Interfaith over Iftar

By Hasnae May


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One of our writers, Hamid Mahmood, invited members of his local church to his house for iftar (the breaking of the fast). Hamid is good friends with Father Steven Saxby and when asked why he invited Father Steven Saxby for iftar, he replied,

Actually I should be asking myself why it took so long?

The Qur’an clearly states,

وَلَتَجِدَنَّ أَقْرَبَهُمْ مَّوَدَّةً لِّلَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ ٱلَّذِينَ قَالُوۤاْ إِنَّا نَصَارَىٰ ذٰلِكَ بِأَنَّ مِنْهُمْ قِسِّيسِينَ وَرُهْبَاناً وَأَنَّهُمْ لاَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ

…thou shalt find that the nearest in affection to believing Muslims are those who say: “Verily we are Christians.” That is because they have amongst them priests and monks, and because they are not proud.[1]

It saddens me to think about how far we have come from the teachings of the Prophet (PBUH). The simple notion that a Jewish boy would carry the Prophet’s sandals in the Mosque and when he fell ill the Prophet (PBUH) walked a far distance to visit him. How many of our Mosques have people from other faiths attending? How far have we come from this? He stood for Jewish funeral processions, when asked why, he (PBUH) replied: “Is it not a living being (soul)?”[2]

The Prophet (PBUH) included Jews under the term of ‘ummah’ in the ‘Constitution of Madinah’ و ان یھود بنی عوف امۃ مع المومنین ۔ للیھود دینھم و للمسلمین دینھم

“And verily the Jews of Banū ’Auf shall be considered as an ummah (community) along with the Believers, for the Jews being their religion and for the Muslims their religion…” [3]

The people of the Scripture (Jews) used to recite the Torah in Hebrew and they used to explain it in Arabic to the Muslims. On that Allah’s Apostle said, “Do not believe the people of the Scripture or disbelieve them, but say:– “We believe in Allah and what is revealed to us”.[4]

There was a respectful and tolerant inter-faith scriptural dialogue taking place 1400 years ago in Madinah between the Jews and Muslims. Also the Prophet’s statement, “Do not believe the people of the Scripture or disbelieve them, but say:– “We believe in Allah and what is revealed to us” is a well suited model for a plural society co-exiting peacefully. Lastly, how can I forget Mukhayriq – from the tribe of Tha’labah, who also signed the Constitution – a Jewish Rabbi who fought beside the Prophet (PBUH) at Uhud on Shabbat. As he was martyred the Prophet (PBUH) exclaimed, ‘He was the best of Jews’ – Mukhayriq bequeathed all his wealth to the Prophet, which included seven gardens of date palms. It was from Rabbi Mukhayriq’s endowment that the Prophet (PBUH) helped many poor people in Madinah.

It’s to reconnect with this legacy of the Prophet that I wanted to invite our fellow Walthamstonians to my home on a personal level just as the Prophet (PBUH) invited the Christians of Najran into his Mosque to pray.

Hamid said interfaith doesn’t only take place through initiatives focussed on scriptural reasoning but that interfaith can take place with people from different backgrounds coming together for a simple talk. He said its about sharing an experience with each other.

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During the iftar, when looking around the room full of friends from the local church and family, Hamid described seeing, “one of my brothers saying to one of the wonderful elderly guests that if she needed any help down to cutting her grass to not hesitate in asking. I saw my brother-in-law pressing her legs from sitting on the floor for a long time. My other brother was engaged in loud ear-spitting round of jokes. Next to me my third brother was discussing with Fr. Steven the importance of juicing greens especially for long fasts, who was eagerly asking its philosophy.”

Hamid had a traditional iftar with food served on a large mat on the floor and guests sitting around and enjoying a variety of foods – fruit, samosas, grilled chicken, meat biryani, Pakistani paya, finishing with zarda (Pakistani sweet rice in yellow colouring) and tea.

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An interesting point Father Steven mentioned regarding sitting on the floor was, “that is how Jesus and his disciples dined at the Last Supper”. Hamid asked him, “well what about all the paintings, what about the table in Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting?”, and Father Steven replied, “That’s just a Western thing”.


[1] Qur’an 5:82

[2] Sahih al-Bukhari: http://www.searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=23&translator=1&start=0&number=399#399

[3] Hamīdullāh, M. (1994). The First Written Constitution in the World: An Important Document of the Time of the Holy Prophet. (p. 48)

[4] Sahih al-Bukhari (Book 60, Hadith 12). Accessed online [14.04.2011]: http://www.searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=60&translator=1&start=10&number=10