Last night was such a powerful and beautiful night that I just want a part of it to be etched somewhere forever. I think that all of us who came to the iftar felt the same way. There was something special, something powerful, and something so deep about it subhanAllah. Last night I invited my Jewish and Muslims sisters from the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom for a potluck iftar at my place.
To be honest, I was actually freaking out about the iftar. A part of me was worried that it would be boring or it won’t go well. I was worried that my friends would not like my food and it would not be an eventful evening. The past few weeks, I have been struggling with low self-esteem so obviously I freaked out about having the iftar as well. 8 PM came around and the door bell rang. I panicked. My friends were already here! I rushed to the door and I greeted them with a smile as two of my friends came in. The whole time, I was making du’a in my head asking Allah SWT to ease this anxiety inside of my mind.
We also had another sister who is not part of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom come to the iftar. She is a photographer who is working on a photo essay about American Muslims that she intends to publish insha Allah. With the recent negative media attention about Muslims, we are often portrayed in a certain stereotypical light that is not reflective of the diversity and beauty of American Muslims. Through her photo essays, she hopes to convey positive images of American Muslims and their daily life so that everyone can connect or identify with on some level. When I heard about this amazing project, I just could not say no so I invited her to come and take pictures of our iftar.
But again, the anxiety in my my head intensified as she stepped into my house. Did I clean enough? Is my house presentable? Did it smell good? Will there be enough lighting for pictures? Is this iftar even worth taking pictures? These were all the thoughts (and more) that were going through my head as the evening was starting to progress. I started to get the food out of the oven and started to set it on the table because iftar time was close by.
Around 8:25 PM, all the sisters were here. The athan went off on my phone and we broke fast with dates. We then set out the rugs to pray. Uh-Oh. I had to lead the prayers because it was my place. I really did not want to because I don’t have good recitation of the Quran by any means. And my Jewish sisters would be here to watch me on top of that! But with a deep breath, I started to lead the prayers and alhamdullilah it was not the end of the world. As we ended the maghrib prayer, I made a du’a once again to Allah SWT to help me with the anxiety and help me get through this evening. I closed my eyes and kept repeating those words so He would hear me, help me, and not leave me.
As I got up, I felt as though everything changed. I suddenly forgot about the anxiety and worry. I became so hungry that I filled my plate with food and I joined the others to eat. And alhamdullilah, things got better from there.
I had some of the best conversations last night with my Jewish sisters. We talked about so many things like Ramadan, Yom Kippur, fasting, spirituality, and shabbat to name a few. The conversation just flowed organically and so naturally that I realized I had no reason to stress. We shared some family stories about one another and we talked about the pros and cons of Facebook as well! We also had the sister take photographs throughout the evening of all of us while were breaking our fast, praying, having dinner, talking, and of course of my cute cat, Chip. It was such a magical evening that I felt happier and happier about it alhamdullilah.
I also asked one of my Jewish sisters, Jen, to attend taraweh with me. We helped her put on a hijab so she can come to the mosque with us. She looked so beautiful and dazzling with the hijab! As the evening came to a close, I thanked Allah SWT for making it so perfect. I could not have asked for a better iftar and I truly think my Jewish sisters made it even more special. It was so nice to talk about the similarities of our faith as well as other things. It is always nice to get together with a group of ladies and just talk about life! We talked about our weaknesses, our stories, our goals, faith and spirituality. I feel like we were finally all beginning to open up about our selves in a way that was much more deeper. And that’s exactly the purpose of the Salaam Shalom sisterhood. We want to break down barriers and build true, meaningful, and loving relationships. And to be able to witness that last night during Ramadan and be a part of it was truly a blessing that I can’t thank Allah SWT enough for.
As the evening came to a close, we said gave our hugs and said good bye to each other. Jen, Skye and I went to the mosque together. As we drove up to the mosque, I told Jen where the men and women pray. We entered the mosque and we took off our shoes and placed it on the shelves. The taraweh prayers had already began. I took out a chair for Jen to sit while Skye and I rushed to catch the prayer. As we finished our 8 rakah of prayers, it was 10:48 PM. I knew Jen had a long drive back so I went to her and thanked her for coming. She was so excited to see the congregational prayers and to see the inside of a mosque. I gave her a hug and we said good bye. I told her that she could keep my hijab until the next time we see each other!
Throughout taraweh, I thanked Allah SWT for an amazing iftar and an amazing experience tonight. I am so glad that I got to spend the evening with my Jewish and Muslim friends and I can’t wait to see them again!
Once Jen got home last night, she texted me and thanked me for a great evening. I had wanted to tell her something the very first time I met her. There is hadith that the Prophet (PBUH) told us about souls and how they recognize one another on earth since they were in heaven with each other. Here is the hadith:
Allah’s Apostle (peace be upon him) said: Souls are troops collected together and those who familiarised with each other (in the heaven from where these come) would have affinity with one another (in the world) and those amongst them who opposed each other (in the Heaven) would also be divergent (in the world).
There are only a few times that I have felt I recognized someone from a long time ago. It is that feeling you feel when you see a person and it feels as though you have known them from somewhere else. When I first met Jen, I felt as though I knew her from somewhere a long time ago. I often wondered about this hadith and I thought to myself that maybe I feel this way because I knew Jen in the heavens. Obviously I could not tell her that when I first met her because I did not want her to think I am some sort of cuckoo-head. But last night, I texted her back with this hadith and I told her what I had felt when I first met her. I really felt a familiarity and connection with her before I even got to know her. And I feel as though last night, that connection was reaffirmed even further.
Subhan Allah and alhamdullilah for such a great night. May Allah SWT use me to bring about peace, justice, love, and understanding amongst our neighbors, friends, and society. Ameen.
Tasniya Sultana, Co-leader of the Baltimore Chapter of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom