How to Iftar: From a Muslim to a non-Muslim
If you’re invited to an iftar meal during Ramadan, here is a short description of what to expect, and some suggestions for what to bring with you.
Each evening during Ramadan Muslims break their fast with the meal known as iftar. An iftar meal is full of juices, teas, sweets, and appetizers and sometimes even main dishes. It is a celebrated occasion each evening and family and friends (Muslim and non-Muslim) are often invited.
So what should a non-Muslim do if invited to iftar? Well, the answer is pretty simple. It is more or less like attending any other family dinner. And, since iftar is full of a variety of foods, you really can’t go wrong with what you bring as long as you understand a few dietary rules followed by Muslims. First, no alcohol and no pork. This being said, even less observant Muslims tend to only eat halal meats during Ramadan, so it is best to leave the meat/chicken dishes to your host. However, seafood and fish are always halal. Any vegetarian appetizer you like would be an excellent choice; vegetable egg rolls, mini-quiches, mini-pizzas, think finger foods minus the meat. Another great idea that is always well-received is desserts. Again, the “finger food” form is usually best, like cookies, individual tarts, or cheesecakes.
If you are not a great cook, you can always buy some dates which can be found in most Middle Eastern and Indian stores and larger supermarkets. Dates are the traditional way to break one’s fast and are always present at the iftar table.
When you arrive at your host’s home, they will often offer to let you go ahead and eat, since they know you are not fasting. As a Muslim, I think it is best to politely decline this offer. You were invited to eat with them, so please eat with them.
When the time for maghrib prayer arrives, Muslims say a short dua silently (a short invocation) and it is time to eat. Beginning the iftar with a few dates is the traditional way; your host will probably pass a plate of them around, and then it is a buffet free-for-all. Don’t be shy to eat and try a little of everything and your host will encourage you to do so. After everyone has eaten plenty, most families will sit and chat over some tea or juices.
Lastly, before you leave, feel free to thank your hosts and wish them a Happy Ramadan or Ramadan Mubarak.
Nawal is a guest blogger who is a university professor and an American convert to Islam.