Ramadan Open House at ICCNC

Oh mankind, surely We created you of a male and a female, and We have made you races and tribes that you may get mutually acquainted. Surely the most honorable among you in the Providence of Allah are the most pious; surely Allah is Ever-Knowing, Ever-Cognizant. -Holy Qur’an, Verse 49:13

On Saturday, May 26th 2018, ICCNC hosted its annual Ramadan Open House and Iftar Sharing Program, an event designed to bring community members together to break bread and share in a conversation in the spirit of togetherness, compassion, and generosity. The Open House offers the opportunity for guests to attend an engaging interactive talk, socialize with their Muslim neighbors, and share in a traditional fast-breaking dinner known as iftar.

Chairman of ICCNC’s Board, Payman Amiri, set the stage for the evening by reminding the Center’s esteemed guests that they were there for the purpose of learning from one another and to be connected to common social causes. After Brother Ahmed Rashed’s beautiful Qur’anic recitation, which echoed the moral imperatives of “former scriptures, those of Abraham and Moses” (Qur’an, 87:18-19), Sr. Maha Elgenaidi gave a presentation on the basic beliefs of Islam, undergirding its rites and practices, including centrally, the holy month of Ramadan. Sr. Elgenaidi, who is the founder of the Islamic Groups Network (ING) and has received numerous awards in recognition for her work countering prejudice against Islam in America, explained the practices during Ramadan as a means for developing habits of good character. Fasting, when performed every day and paired with the curtailing of compulsive and unkind behavior, Muslims build willpower and self-discipline that they may benefit and extend in their lives beyond Ramadan. By being “vigilant about conduct,” Muslims move closer toward the goal of iḥsān, the “highest level of belief,” instilling sincerity and excellence in their practice of Islam.

Continuing on the theme of self-renewal and seeking perfection established by Sr. Elgenaidi, Rabbi David J. Cooper of the Kehilla Community Synagogue spoke of working to bring about a day when there would no longer be a need for charity; a day when poverty is eliminated. Rabbi Cooper focused on Chapter 58 from the Prophet Isaiah where, as to the moral missioning inherent in fasting, the words are far from ambiguous. It reads in part:

    1. Is this not the fast I will choose? To undo the fetters of wickedness, to untie the bands of perverseness, and to let out the oppressed free, and all perverseness you shall eliminate.
    2. Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and moaning poor you shall bring home; when you see a naked one, you shall clothe him, and from your flesh you shall not hide.
    3. Then your light shall break forth as the dawn, and your healing shall quickly sprout, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall gather you in.

Rabbi Cooper qualifies the Torah’s righteous inducement with the special duty of spiritual communities to pursue social justice, among the highest demands of prophetic religion. By fulfilling these ennobling ambitions, we testify to the divine presence in the world, both through its sacred history and above all, through observing its precepts.

Reverend Ben Daniel, a Senior Pastor at Montclair Presbyterian Church, completed the talks with a meditation on what prevents us from achieving our highest ideals: fear. He makes ample mention of interfaith actions as providing comfort and “nurturing the inner child who might otherwise be afraid.” When we think of the poor among us and work to address food hunger and insecurity, we set aside our fear. Echoing the previous speakers’ emphasis on putting faith into action, Rev. Daniel speaks of the courage we receive when we come to the special awareness, through our charitable efforts, that we are all the children of God. By the means of our collective spiritual work, Rev. Daniel observes, our hearts may be changed and we may recognize the spirit within each of us. On that inspired note, friends and neighbors of the community joined at the table for wonderful food and conversation, each and all sharing in the blessings of the holy month of Ramadan. Alhamdulillah (All praise be to Allah).

ICNNC is working to combat the hunger problem in Oakland by preparing and distributing meals for 50-100 homeless people every Saturday before the iftar. Volunteers needed to help distribute the food should contact info@iccnc.org. Donations are also needed to support this effort.