The first-ever mass iftar held in Durban was well attended and organizers say they plan to make it an annual event from now on, writes an Al Qalam Reporter.
Despite criticism from an Islamic scholar that the mass iftar held at Kingsmead Stadium was “haraam”, the event went ahead as planned with organizers reporting this week that over 4000 people of all faiths attended and experienced true Muslim hospitality, goodwill and love all.
This was the first mass iftar in the city, but next year, the organizers hope to draw larger numbers enjoy in a communal setting – and to showcase the true face of Islam.
Religious leaders from all the major faiths representing Christianity, Hinduism, Bahaii, and Judaism attended the event towards the end of Ramadan. The religious leaders gave an all-embracing speech before it was time to break the fast.
Businessman Nazir Malek who first mooted the mass iftar idea for Durban (following on the hugely popular mass iftar at BoKaap in CapeTown) told Al Qalam that the event had cemented kinship and cohesion between different faiths and cultures, promoted love, understanding and unity between people of all backgrounds.
Malek said those of other faiths who attended the events were taken aback by the serenity of the iftar, the prayer and nasheeds. Many were impressed and several people had approached him to ask about the possibility of embracing the faith. “It was a wonderful catalyst to promote Dawah,” Malek added.
“Everything we did was according to the Sharia in terms of providing purdah facilities, separate areas for ladies and for families – there was no intermingling of the sexes as alleged, except those who were with their immediate families,” he said.
Asked about a viral audio tape in which a prominent scholar condemned the event, labeling it as “haraam”, and that there would be “satanic activities inspired by shaytaan”, particularly that there would be mixing of the sexes, Malek responded by saying that anyone was free to have their opinions. “We have ours, but will not criticize anyone for what they say,” Malek added.
For the iftar, huge degs of piping hot aknee was dished out for the 4000 attendees, and what remained of the food, was distributed the same night to street children and the homeless.”
Many poor people, orphans and the indigent were bussed to the event, and organizers said it was heartening to see all enjoying wholesome meals.
Locals also brought savories to share with their neighbours. “This is what the spirit of Ramadan is all about”, Malek said.
Malek and the management team said “next Ramadan InshaAllah” they hope to grow the mass iftar to a much bigger and better event that could eventually form part of the city’s annual calendar.
Activist lawyer Aslam Mayat, a member of the mass iftar management team, said many Hindu friends with whom he interacts on an activism chat group called Active Citizens Movement (ACM) attended the mass iftar and they were overwhelmed by the courteous and warm reception each received as they entered the grounds.
Mayat said this was the positive face of Islam that Muslims should be portraying to break the stereotypes that were being churned out by certain media that was bent on stirring Islamophobia.
Mayat said one Hindu retired schoolteacher, Bharat Ramjee, who had heard of the mass iftar was so touched by the open invitation to people of all faiths, he decided to contribute 7kg of jalebis from Moola’s Café in the city. He placed the order a day before.
“He called me out of the blue and said he wanted to contribute towards the iftar eats so he too could earn the Almighty’s blessings. He brought in 560 packets of jalebis which he and his family had packed and delivered to us at 12pm, and phoned me at 5pm to check whether all was in order.
“No doubt, this was a wonderful heartfelt gesture on his part, and we appreciated it,” Mayat said.
Contacted by Al Qalam, Ramjee said it was an honour for him to be part of the inspirational iftar. Next year, he plans to contribute even more. “I am a firm believer that there is only ONE God for all mankind”. Ramjee said for many years now, he has been reading parts of the Quran every day, fasts in Ramadan and all the auspicious nights of the Islamic calendar.
Meanwhile, Mayat said the management team had learnt much in hosting the event, but admitted there was some tweaking to do to make the mass-iftar much better and bigger next year.