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The Ills of Modern Day Iftaars

 

One of the social norms that have developed in recent times is regarding the providing of meals during the month of Ramadhan after Maghrib. Due to the excessiveness of its practice, people began to mistakenly perceive this meal AS the iftaar. Iftaar is actually the breaking of one’s fast whether it be a cup to drink with some dates. It has come to the point where people expect the meal after Maghrib which instills a demanding mentality. The purpose of this article is not to steer away from feeding people for we all know the great merit of feeding the people, but rather the following material is geared towards steering away a social habit that is not tied to the Sunnah in absolute form

The problematic aspects of the modern day iftaar in the masaajid which undercut the following Islamic values or practices are the following

  1. The masjid is a place of ibaada, dhikr, and reading qur’an
    1. The person who spent his day waiting to break his fast and reading Qur’an and prepare for ‘Isha and taraweh will receive no sakeena from yelling kids running around, loud speaking adults trying to be heard because a thousand whispers make a loud roar
    2. No place or space for one who wishes to pray naafila
    3. No sort of concentration for reading Qur’an or khushoo in salaah or dhikrullah.
    4. Brotherhood: how people inadvertently or purposely invite people from their culture to eat elsewhere when other people of other cultures are providing food at the masjid
    5. Bringing people to the masjid (in effect we only bring food shoppers and taste tester rather than mukhlisoon, and proof for this are those whom you see show up after maghrib has been prayed and disappear before ‘Isha is prayed)
    6. Feeding the people
      1. Most people who are not fasting who try to get by, by feeding the poor but are not feeding the poor but instead are just feeding the people at the masjid and not poor people

Question: May Allah give you good; the questioner says; during the month of Ramadan some of the neighbors establish group iftars in the masjid with the intention of bringing about unity and strengthening the ties between them, so what is your view concerning this?

Sheikh Fawzan: This was not done by the Salaf; they would not intend to gather for the purpose of having iftar, not in Ramadan or outside of Ramadan.

But if the purpose is brotherhood from the standpoint of having the poor and needy share iftar with them, so they gather in the masjid for iftar with the purpose of feeding the poor and the needy then there is no problem with this.

But if they gather by themselves as though this gathering is virtuous; then this is an action that was not done by the Salaf.

But if there are those who are in seclusion (I’tikaf) in the masjid then there is nothing wrong with them gathering together for iftar and dinner.

But as for the people coming to the masjid just for the purpose of iftar and the intent is not to feed the poor, then this has not been legislated.

 

  1. It turns out to be a waste of food, which gets spilled on the floor, excessive indulgence, greed to a fasting stomach
  2. Feeding the people merely oppresses the people of the masjid who care because they are usually those who clean up
  3. Promotion of sloth and laziness in salaah by filling the bellies and not the heart leaving the people to feel sluggish and heavy.
  4. This trend entices people to virtually view it as stipulated instead of a fadheela
  5. It also subtracts from brotherly or sisterly bonds such as a husband going home to have dinner with his family or brothers getting together to go out to eat together, or brothers inviting people to join them to eat, or brother accepting the invitation to someone’s home.

Feeding a fasting person

It is imperative for the believer to always try to do righteous deeds. From among these rightous deeds is the feeding of the fasting person because of the numerous rewards for this act.

The Prophet (S) said: “Whoever gives someone something to break the fast with, he would have the same blessings as the fasting person and this would not reduce the blessings of the fasting person in any way ” [Ahmad and Tirmidhee]

If someone is invited to break his fast then he should respond to the invitation. If he refuses then he has disobeyed the Messenger (S).

It is also recommended for the person invited to supplicate for his host after finishing eating his food as was the practice of the Messenger (S). 

These are four powerful, holistic sunnahs which represent virtually the epitome of Islamic etiquette and dinners at the masjid all the time undercuts much of it.

  1. Food leaves odor whether dropped or not and sometimes it remains on the carpet

 

  1. It distracts people praying Maghrib and people are bringing food in. Once food is brought, the minds stray from what is being articulated either through salaah or through a talk.

 

 

So, I do not wish to give out the wrong message. We are not on absolute terms calling out against having dinner in the masaajid, we are just merely pinpointing this phenomenon for what it is.

 

Alternatives and Benefits

We know that common practice becomes redundant. To keep excitement maybe on Saturday or Sundays to have a major outdoor event for the community, we live in a warm whether climate, were we can have outdoor feast with outdoor activities waiting to hear the adhaan so they can prepare themselves for wudhoo so they can leave their place in a state of preparation for the salawaat and taking literal steps back towards the ibaadah and the dhikr instead of being couch potatoes and this helps distinguish between the two states in the minds of the people, including the children. This will build and prepare the people to understand the purpose of the masjid being a house of worship and a lesson for the children. It will help children to understand how to behave in various settings, between play time and times of seriousness.

 

Another good that comes from separating the two is bringing back re-enactment of the Messenger salallahu alaihi salam and his companions for we do not find this modern practice of iftar as their definition and practice of iftar.

We solve the roach problem if we have them in any masjid.

Likewise, It puts control back into the hands of the Imaam

We alleviate the panic people developer even the stress levels from people who worry whether the person charged with bringing food will get there, if it will be enough, spicy or not, no worry about getting pizza due to various factors. We have seen where people suspected of being too poor or unable to provide enough food to be almost interrogated by people over worried about the amount of food, only to then be refuted by the amount of quantity left over after everyone has eaten.

The position of many of the scholars is

It is permitted to eat in the mosque when there is a need or benefit in doing so, and best to avoid it otherwise (i.e. when there is no particular need or benefit).

Some works, including Imam Haskafi’s Durr al-Mukhtar and the Fatawa Hindiyya state that it is disliked to eat in the mosque unless one is in a state of i`tikaf (spiritual retreat). The ulema have mentioned that:

A. This is understood to refer to a slight dislikedness (karahat tanzih),

B. Any recognized interest, need, or benefit lifts the dislikedness (just as the intention of i`tikaf does).

However, even in such cases, it is best as Ibn Abidin and others have stated to intend i`tikaf (spiritual retreat), as this is valid and recommended even for short periods of time. [cf: Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, quoting Jami` al-Fatawa]