*CORRECTION: The call to prayer was issued by the center's office assistant, Al Hussain Yusuf. An earlier version of this article said the mosque's imam, Sheikh Said Mohamed, issued the prayer.
COLUMBIA — The Islamic Center of Central Missouri hosted an iftar dinner Wednesday night in observance of Ramadan. The iftar is a meal that Muslims eat each day of the holy month after fasting from sunrise to sunset. The meal followed the Maghrib, the fourth of five daily prayers that Muslims perform throughout the year.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar calendar, and it is significant in Islam as the month during which the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel.
Muslim men and women gathered on separate sides of the center just after sunset. They broke their daylong fasts with milk and dates, as Muhammad did.
When Al Hussain Yusuf*, the center's office assistant, issued the call to prayer over a PA system, the men filed into a large prayer room upstairs. They stood shoulder to shoulder facing east, toward Mecca. In the front of the room, also facing east, the mosque's imam Sheikh Said Mohamed delivered the prayers in song-like Arabic.
After the Maghrib, the iftar dinner was served downstairs. Mounds of rice, roasted chicken, lentils and potatoes were piled high on plastic foam plates. But everyone was careful not to waste any food, in remembrance of those who go without eating even after sunset.
The center had arranged for the renowned Egyptian prayer leader, Shaykh Muhammad Jibreel, to lead a taraweeh prayer, an extra prayer done nightly during Ramadan. Unfortunately, Jibreel had to cancel his trip to Columbia.
Although many non-Muslims associate Ramadan with fasting from dawn to dusk, the significance of the monthlong holiday is much broader. The ritual fasting is about abstaining from all temptations and indulgences.
"Ramadan is about practicing sacrifice of all worldly matters," said Yusuf. "It's about teaching patience, kindness. It's a month of sharing. Not just charity, but even just smiling at people can be a form of sharing."