Isleem, and the Islamic Center for sharing this time with us in 2006 and for opening their culture and religious practices up to outside observers. Being watched, especially by people who have very little understanding of what is happening, is not fun for me, and I imagine that it could have been distracting for those who were focused on inner reflection and worship. I sensed no resentment of our presence, however, and instead felt enveloped by joy and acceptance.

There was no attempt to pry into our own beliefs, nor to convert us to the Islamic faith. There was only a genuine desire to share an experience and a sense of peace. And so I say thanks for the experience.

“Atyab at-tihani bi-munasabat hulul shahru Ramadan al-Mubarak” (The most precious congratulations on the occasion of the coming of Ramadan)

For stunning pictures around Ramadan, visit http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/08/ramadan_2009.html .

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~ by gypsyjonga on August 28, 2009.

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