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A meal is served after the fast-breaking during Ramadan.
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Evening prayers at the Hoover Crescent Islamic Center during Ramadan.
Ramadan, the Islamic month of prayer and fasting, is currently underway from June 6 to July 5. For Muslim residents of Birmingham, the Hoover Crescent Islamic Center holds nightly prayers and iftar, the fast-breaking meal eaten after sunset.
Birmingham Islamic Society President Ashfaq Taufique said members of the community are welcome to join the Islamic Center for the evening meal and to observe their prayers. This is an annual invitation that the Islamic Center extends, and Taufique's wife, Rita, said the center typically has a visiting group nearly every day of the month. Those groups often include churches and student groups.
Observing Ramadan is one of the main tenets of Islam. Because the holiday is based on the lunar months of the Islamic calendar, the dates of Ramadan are different every year. From dawn until dusk during Ramadan - roughly 4:15 a.m. to 8 p.m. this year - Muslims cannot eat or drink anything. The purpose of fasting, Ashfaq Taufique said, is "so that you may become God-conscious, so that you may become self-restrained."
In the first few nights of Ramadan this year, Ashfaq Taufique said they had close to 400 people show up for iftar. He said this is often a time when people come to the Islamic Center for prayers more frequently and often give up other habits such as coffee or cigarettes.
"If you can quit eating and drinking for a whole day, you can quit anything," he said.
At sunset, the fast is traditionally broken by eating dates. At the Islamic Center, this is done at tables set up outdoors under a tent. After this, members of the Islamic Center go inside the mosque, often called a masjid, for special prayers. They then return outside to eat a community meal. All the food is paid for through sponsorship donations, and Ashfaq Taufique said the evening meals are often a chance for Muslim neighbors to meet for the first time.
"After this month, there will be new friendships," he said.
The meal is followed by a short lecture at 9 p.m., and some people choose to stay for prayers that continue until about 11:30 p.m.
Ashfaq Taufique said that reaching out to churches and community groups during Ramadan is a "landmark project" of the Birmingham Islamic Society.
"We need more than ever that kind of social dialogue," he said.
Visits to the Islamic Center during Ramadan will include a short presentation on Islam and a question and answer session prior to the evening meal. To make a reservation, contact Rita Taufique at 879-4247 Ext. 2 or email firstname.lastname@example.org