For several Oklahoma City Muslim groups, Ramadan is not only a holy month of fasting, but also a time of community outreach.

Ramadan begins at sundown on Sunday, March 10, and the first day of fasting is Monday, March 11. It is one of the five pillars, or obligations, of Islam. Observant Muslims around the world abstain from food, drink and sensual pleasures from dawn to sunset during the month, which commemorates the divine revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims also place emphasis on acts of charity and kindness during the Islamic holy month of fasting.

Many of the community Ramadan activities in the Oklahoma City metro area will center around iftar, the meal that Muslims traditionally eat at sundown to break the Ramadan fast.

Adam Soltani, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations-Oklahoma, said his organization will host three Ramadan events, including an Iftar Dinner for Elected Leaders on March 16 at Coles Garden. CAIR-OK’s other events will include a Ramadan Day of Service on March 23 at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, and a Young Professionals Iftar event on March 28 at Hummus Cafe North.

“I think the important thing this year, with everything that’s still happening overseas and everyone’s focus being on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, we decided to stick to our core events, because we still feel that those are very important and we’re kind of seeing them around how we can support the humanitarian cause, and the brothers and sisters in Palestine — because that’s top of everyone’s mind,” Soltani said.

He said he expected the event with elected leaders will include dialogue relevant to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, as the Israel-Hamas war continues.

“Of the three events, the elected officials’ iftar, that’s directly related to what’s going on because politics is enmeshed with that issue, so that’s a way the community will have an opportunity to engage and discuss with people,” he said.

He said the Young Professionals Iftar also will include discussions about the crisis in Gaza.

“This year, we really were hoping to use this as an opportunity to have some of those conversations in a very comfortable setting and be very genuine and open and honest about where people are, what concerns they have and where they would like to see things head,” Soltani said of the coming event. “We thought this could be a means to provide a sense of relief and purpose to young people and kind of almost, I guess you could say act as a release valve to the social pressures and the global pressures of all the news we’re receiving on a regular basis.”

Soltani said the month will include fundraisers for local Muslim organizations and mosque as well as fundraisers to aid Palestinians in war-torn Gaza.

More dinners planned

Last year, Dialogue Institute-Oklahoma and Raindrop Turkish House partnered to host more than a dozen free Ramadan iftar dinners in homes and places like the Homeless Alliance, a Jewish temple and a Christian church. The organization has planned at least four dinners this year. The events include presentations about Ramadan and include a time for community fellowship.

The organizations’ Iftar Dinner Event with Educators is set for March 29, while a similar dinner, this time for nonprofit organizations, will be April 1. The group will host an iftar meal for faith leaders on April 4, and a dinner for health care professionals on April 6.

Davud Davudov said he is one of 10 volunteers who are working to organize the four dinners, plus additional iftar dinners that will be held in individual homes. He said he and other volunteers are inviting members of the community at large to attend one of the home iftars so they may experience how individual families observe Ramadan.

“Overall for us, this is a way to come together, to eat together and get to know one another. It’s an opportunity to build personal relationships,” Davudov said.

“We get a chance to express ourselves and also we learn something, as well.”

Ramadan ends with Eid activities

Several activities are planned to celebrate Eid ul-Fitr, the festivities and communal prayers that mark the end of the Ramadan. Eid ul-Fitr, or Feast of the Fast-breaking, will generally be observed around April 9 or April 10 in the United States.

Soltani said the YMCA is hosting a holiday celebration for Afghan refugees for a second year in a row. He said Afghan families will be invited to one of the YMCA branches once again for food, games, arts and crafts and other activities.

A coalition of Muslim groups is planning an Eid ul-Fitr communal prayer event at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds. The coalition will also host an Eid ul-Fitr Festival at Scissortail Park.