Fasting in Abrahamic Traditions: MECCA Center Holds Annual Interfaith Ramadan Dinner

By Dr A. Khan

Chicago, IL: There are a number of common traditions in the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They all believe in one God, offer daily payers and weekly congregational prayers, give alms, visit holy place of Jerusalem, accept Abraham (pbuh) as one of the Major Prophets, and keep fasts. Although the form and protocol of fasting varies greatly among Jews, Christians, and Muslims, but one thing is common: they all seek spiritual enlightenment by following the commandments of God.

The MECCA Center Willowbrook, IL, has the unique distinction of building bridges across cultures and religions, and fostering the interfaith dialogue. Every year the MECCA Center hosts an Iftar dinner to share Ramadan’s blessings with friends from other faiths. This year’s interfaith Ramadan dinner was held on June 16 at Ashton Place, Darian, IL.

The dinner was attended by more than 400 prominent community members which included local dignitaries, priests, rabies, imams, Fire Chief and Mayor of Burr Ridge , Consul General of Pakistan Faisal Tirmizi , and DuPage County board members.

This year’s theme of the interfaith gathering was “Fasting an Abrahamic Tradition.” The program commenced with the recitation of the Holy Qur’an by Sheikh Sabri Elmansuri. Dr Sabina Rizwan, master of ceremonies, welcomed the guests and then Boy Scouts of America presented the pledge of Allegiance to the Flag: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Dr Shakir Moiduddin, member of the governing board of MEECA delivered the opening address, which was followed by a panel discussion on interfaith perspectives on fasting. The panel had four speakers: (1) Mark Swanson, professor of Christian-Muslim studies, and interfaith relations, Associate director of Center of Christian-Muslim Engagement for Peace and Justice, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, (2) Father Toni Josevski , Parish priest of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, Willowbrook, IL, (3) Prof. Inamul Haq, adjunct professor of Islam at Elmhurst College , IL, and (4) Sheikh Hassan Aly, Imam and director of religious affairs at MECCA Center.

In his opening remarks, Father Toni Josevski said that we are all children of Abraham, we try to bring out our best behavior to be worthy in the eyes of God, and try to achieve real paradise. Prof. Inam thanked MECCA for hosting the event, and said that fasting is one of the five pillars of faith in Islam. Fasting in the month of Ramadan is special and unique. Fasting is a very special spiritual experience, it is unique in the sense that only God knows if one is truly fasting or not. He said that Ramadan is the month of charity and taking care of the needy.

Prof. Swanson, in his opening statement, said that we came here to break fast as one nation, under God, with liberty. He quoted Professor Diana Eck of Harvard University by observing that she has said that Islam is our own religion. Prof. Swanson said that as Christians, Muslims and Jews, we are all together and it’s not “us” versus “them.” He observed that the Bible does not describe any specific structure or protocol for fasting. He said that fasting and prayer go together, and fasting is an intense experience; Jesus fasted for forty days. He further observed that today we are not breaking our fast with “Big Mac,” rather with dates and water, which come from trees and earth.

Sheikh Hassan Aly, in his opening remarks, observed that we are living through tough times. Fasting gives us an opportunity to heal each other, fasting is for all nations. Prayer is a great blessing to bring a change in ourselves, and Ramadan is a unique time to strive to change ourselves to become better human beings. After delivering their opening remarks, the panelists answered questions posed by the audience regarding fasting protocols in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The Q & A session was followed by Iftar , breaking of the fast, Magrib prayers , dinner, and presentation of community service awards by the organizer of the event, Dr Usman Ghani. Finally, Dr Muhammed Hamadeh, President of the governing board of MECCA , thanked the guests for attending the interfaith event and promoting understanding and building bridges across cultures and religions. Sheikh Hassan Aly offered the concluding prayers at the end of the Iftar dinner.



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.