During this month of fasting, the faithful are instructed by the Quran to focus on reading scripture, introspection, humble existence, performing good deeds and charity. During Ramadan, a pre-dawn meal or Suhur is eaten then no food or drink is taken until after dusk when the evening meal or Iftar is consumed. Iftar is a time of social gathering and outreach to others. Traditional dishes, some specific to Ramadan are often prepared. Water is the beverage of choice though others are not forbidden. The Iftar meal is a time of fellowship and happiness each evening as the long daily fast is broken.
We were very fortunate to be invited into the Muslim world of these most gracious Turkish people. Upon arriving about 7:30 PM at the Turkish Raindrop House in San Antonio, we were greeted by our hosts with a fantastic traditional music ensemble. Comprised of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim musicians they played a variety of tunes for about 50 minutes. Naturally, as most of the musicians were Turkish, the music had a distinctive Middle Eastern sound. A number of the musical pieces were from the Sufi Islamic tradition recounting various Sufi spiritual concepts. The group played a Quaker piece as well as a Jewish one. They even played Amazing Grace though not in the exact form which we usually hear. The mesmerizing sound of the music made the time pass in a flash.
As the hour of sunset approached, the anticipation for the breaking of the fast began to heighten. Those of us who were not Muslim admired the restraint that those observing Ramadan showed. Just prior to the meal, we watched a short video describing the principle of Ramadan. Then at exactly the hour of sunset, which was 8:36 on Sunday, the call to prayer was given by the imam named Beytullah. We were then allowed to begin the dinner of traditional Turkish food. Fortunately, we from St. Philip's were split up from each other and therefore encouraged to meet and converse with our hosts.
After the meal, the Islamic faithful gathered in the prayer room for the fourth of the five daily prayer sets, prescribed by the Quran. Quietly sitting in the rear we listened and watched these devout Muslims repeating their prayers in the prescribed Arabic language. It was great to watch the younger children begin to learn the process. These prayers lasted about 15 minutes after which it was time to end our Iftar evening.
It was quite the special evening. We all felt very honored to be included in the observance of this nightly breaking of the fast. The devotion, hospitality, and kindness of our Muslim Turkish friends was so heart warming. Our experience was so contrary to the unfair and untrue stereotyping of the Muslim community all too common in our country today. Most of our Turkish friends are also followers of the humanitarian, scholar and progressive Muslim preacher, Fethullah Gulen. For this they and there families have been persecuted quite harshly by the current Turkish government. Mr. Gulen and his followers form one of the most progressive and forward thinking groups in the Muslim world and are under significant pressure from the much larger and more influential reactionary groups. It is truly an honor and privilege to enjoy the Iftar and stand beside our Muslim friends during these time.
- The Ashley McAllen Family