Mass iftar at Bangladesh mosque shows true Ramadan spirit

Hundreds of fasting Muslims breaking fast with the iftar provided by the century old Andorkilla Shahi Mosque in Chattogram city of Bangladesh. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 26 May 2019

Mass iftar at Bangladesh mosque shows true Ramadan spirit

  • The mosque has been distributing free iftar for the past 18 years

DHAKA: As the Asr prayer comes to an end, Andorkillah Shahi Mosque in Chattogram develops a festive mood during Ramadan and the junior imams get busy preparing iftar for more than 4,000 fasting Muslims. 

The mosque authorities have been distributing free iftar for the past 18 years. Hundreds of Muslims, irrespective of social status or creed, sit in rows and face-to-face to enjoy the iftar provided.

“With the call of the Maghrib prayer, hundreds of fasting Muslims sitting in a row break their fast with the sip of lemon juice. To me it’s a feeling of heavenly life soaked in a sense of fraternity,” said Sayed Anowar Hossain Jabiri Al-Madani, the khateeb of the mosque.  

“I have experienced this mass-iftar arrangement in the Grand Mosque in Makkah and Madinah during my visit to Saudi Arabia, from where the idea crept into my mind. I introduced this mass iftar offering at my mosque in 2001,” Hossain said. 

“It costs about $100,000 for the mosque management to provide iftar to devotees during Ramadan. On average, every day we have to spend around $3,000,” said Hossain, who is the chief imam of the mosque.  

Some local businessmen came forward to make Hossain’s dream true, but wanted to remain anonymous as they consider it a small contribution to Muslim devotees. The iftar provided by the mosque contains nine items including juice, dates, piaju (mashed lentils fried with oil), rice, soup, jalebi (a sweetmeat) and samosa (a triangular fried pastry filled with sliced meat or vegetables). 

The mosque authority prepares a large portion of the iftar items while some of the items are outsourced. The mosque appoints 10 cooks to make iftar dishes during Ramadan. Starting at 6 a.m., it takes a full day for the cooking team to prepare the items.  

“To me it’s not only a job, it is a passion,” Abdul Latif, a member of the cooking team, told Arab News. Latif has been doing this job at the mosque for the past 11 years. 

This mass iftar initiative by the 500-year-old mosque creates a sense of amity and brotherhood among the city’s residents.  “I come here every day to have iftar with the hundreds of devotees. It’s an environment of true religious fervor which attracts me most specially at the moment when everybody waits for the prayer call to end the day’s fasting,” said Iqbal Mahmud, a businessman in the city’s new market area. 

“I came to this area for some Eid shopping but couldn’t complete my shopping due to (the crowd in) the shopping mall. Suddenly, I came to know about this mass iftar from a shopkeeper and joined here which became a lifetime experience for me as I got an opportunity to have iftar with hundreds of people I don’t know,” he said.

World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

Updated 24 January 2020

World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

  • Economist and Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee will attend the event

JAIPUR: The 13th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) started on Thursday.

Known as the “greatest literary show on earth,” the five-day event brings to one venue more than 500 speakers of 15 Indian and 35 foreign languages, and over 30 nationalities.

Among the festival’s participants are Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners.

The event has been expanding, with over 400,000 people attending it last year and even more expected to show up this time.  The growing crowd has made the medieval Diggi Palace, which hosts it, look small, and organizers are planning to shift the event to a bigger venue next year.

Scottish historian and writer William Dalrymple, one of the organizers, said: “The first time we came to the Diggi Palace in 2007, 16 people turned up for the session of which 10 were Japanese tourists who walked out after 10 minutes, as they had come to the wrong place. Things have improved a little since then. We are now formally the largest literature festival in the world.”

Dalrymple, who has extensively written on medieval India and South Asia, has played a pivotal role in promoting the festival.

The other two organizers are its director, Sanjoy K. Roy, and writer Namita Gokhale, who along with Dalrymple made the JLF become one of the most sought-after events in India.

“Why has the literary festival taken off in this country in this extraordinary way? It goes back to the tradition of spoken literature, the celebration of literature orally through the spoken word has deep roots in this country,” Dalrymple said.

“So the idea that a literary festival is a foreign import is something that can’t be maintained. We’ve tapped into something very deep here. Literature is alive and is loved in India,” he said.

Inaugurating the festival’s 13th edition, celebrated British mathematician Marcus du Sautoy said: “Every number has its own particular character in the story of mathematics. For me it is 13; 13 is a prime number, an indivisible number, and the JLF is certainly a festival in its prime.”

The festival this year is taking place amid a raging debate about India’s new citizenship legislation and mass agitation on the issue of preserving the secular fabric of the nation.

Reflecting on the prevailing mood in the country, Roy, in his opening remarks, said: “We are now faced with a situation where we see a spread of the narrative of hatred. Literature is the one thing that can push back against it and so can be the arts. All of us have a responsibility to do so and this is not the time to be silent anymore.”

Gokhale said: “Ever since its inception 13 years ago, we at the Jaipur Literary Festival have tried to give a voice to our plural and multilingual culture. We live in a nation which is defined by its diversity, and it is our effort to present a range of perspectives, opinions, and points of view, which together build up a cross-section of current thinking.”

She added: “We seek mutual respect and understanding in our panels — it is important to us that these often conflicting ideas are respectfully presented and heard. We also resist predictable and self-important all-male panels, and try to ensure that the vital voices of women resonate through all aspects of our programming.”

One of the attractions of the event this year is the presence of Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, who won the prize in economics last year.

There are also panel discussions on Kashmir, the Indian constitution and history.

The prevailing political situation in South Asia is also reflected by the absence of Pakistani. Before, popular Pakistani authors would attend the JLF, but delays in visa issuance and a hostile domestic environment forced the organizers to “desist from extending invitations.”