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.