SHAFAQNA -Â Spiritual leaders and advocates in Brantfordâ€™s Muslim community are so eager to continue to build bridges to those in the rest of the city that they took the extra step this week of inviting people to share some of Ramadan with them.
A signpost event came on Tuesday evening at the Brantford Mosque, where close to 200 Brantford area residents, notables and civic leaders were invited to attend an Iftar dinner. Itâ€™s when Muslims break in the middle of the month-long Ramadan fast to eat wholesomely before returning to the second half of the fasting period.
The words â€œpeaceâ€ and â€œloveâ€ and an invitation to pray together in fellowship that evening resonated throughout the remarks of imams and lay leaders in the Muslim community to their guests.
Ramadan is observed by Muslims as a month of observance and fasting in deep recognition that the Qurâ€™an, the central religious text of Islam, was revealed by God to Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel.
The revelation is said to have come gradually over a period of about 23 years, beginning on Dec. 22, 609, when Muhammad was 40, and concluding in 632, the year of his death.
During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, break the fast with dates and beverages, then go for prayers for about 10 minutes. After eating a meal, they start prayers again that can go on for two hours.
During that period, the imam recites from the Qurâ€™an while everyone listens and prays. The final chapter is recited on the final fasting day of Ramadan. Then Muslims partake of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan.
To Abu Noman Tarek, imam of Brantford Mosque, Ramadan is the perfect time to explain the Muslim faith to others in the community.
â€œThe Qurâ€™an was revealed to the whole world. It is not just for Muslims,â€ he said in an interview and to the gathering.
â€œWe have invited everyone to share the message for all of humanity.â€
Tarek and Dr. Raza Khan took turns explaining how the mosque gives 100 baskets of food to the community every year, has a language program through Grand Erie Learning Alternatives, and its members have planted two gardens from which the harvest will be given to the food bank.
Members of the mosque are keenly aware that international events have caused fear and unease in the Brantford community. But Islamâ€™s local leaders went to great lengths Tuesday to dispel those feelings through openness.
In front of everyone, Mohammed Al-Farram, a retired imam of the Brantford Mosque, rolled out what turned out to be a Canadian flag, in tribute to the countyâ€™s 148th anniversary the next day.
â€œWe must thank Allah that we are in Canada,â€ he said.
â€œI never forget what Canada stands for. Peace, love, harmony, tolerance.â€
Anwar Dost, president of the Muslim Association of Brantford, invited all the mosqueâ€™s guests to begin the meal. The male members would go upstairs to pray for 10 minutes, he explained. â€œAnyone who wants is free to pray with us.â€
Accompanying the members up the stairs were Brantford Mayor Chris Friel, Brant MPP Dave Levac, Brant MP Phil McColeman, NDP candidate Marc Laferriere, other non-Muslims in the community, and this scribe.
We all knelt together while Tarek recited prayers.
Back down in the hall, mosque members went through the gathering seeking people to eat with and share conversation.
â€œIslam is all about inclusiveness,â€ said Al-Farram. â€œWe have invited people to join us not just to eat, but to share in friendship so we can know each other better.â€
If the spirit of camaraderie on display that evening showed anything, itâ€™s that the Muslim community is prepared to do all the reaching out necessary to belong to the wider city.