An Iftar with a Social Cause

This story was published in the Oman Observer on April 11, 2023

A typical gathering for iftar is over quite quickly once the fast is broken and the congregation has prayed together, listened to a speech by a senior member of the community, and shared the evening meal, known as the suhour.

But the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community breaks their fast after the sunset prayers with dates, water and tea. Later community members come together for an iftar dinner consisting of traditional Bohra delicacies. Community centres also have a practice of preparing extra food to serve those who are less fortunate in the neighbourhood.

Special iftar dinner programs are also organised to host friends from local authorities and neighbours to share the traditional Bohra meal and converse in a spirit of unity and brotherhood.

The 350 close-knit families form the Dawoodi Bohras of Muscat, which first settled here in the 1960s, hold iftar and suhoor gatherings at Jamia Masjid. They stand out for their community spirit and consideration for those in wider society.

Ramadan preparations begin weeks in advance when volunteers are appointed to plan daily religious affairs, organise iftar meals to break the daily fast, and find ways to manage cleanliness and waste in and around the masjid.

Usually, just as the Omanis do, preparations to welcome the holy month begin weeks beforehand with the cleaning of their houses and workplaces. This year, around 950 members of the Dawoodi Bohra community in Muscat took part in the cleaning campaign to prepare their place of worship for Ramadan.

As part of their year-round, global Project Rise initiative, Dawoodi Bohras everywhere undertake activities to protect and enhance the local environment. Ramadhan is a time when such activities increase, as Bohras find ways to help those outside of their immediate community. This year, the Dawoodi Bohras of Muscat planted several saplings in and around their masjid in Darsait. The community has replaced single-used plastic bottles with reusable bottles – a decision that has prevented 1,000 plastic bottles a year going to landfill.

The Dawoodi Bohra community kitchens team, comprising volunteers in the food preservation sector, oversees the food consumption, ensuring that members receive nutritious meals, while ensuring that not even a single grain of food is wasted.

Typical Bohra fasting

A typical fasting in the Bohra community begins with tahajjud, before the dawn, Dua and Tilawat. And after Sehri the members of the community pray Fajr. At midday, they offer Zohrana namaz. After every namaz, the Bohra members recite various duas, and after Magrib salah they break their fast and then pray Isha before taking their meals.

Major items for Bohra iftar

The Bohra community pays great attention to healthy eating and observes moderation in their meals. They never overeat as they are guided by the Prophet’s principle: “Nothing is worse than a person who fills his stomach. It should be enough for the son of Adam to have a few bites to satisfy his hunger. If he wishes more, it should be: one-third for his food, one-third for his liquids, and one-third for his breath.”

Some of the traditional Bohra cuisines served in Bohra meals include biryani, kari-chawal, dal-chawal, dabba gosht, khichda, patveliya (made of arvi leaves) and smoked samosas.

Learning never stops

The Dawoodi Bohra community places great importance on education, knowledge and acquiring spiritual wealth. Sultan al-Bohra Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin also makes constant efforts to spread the memorisation of the Holy Quran movement throughout the community. To that end, special Quran hifz classes for Ramadan for all ages are conducted during this month just like in other months. There are over 7,500 Bohra huffaz (those who have memorised the entire holy Quran) across the world. A 5 year-old girl from Houston, America, is the youngest hafiz of the Holy Quran in the community.

Other social welfare activities that are part of the community’s global philanthropic arm “Project Rise” include education and medical support for workers and widows, as well as extending support to various relief aids in Turkey, Syria, and Pakistan and other countries wherever natural disasters have left thousands of people vulnerable and in need.

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