Khadija Lateef shares with us her experience at the Ramadan Tent Project (going on until July 17th), as well as her own spiritual practice of Islam.
The ninth month of the Islamic calendar marks the month of Ramadan, the month in which the Quran was revealed. Through fasting from dusk to dawn, Ramadan unites over a billion Muslims across the world.
Growing up in a Muslim country, I sometimes took the values of fasting for granted. Fasting for Ramadan was a cultural norm, leaving me without questioning the meaning of fasting or its benefits. Finding myself in the West during Ramadan took a lot of adjusting –from the awkward school lunch breaks, to missing our sunset iftar (a large feast we enjoyed nightly with friends and family). Through maintaining my own Muslim practice within a Western world, Ramadan became more personally meaningful than ever.
Even though fasting is quite important to me, it can be a challenge to practice in a non-Muslim country. Last summer, I discovered the Ramadan Tent Project, an initiative that brings Muslims far from home together for a free feast at sunset. This initiative not only fosters the true essence of Ramadan, but it also provides a space for Muslims and non-Muslims alike to discuss faith and combat stereotypes.
Through this experience, I was able to bring curious friends to the open iftar. Instead of trying to convert my non-Muslim friends, we were all welcomed by organizers for who we were. Upon arrival to the park, we were severed delicious food ranging from Biryani to Baklava amongst a backdrop of the sunset and lively conversation. Among the attendees, a student confessed that he initially volunteered because his flatmate goaded him. After experiencing the event, his previous misconceptions of Islam were disproven.
The purpose of fasting is much greater than simply abstaining from food and drink. The physical aspect of controlling and disciplining ones natural desires is a means of self-refinement. Through expressing the goodness of our being through speech, behaviour and the way we serve humanity, the volunteers at the Ramadan Tent Project embody the essence of this month.
Located in central London, at Malet Street Gardens (behind the British Museum), this event run until the 17th of July and begin at 9pm each night. Because of its success, this London based project has expanded to Manchester, Plymouth, Istanbul and Ndola, Zambia.