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Free Iftar in Ramadan

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Q: Many mosques offer a free meal at the end of the day of fasting in Ramadan. Some of our friends are of the view that those of us who are able to look after themselves should not go and partake of such meals. They say that they are meant for those who cannot afford to have a decent meal at the end of their fasting day. Others say that such generous gifts are given to all people and there is no harm if those who are able to look after themselves partake of such free meals. Please comment.

A: I understand the argument put forward by those who say that people who are able to look after themselves should not attend such donated Iftar, or fast-ending meal. It is a question of leaving the donated food to people who are more deserving than they are. Yet the people who provide such free Iftar simply seek reward from God. The Prophet has explained that God grants a rich reward to anyone who gives a meal to a fasting person. He did not specify that such a person has to be poor or unable to find something to eat. It is simply the invitation and the hospitality one shows to a fasting friend or relative, which earns the reward. When the Prophet explained this, he wanted to encourage people to share their food with others on fasting days. This increases their feeling of unity in worship. Hence, when you invite some relatives and friends to an Iftar meal in your home, you do not merely receive their thanks and a warmer relationship with them; you also get a reward from God similar to their reward for fasting. The people who donate money to provide with Iftar service in mosques do so in order to earn such reward from God. This will be theirs regardless of the financial status of those who attend their invitation. As to the question whether to attend such Iftar or not when one is able to look after himself and his family, the answer is relative. If you live in a country where those who are in real poverty are numerous, then it is better not to go to such Iftar, so as to give a chance to people who are poorer to benefit by it. On the other hand, if what is offered is plentiful and anyone who comes will be looked after and will have his meal, then there is no harm in attending.