Black Iftar arises out of a desire to break my fast this Ramadan with other people who look like me. To be sure, the idea of a “Black Iftar” is neither unique nor original - any Black Muslim who has ever fasted during Ramadan will tell you this. Have there not been Black folks who ate Iftar for many lifetimes now?
The past few years, Mariam (former roommate, forever friend) and I would host Iftars in our apartments for our friends, Muslim and Non-Muslim alike. For those unfamiliar with Ramadan but familiar with our stories, our gatherings presented an opportunity for them to question and learn. I enjoyed these particularly because they welcomed varying perspectives and explored their presumptions about Islam, fasting, and the like. This year, I wondered what it would be like if I participated in an Islamic practice in a room full of dope, Black - every kind of black - Muslims, and their friends.
It dawned on me that a yearning exists for an Iftar that would celebrate Blackness instead of subdue it; embrace our legacies instead of reject them to uphold Arab supremacy, and honor our traditions instead of dismissing them as novelty, or worse, heresy.
Too often in Islamic cultural spaces, salaams go unreturned, Black crises diminished, and racism unchecked.
This does not rest entirely on the shoulders of the Muslim world. Historically, formerly enslaved Black Muslims were forbidden from breaking their fast together. Professor Khaled A. Beydoun writes:
Although the Quran "allows a believer to abstain from fasting if he or she is far from home or involved in strenuous work," many enslaved Muslims demonstrated transcendent piety by choosing to fast while in bondage. In addition to abstaining from food and drink, enslaved Muslims held holy-month prayers in slave quarters and put together iftars—meals at sundown to break the fast—that brought observing Muslims together. These prayers and iftars violated slave codes restricting assembly of any kind.
...Every state in the South codified similar laws barring slave assemblages, which disparately impacted enslaved African Muslims observing the holy month. Practicing Islam, therefore, and observing Ramadan and its fundamental rituals, for enslaved Muslims in antebellum America, necessitated the violation of slave codes. This exposed them to barbaric punishment, injury and, oftentimes, even death.
And thus, this idea moved from wishful thinking to a requirement in honor of those who have endured severe consequences to break their fast together, in the spirit of Ramadan.
P.S. If you are interested in attending but not entirely sure if the invite extends to you, talk to me :)