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August 2009
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Islamic Voice Debate

Should Muslims organise and attend Iftar parties for political or fund raising objectives?
Principal S.A.M Hashmi

O Allah! I fasted for You and I believe in You and I break my fast with Your sustenance.
A devout Muslim says this before breaking his day-long fast at Iftar. He has indeed fasted in obedience to divine counsel. During Iftar, we should not forget that this is only an event consequent to the fast.

Iftar is certainly not a party time or the occasion to build or break political alliances. It is a moment of introspection for the faithful, sandwiched as it is between two prayers. It is the time to seek forgiveness, engage in introspection and supplication. Divine blessings pour down in the dying moments of the declining day.

Where do our political leaders fit in this scenario? They hold lavish Iftar parties or attend others hosted by their followers. They and their fellow-VIPs sit on raised platforms in this function forgetting that all those who are fasting are supposed to be at the same level in the eyes of God. Those who get invited to these VIP 'dos' become snobbish and those who are left out feel neglected.
It important to remember that the fasting may end at Iftar, to be resumed after Suhoor in the early morning, but Ramadan continues day and night. Even after the fasting ends for the day, the month of Ramadan remains. Purity of both thought and action is important, not only during the fasting period, but for the whole month.

The Prophet (Pbuh) used to pray for those who invited him to break the fast with them. Sahih Muslim tells us that, among such prayers he used to say, "O Allah! Feed the one who fed me and give drink to him who gave me to drink" and "O Allah! Forgive them and have Mercy on them and bless whatever you provide for them."

The politicians do not understand the sanctity of such prayers. Instead, their aim appears to be to endear themselves to their hosts. In these parties, they often make promises and announcements giving government largesse to the people or praising their own governments or political parties.
This Iftar bonhomie by politicians is even more cynical because the main, perhaps the only reason politicians host or attend Iftar parties is to show that they are 'with' the Muslims and, by implication, that the Muslims should remember this generosity on their part when voting. What should be sacred becomes a bargaining chip: your vote and goodwill for my attending your Iftar party.

( S.A.M. Hasmi is the Principal of Anjuman i- Islam's Akbar Peerbhoy College of Commerce & Economics, Mumbai)

Farid Khan

The issue of organising Iftar party totally depends on the niyat (Intention) of the individual or organisation. I do not see anything wrong in attending or organizing an Iftar party for the good cause. If it's beneficial to the people and helps in bringing members of various communities closer, then there is no harm in organising Iftar party.

I agree that the Iftar parties hosted by politicians are politically oriented and not to strengthen any emotional unity between Hindus and Muslims in the country. Symbolic presence of Muslims in political Iftars without religious fervor has become a platform for political hobnobbing. The lavish feasts in the name of Iftar party at the cost of public money, which are attended by prominent political leaders and distinguished personalities from a cross section of society cannot be termed as appropriate.

I avoid going to these political 'nautankis', but if I must, I carry my khajoor (dates) to break my fast because you can never be sure of the source of income of these lavish parties that politicians throw and Islam says that what you eat for Iftar must be from halal earnings (honest income).

Many individual and organisations do organise Iftar parties for raising funds for their projects. It's the month when Muslims disburse their Zakat. Iftar parties become the platform for communicating with Muslims about the work these individuals and organisations are doing.

(Farid Khan is General Secretary of the Mumbai based Qaumi Majlis-e-Shoora)

(As told to our staff writer)