Visit to my local mosque 2023 – Unity Iftaar
“Unity Iftaar (evening meal during the blessed month of Ramadan to mark the end of the Fasting Day) has been running successfully throughout our branches and centres for a number of years. The concept is simple yet very effective and allows people from all walks of life and backgrounds to engage with their Muslim neighbours to break down barriers and foster strong relations”. https://www.unityiftaar.org/
Yesterday, I visited my local mosque, which I have visited several times over the last twenty years. My first visit was soon after I met Dr Pasha. This is what I wrote about him in my “Dr. Mohamed Pasha MBE” blog, recalling a seminal moment when transitioning from being a computer consultant to community worker: “I met Dr. Mohamed Pasha MBE, a retired hospital consultant, who was the secretary of that mosque, an intelligent, wise, humble, gracious man, who became my mentor and friend. At the time, my project was getting off the ground, bringing together an unlikely Christian led, enthusiastic yet naïve group that I was representing and Southend Borough Council, committed to equal opportunities and suspicious of anything that might be deemed as proselytizing, as was the one which at the time was being hosted by the mosque, which Dr. Pasha was representing. His advice and support in those early days was invariably timely and appreciated. It was he that encouraged me to stick to my guns on the religious question while at the same developing a project that indeed met the aims behind the SRB scheme. He graciously invited me to join the social committee at the local mosque, which I accepted. I recall not long after sending my own son there for tuition classes to help pass “the 11-plus” exam, which was much appreciated”.
Yesterday’s visit was linked to “Unity Iftaar”. It was a happy occasion with a twist on some of the excellent open days I have been happy to attend in the past. As always guests were made to feel welcome; the hospitality shown could not be faulted. It was a time to meet with members of the mosque, renewing old friendships and engaging in fruitful discourse, as well as with other invited visitors. Among them were a number of local politicians, including Kevin Robinson (this year’s mayor), Aston Line a well known Labour activist and one of my ward councillors, Brian Beggs. Brian introduced me to a lady who belonged to the mosque. She will be standing to be a councillor in my own St. Luke’s ward, in May. We had a productive chat. After more formal aspects, culminating in the breaking the fast for that day at the prescribed time, there was food and refreshments. As always, this was delicious.
Besides witnessing the traditional call to prayer, the “twist” that contrasted with earlier visits was a presentation explaining why Muslims fast (principally to do with obedience to Allah) and the benefits that come with fasting, in particular health, including spiritual. Coming as I do from a Christian tradition where fasting tends to be the exception rather than the rule, I found this to be both informative and challenging. During the presentation, a number, including women and children gave an account of their experience of fasting during Ramadan, all of which I found helpful.
I know there will be some who can’t quite make out how come a fundamentalist Christian who believes Jesus is THE Way rather than A Way to God should want to make the visits I do. I neither apologise for my theological conservatism, nor my wanting to engage with Muslims on the basis of mutual respect and friendship. Nor do I wish to explain away that TODAY is the day Christians around the world celebrate Jesus rising from the dead, proving Him to be all He claimed and what Bible prophets said about Him is true.
Unusually, this year sees the dates of the major feasts of the three great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity overlap: Passover – Judaism, Ramadan – Islam and Lent – Christianity, something I consider in my recent “This is Holy Week – 2023” blog. Not only do many Christians not fast as a rule but they do not observe Lent as a time of sober preparation ahead of today’s Easter celebration, when Christians proclaim “He is Risen”, either. Having listened to yesterday’s presentation by the young Imam, I wonder if we may be missing a valuable trick.
Talking of Imams, the older Imam at the mosque is an old friend, Iftikhar Ul Haq, who I presented with a copy of my book “Prophets of the Bible” (see here for more information). I was humbled that he not only insisted a photo be taken of my presenting him the book but he shared it on his Facebook page. While Islam and Christianity will differ concerning what they believe about prophets, they will agree on the identity of many and of their importance in drawing people to the one true God – basis for future conversations maybe!?
One thought on “Visit to my local mosque 2023 – Unity Iftaar”
Thankyou John B for this. I wish I had read it sooner and contacted you. I really think it is important that all of us that can believe in the greatness of our creator who is truly wonderful marvellous and good come together.
We can then learn and understand the reasons why we all can believe in the greatest power of all which is not visible to us but we know truly exists.