Saturday, April 12, 2014

What is Iftar?

Iftar is observed during the holy month of Ramadan by Muslims. It is one of the oldest rituals followed by Muslims all over the world. Ramadan occurs in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar during which the whole Islamic community observe complete fast during the daytime. They take a meal before dawn and end the fast only in the evening with a special meal. This evening special meal is known as Iftar which as a discipline is taken after the sunset. The timings of Iftar differ according to the sunset timings in that area. In regions with dense Muslim population a cannon is fired to indicate the time for Iftar. In Islamic countries, the time of Iftar is declared through radio and television broadcasting. Ramadan ends with a big feast on Eid- al- Fitr.
What is the tradition of Sawn?
Except for the children who are yet to attain puberty and those who are travelling, traditionally all the other Muslims are needed to take part in fasting known as Sawn which is an Arabic term meaning ‘to refrain from’. Apart from abstaining from food, devoted Muslims are expected to restrict themselves from drinking, smoking and participating in sexual activities. The main aim of Sawn is to help people inculcate the habit of self restraint in them which is considered to be a virtuous quality according to doctrines of Islam. The Sawn begins with Suhur, a meal that has to be taken before the dawn. This pre-dawn meal is rich with nutrients as it is expected to provide enough energy for the whole day. Dates form the major part of this meal as it contains high calories. Many affluent communities try to include the needy persons in the Iftar meal as charity.
What are the principles of Iftar?
While following the Sawn, a devout Muslim should observe certain principles when he is breaking his fast.
Iftar should be immediately taken after the sunset.
 It should be done before the Maghrib Salata (after sunrise and before sunset) and the proclamation of Adhaan.
Iftar should be started especially with dates. If dates are not available, it should start with a sip of milk or water.
In case of cloudy weather conditions, Iftar should be hold on till the time of sunset is confirmed.
It is considered Makrooh (not liked) if the Iftar is delayed after the sunset or taken before the sunset since its time is considered to be very auspicious.
What is the Iftar Dua?
Iftar mostly starts with "Dua (prayer)". It is a common belief that Dua made during Iftar is readily accepted. The regular Dua or prayer that is offered in every Muslim household during Iftar is:
“Allahumma Inni laka sumtu wa bika amantu [wa alayka tawakkalto] wa ‘ala rizqika aftartu “which in English means “O Allah! I fasted for You and I believe in You [and I put my trust in You] and I break my fast with Your sustenance”.
What are the traditional recipes made for Iftar?
After breaking the fast with dates and water or milk, people can indulge in innumerable varieties of rich and tasty dishes. Depending upon the prevailing culture in particular country or region these food varieties vary. Some of them are:
Sri Lanka:The Iftar is broken in Sri Lanka with sherbet, kanji and fruits. Kanji is a special drink made from thick paste of rice, coconut milk and garlic seasoned with fenugreek seeds, and mustard. Other dishes for Iftar include meat cutlets, pastries, vegetable patties and a special Sri Lankan dish-adik roti.
Iran:In this country Iftar dishes include Tabreezin cheese, walnut sandwiches, sweet tea, sheer biranj, firni made from cow’s milk and rice, saffron flavored halwa, ash rashteb (a type of thick vegetable soup) and adas pola made from rice and lentils.
Jordan:In this part of the world, Iftar is broken by taking yoghurt, juice and soup. The main course includes famous Jordian dish "Mansaf" containing seasoned lamb with lots of herbs and spices served on the base of bread and rice garnished with almonds, nuts and pine kernels. Qatayif is another common Iftar dish. It is a walnut and sugar packed pancake with sprinkle of cinnamon and is eaten with honey.
North African countries:In Tunisia and Maghreb, isharira (a special soup made from rice), meat stock and chicken lentils tops the list. Other main dishes include kuskus and parsley flavored minced beef called bouriek.
Asian and Arabic countries:In these countries, samosas, bhajjiyas, coconut and beans bhaji, kebab and com curry are cooked for Iftar. Biryani, Chicken curry, Lebanese salads are served with special dessert "luqmat al kadey".