Different Kinds of Iftar at Different Masjids

I have made iftar at many different Masjids over the years in many different cities. The crowds that you see at the various Masjids differs depending on what kind of a Masjid you are at.

For sake of simplicity I will divide the Masjids that I have made iftar at over the years into these categories; the African-American Sunni Masjid, the WD Masjid, the bourgeois immigrant Masjid and the ghetto immigrant Masjid. Each Masjid has its own unique method, flavor and cuisine but some things are usually in common. For example; most will have a large number of single brothers who cant cook and don’t have anyone to cook for them, poor Muslims who cant have a good meal at home and those Muslims who will at a big meal at the Masjid and then go home and throw down at the dinner table. Of course at some Masjids you always have the homeless brothers who come in and are like “Assalamu alaikum akhee where is the food.”

The African-American Sunni Masjid can be anything from a hardcore Salafi Masjid like in East Orange, NJ or Germantown Philly to a Jamil al-Amin joint to a place like Masjid at-Taqwa in Brooklyn where Siraj Wahaj is imam. At these Masjids stuff is usually more regimented and you better not go for seconds before your turn or the brothers from security will be ready to put in work. You can find a lot of fried fish and chicken usually with some form of bread and some spaghetti. Some Masjids have more than others; one poor Masjid I was at brothers only had cinnamon rolls and Ramen noodles (what they call Crackhead Soup in prison). One other Masjid only had chicken McNuggets and Snapple. The brothers and sisters will be completely separate here.

WD Masjids (those that follow the leadership of Imam WD Mohammed) tend to have the same kind of cuisines just with more greens. You always have some old pioneer sisters cooking in the back and you listen to the brothers coming in and swapping stories about Saviors Day in 1972. But when it comes time to pass the drinks these brothers always have the all-natural fruit drinks on hand like Omar on the Nile and that ilk. Whereas in the black Sunni Masjid you will sit on the floor at the WD joint you will sit at a table and there is a good chance you will have to pay for the plate and that the proceeds will go to the building fund. There will be free mixing of brothers and sisters and you may even get a sister run up to you and give you a hug or slide you the digits on the low.

If you go to the bourgeois immigrant Masjid you will find that iftar is given out in a very organized fashion ( unless you are at Dar al Hijrah in VA where there is a buffalo stampede after the Maghrib Tasleem), but the South Asian Masjids tend to be the most organized. You got your iftar samossa, dates and whatever else they will give you in a nice little box with a plastic spoon or fork and some bottled water. It feels more like Starbucks than a Masjid. You pray Maghrib at this Masjid and the imam usually recites two of the last ten surahs (the shortest) and then it is time to grub. You get a nice plate of food, that will include some salad, and it will be quite tasty; the only thing on the cheap is the ghetto soda they get which depending where you live could say Vess, C-Town, Tropical Fantasy or Bubbas on the side. You will notice that most of the Masjid leaders, or wealthy Muslims who sit on the shura and probably run it is a social club, are nowhere to be found as they are retreating to their McMansions for a big meal. You can expect meat and rice every night and if it is a South Asian place expect food that could heat up Alaska. The sisters are normally close to the brothers and if you are here, like I have been in the past, you may have some single brother sitting next to you and tapping your shoulder every three minute and asking you to check out the sister walking by. “Is she married brother?” Hijabs will vary at these places but you will see a lot of the Benazir Bhutto convertible hijab. Now of this is an Arab run Masjid then there will probably be a greater separation of the sexes.

The ghetto immigrant Masjid has a lot of variance. One Masjid that is attended by refugees primarily used to have dates and crackers for iftar. BTW, I’m not talking about gourmet crackers from some yuppie store; I’m talking about those big boxes of crackers you can get for 50 cents. Some of these Masjids are the recipients of a lot of saddaqa during Ramadan so you always have a lot of meat as wealthy doctors drop off half a farm worth of meat as a Ramadan ritual. Here it is hardcore and you may not be able to find any eating utensils as brothers go straight Sunnah and eat with their hands. I have also noticed that there is a shortage of beverages at these places and that most of the brothers don’t drink anything with their food so I usually bring some soda or juice for everyone to drink. At these Masjids food will be good like twice a week, when the rice and vegetables are fresh, but then you will get like two or three days in a row of stale rice.

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10 thoughts on “Different Kinds of Iftar at Different Masjids

  1. Good stuff :-) I haven’t had iftar at a Masjid before, we only have two here and they’re both a bit odd. One has a big Saudi flag and right wing flyers in the foyer, which puts me off, and the other is run by some wierd shia sect, and you never know when it will be open. Plus, as far as I can tell, none of the Desis or Arabs here fast anyway so them “breaking fast” seems kind of pointless.

  2. “Right wing” was probably a bad term. I just object to the word “fundamentalist:, which most people would use, because it implies that there’s something wrong with being down with the din’s fundamentals. The flyers; shit from the Muslim Student Union and the like, basicly, lost of ignorant, tribalistic, and mysoginist stuff, even articles on how men without beards are breaking the shariah. It extends to behavior; a shia sister I know got seriously harassed for praying Ahul-l-Bayt style there once. As for the Saudi Flag, a) I don’t believe ANY national flag belongs in a Masjid, and b) I can’t really think of a better symbol of fitnah. I’m guessing it’s there because wahabi money built the place, like so many others. But as long as the Saudi Hoi Polloi oppress other Muslims, declare them Kafr, allow corrupt prolifigate rulers, keep a stranglehold on pilgrims, enslave others, and fund terrorism, I don’t see anything in common with them. I wouldn’t want to see the Stars and Stripes or an Israeli flag in a Masjid either.

    Anyway, sorry to go on at length. It was genuinely a well-written, funny article and I like your blog.

  3. I see. I think how we should judge the content of any info is to see is it in opposition to Quran and Sunnah or not. The Saudi regime is corrupt and has its fault; but through them Allah has spread a lot of knowledge of this deen.

  4. Some good insights here. I guess I am familiar with the middle class type mosques you talk about, like Dar al Hijrah and ADAMS Center here in the Metro DC area. The mosques I knew in England were more lower class immigrant in nature.

    I liked the “Benazir Bhutto convertible hijab” My wife and I call these “Hijab nuss-nuss”(Arabic) or in English “hijab half-half”. These are usually worn more as a cultural icon than anything to do with religion.

    We tend to do iftar at home, or at friend’s homes. Sort of a family affair. Nothing better thn breaking your fast with friends and family.

    A question for you Umar. You seem to have a lot of experience with the African American brothers. My experience tends to be almost exclusively with Arabs and some Pakistanis.

    As a white convert, and it might just be me, I find I get some interesting reactions from some African American brothers. Sometimes I get some outright hostile stares from African American brothers when I go into a mosque. I talked with one African American brother whom I work with and have known for a couple of years. He told me that some of these brothers have recently come over to “main-stream” Islam from Farrakhan’s misteachings. He said it takes them awhile sometimes to get over the “blond haired blue eyed man is the devil” teachings.

    Being a white convert who has a lot of experience with African American brothers, I thought you might have some insight on this.

    I have met some really great African-American brothers here, especially at the Mahad. I have to say that very often they devote themselves to the deen like no others and more than a few of them speak great Arabic, including one guy at my work. Problem is, his Arabic is fus7a and mine is Hijazi, so we cannot talk much.

    This was just something I had been wondering about for sometime. Thanks Umar.

  5. I think that Dar al Hijrah and Adams represents a particular kind of immigrant masjid in America and because the DC is a metro area without a real blue-collar culture, and VA is the eptiomy of American corporatism and soulless consumer culture in many ways, then you will only see places like ADAMS in VA (do not get me wrong I love both of those masjids I am just putting them into a cultural perspective). In most cities you can find the “ghetto immigrant masjid” in addition to the more middle-class type.

    A white convert can have problems with immigrant brothers and African-Americans. Many immigrants also have a cultural idea of white people that they cannot overcome. Every white Muslim I know well has been accused at one time or another of being an undercover agent by Arabs; others are accused of being Jews. There are also immigrant Muslims, and Muslim organizations, who seek to exploit white Muslims and use them as mascots. I knew a white Muslim who took shahada and two months later he was on the shura of the masjid and giving speeches to City Hall about Islam.

    The African-American Muslim community is not monolithic and you will find a wide range of attitudes within that community. What the brother said about many Muslims being fresh out of the Nation really isn’t applicable anymore; most African-American Muslims enter directly into Sunni Islam today.

    Now you may see African-Americans brothers who grew-up middle-class and are well-educated and familiar with white culture. Others have had a more limited experience in dealing with non-blacks. It depends on the brother. I do think that many African-American brothers just don’t relate to white Muslims and it may not be that they have any ill-feeling they just have a cultural divide. Also, in the Muslim community, a lot of the immigrant brothers have ill-will towards the African-American Muslims and I think maybe they associate the white Muslim with the immigrant Muslim. Having said that; I will say that there is a high inter-marriage rate between white and black Muslims I this country and that you can find white Muslims in predominantly African-American masjids, but every masjid aint for everybody sometimes you just gotta get in where you fit in.

  6. Thanks for the insight. I know what it feels like to have people wonder what you are really up to. I think you speak a certain level of Arabic right? I know that I have spoken Arabic to people I do not know and have them openly ask if I work for the government. When I tell them I am married to a Saudi it makes sense to them because the way I speak Arabic is Hijazi in dialect. It gets them wondering.

    Given the history of racism in the USA, it is no doubt that African American brothers might question a white brother, so it doesnt bother me too much. Thanks for the insight.

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