In Kashmir, if you’re not home by Iftaar just walk into a Masjid or shrine

In Kashmir, if you’re not home by Iftaar just walk into a Masjid or shrine

Every day during Ramadhan, forty minutes before Iftaar, volunteers start spreading long Dastarkhwan at the historic Jamia Masjid and set up platters over it for people to break their fast with.

Each platter contains dates, fruits, samosas, water and softdrinks. By the time of Iftaar around 150 people assemble inside the grandmosque. The atmosphere is charming.

Apart from residents from the neighbourhood, shopkeepers,vendors and travelers, people from different districts who work in Srinagarcome here to break their fast.

"In the initial days, we organised iftaar platters for a fewpeople. The number of devotees kept increasing and today around 150 personsbreak their fast here daily," said Aqib Ahmad, a volunteer among 15 at JamiaMasjid serving the fasting persons.

The eatables provided to fasting persons are supplied bybelievers to earn blessings.

One of the suppliers, who wished not to be named, said"According to Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has encouraged his followers toarrange Iftar meals, in whatever capacity possible, even if it is a single dateor a glass of water."

In Kashmir, Muslims have been organising mass Iftar programsin recent years.

Ali Muhammad Dar, 72, of Habba Kadal said during hischildhood people used to break their fast with simple water.

"Later, dates became common. Now today, we have varieties ofjuices, soft drinks and high quality dates," he said.

Dar recalled a Tableegi Jamaat organising Iftaar meals atRanger Masjid Bohri Kadal in 1981.

"Those days, I was running a shop there. I had been part ofthat event. Later, this became a tradition and more people came forward toencourage it for seeking blessings of Allah. The local youth have been on thefront to organise Iftar and serve fasting persons," he said.

Now it is common to find now individuals, gatherings andvarious religious organisations sending Iftar meals to neighborhood Masjids andShrines.

It means if you are passing by a Masjid or Shrine duringiftar time, just walk in and you will get an Iftar meal.

"Many needy people and travelers have nowhere but theMasjids to go for iftar. Apart from residents of the locality, people involvedin management of all Masjids keep enough supply of dates, water and soft andfruit drinks to serve travelers. Individuals distribute these eatables anddrinks at roads also as Iftaar time appraoches ," said Mukhtar Ahmad, aresident of Bohri Kadal in downtown Srinagar.

At Hazratbal Dargah, right inside the main entrance oneither side, dining is spread for devotees at Iftar time.

Here, the Iftar is a time for many to reunite with theirfellow district people working in Srinagar.

"I meet a few of people from my district daily at DargahHazratbal during Iftar. It feels like it does in my own home amongst family andfriends," said Mushtaq Ahmad of Pulwama, who works in a private company inSrinagar.

Volunteers say they are honored and privileged to be servingfasting persons during Ramadhan.

The major Iftaar gathering are also witnessed at Iqra MasjidSarai Balla, Masjid Bilal Abi Guzar, Ranger Masjid Bohri Kadal, Sonwar Shrine,Makdoom Sahib and Dastigeer Sahib Shrines and other places.  Similar, gatherings are witnessed at majorMasjids and Shrines of other districts in Kashmir.

Islamic scholars have also encouraged people to provideIftar to fasting persons. Quoting Hadith, they teach: "Whoever feeds a fastingperson will have a reward like that of the fasting person, without anyreduction in his (fasting person's) own reward."

In 2015, more than 3,500 people formed a 5,000-feet-longchain over 'dastarkhwans' or dinning sheets at the scenic Dal Lake in Srinagarto break their fast. They were treated to delicacies of biryani, juice, datesand fruits – all free of charge. It was claimed to be Asia's largest Iftargathering.

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