During the month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world fast from sunrise to sunset. During the hours of daylight, fasting Muslims do not eat or drink at all. At the end of the day, following the evening, or Maghreb, prayer, families or whole communities gather to share the Iftar, the meal that breaks the fast. Preparing an Iftar meal can require a little extra planning, particularly if you have a large group to feed.
If you're inviting guests, begin by inviting them well in advance. If your guests aren't Muslim, tell them a little bit about the cultural and religious context of the meal. Planning and preparation for an Iftar, especially a large meal, begin early in the day. Chef Manzoor Hassan Balghari recommends beginning preparation and "mise en place" earlier than you would for a normal meal, particularly if you are fasting.
Prepare small starter dishes to begin the meal. Iftar meals often are divided into two parts. Immediately after sunset, many communities break their fasts with a small amount of food. Dates are a common food for breaking the fast; tradition holds that this is how the Prophet broke his fast during Ramadan. Nonalcoholic drinks such as milk, water or juice can accompany this part of the meal. After this, the group performs the evening prayer before the main meal itself.
Because Iftar often is a shared, communal event, Iftar dishes should be large enough for all the guests. Dishes such as curries and soups are popular for this reason. In Islamic tradition, providing Iftar for those who have been fasting is considered a very virtuous act; restaurant owners in some Muslim countries distribute Iftar meals to the hungry at no charge. It's important to be sure you have enough food for all guests and a little extra in case you have an unanticipated arrival.
After the Meal
After the meal is finished, families or friends often spend time together relaxing, drinking tea and talking. This is an important period of bonding in the wake of the Ramadan fast. Many Muslims perform Tarawih, or night prayers, during Ramadan, and the approach of these prayers can be a signal for the end of the Iftar. In some cases, the family and guests may perform these prayers together.
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