I still smile when I think about our first Open Iftar in 2013: we had a trolley, maybe 10 volunteers and a few guests in a tiny park in Bloomsbury, London. The idea was simple: to create a space where Muslims could break fast with the wider community; to make iftar, the evening meal during Ramadan, an inter-faith gathering. And it worked; it’s grown every year since; as of 2018, we’ve served 70,000 people across 10 cities and four continents, Muslims and non-Muslims.
What’s amazing and very humbling is how it’s not only been a kind of gateway for non-Muslims to experience Islam, but also allowed Ramadan to find a universal meaning beyond our community. Of course, it’s made clear to all guests that Open Iftar is inspired by our faith. That said, a lot of the deeper existential questions we face in today’s world – our sense of belonging or purpose, increasing levels of social isolation and depression – apply to everyone. What we find is many of us constantly feel we’re stuck in a system where we’re chasing something. Actually, it becomes clear that Ramadan is a moment for everyone, observant or otherwise, to pause and be contemplative. The purpose really is to get back in touch with your humanity. Hence we have a lot of communities, again from both faith and non-faith backgrounds, who understand that Ramadan means more than just fasting and a month in the Islamic calendar, and is in fact about achieving a higher level of mindfulness.
Open Iftar is in London and across the UK from 5 May – 4 June