“Iftar” is the Arabic word for the traditional evening meal where Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset. But in Germantown, Iftar also means a meal on wheels.
Germantown Masjid has launched its food delivery service program, called Iftar, to reach communities all over North and West Philadelphia. The service delivers hot meals during the month of Ramadan so the Muslim community can break their fasts.
Ihsan Abdus-Saboor, a member of Germantown Masjid, is organizing the logistics for the meal delivery. “Breaking the fast is a very big thing around the world,” he said. “Many Muslims wait year-round to prepare for those meals where they can, you know, meet new Muslims and see old friends.”
Abdus-Saboor said a usual Ramadan celebration would include community interaction — breaking the fast each evening with friends and family, performing acts of kindness or charity, and nightly prayers. The pandemic has left these traditions altered. Gatherings are not allowed under safety guidelines, and the Germantown Masjid is closed.
Iftar food delivery prioritizes elderly and financially insecure people in the Muslim community but they do not refuse service to anyone who contacts their program. The service works by calling or texting (267) 237–0414. Individuals submit a daily text with their name, address, and number of people in the household.
Several drivers retrieve hot meals from local restaurants and deliver meals to the appropriate homes before sunset. The Iftar program will also deliver non-perishable items to those in need.
The masjid funds the purchase of the meals through annual donations and grants. Local restaurants and chefs supply the food. “So some of our community members have restaurants, and you know, [the lockdown] could possibly be affecting their business,” Abdus-Saboor said. “So [we] at least try to give back to them, we’re keeping them busy.”
Eid al-Fitr, the religious holiday that marks the last day of Ramadan with festivities, takes place on Saturday May 23. While Germantown Masjid is hopeful they will be able to celebrate with traditional, in-person community gatherings, they are monitoring the public health situation closely and stress that the safety of the community is the most important consideration.
“As Muslims, yes, we have our religious obligations,” Abdus-Saboor said, “but we also have priorities, and foremost priorities are preserving life.”