IFTAR is an Arabic word which means to break. In the Islamic context, it means to break the fast i.e. to eat and drink in the evening after a daylong fast in the month of Ramzan. But, iftaar isnt only about quenching your thirst or satisfying your hunger. It has a lot more significance. Iftaar means partaking not only food but also spiritual knowledge and teachings.
According to Islamic teachings, there are five pillars of Islam. One of these pillars is fasting during Ramzan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. During Ramzan, all Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. Food can be eaten from dusk to dawn but usually people eat a pre-dawn meal at Sahar before beginning their fast.
Fasting not only teaches us self-control and patience but also allows us appreciate the bounties of life. It allows us to relish the food at Iftaar and understand the pain of those who have to go without eating for days. Not only this, when a fasting person breaks his or her fast at Iftaar, he or she is filled with gratitude for the Almighty, who not only created them but, also fulfilled all their needs. Iftaar, thus also becomes a source of spiritual development. The pangs of hunger make one sensitive to the needs of the poor. They make a person not only aware of their pain and sufferings but also more willing to help the have nots. This is why iftaar turns out to be a source of spiritual learning. Iftaar is the moment when physical food is converted into spiritual food.
According to Islamic teachings, iftaar should be a simple meal rather than a lavish affair. Simplicity saves us from distraction and will make us concentrate on the spiritual aspect of fasting. If we make iftaar into an elaborate affair, all our attention will be focused on the taste of the food and only the physical aspects of fasting. The spiritual benefits will be lost. In fact, a lavish iftaar degrades the true spirit of fasting. The Prophet of Islam (pbuh) and his Companions always used to take simple food at iftaar. Iftaar ostensibly ends the fast but for the spiritually awakened mind, it is like a new beginning, a spiritual upliftment. A spiritually awakened person will analyse the experiences of the day and try to take lessons from them so that he or she can benefit both their lives and the lives of others.
Iftaar also gives a glimpse into the boundless rewards that await man in the hereafter.
These days, organising elaborate iftaar parties have become a fashion. While our religion encourages gatherings, these gathering shouldnt be against the very spirit of our religion. An iftaar party, in the true sense should give us an opportunity for spiritual exchange. It should allow us to teach others what we learnt and to incorporate their good habits into our lives. It is reported that the Prophet of Islam (pbuh) used to say Thirst has been quenched, and hunger is no more, and God willing, God will bless us with His reward, after breaking his fast. This proves that iftaar invokes the spirit of prayer. It gives us an opportunity to seek our Lords blessings and beg him for reward. It allows us to say, O God, I have fulfilled my duty and now I hope you will not deprive me of your blessings.
During the fast, when the pangs of hunger and thirst make a man feel vulnerable, he turns towards God for strength. He cries, God, I have obeyed your command but there are many that I have not been able to obey. I may have kept a days fast, but I have also failed on several other occasions. I seek your forgiveness and your blessings. My Lord, forgive me for my sins and empower me with knowledge.
When a sincere prayer like this is uttered, blessings are showered from above. Man prays in this world and receives the reward in the hereafter. But fasting is an exception for which the reward is given in this world only. So, we should all try to earn as much reward as we can, seek as many blessings as we can and please our Lord as much as we can in this holy month.
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