By JIM SMITH, Editor Woodland Democrat
The thunder, lightning and rain held off long enough for people of all faiths to celebrate the breaking of a daylong fast at Woodland's annual Iftar dinner Saturday.
Some called it a blessing from God even as skies darkened and lightning lit up cloud-blackened skies. The rain didn't start until most of the 250 people had finished their evening prayers and meals.
Ramadan started on July 20 this year, earlier than usual, and imposing more of a demand on Muslims - who must refrain from food and drink from dawn to dusk - during the heat of summer before "breakfasting" right after sunset with a special prayer and dinner.
Iftar, refers to the evening meal when Muslims break their fast during Ramadan. It is one of the religious observances of Ramadan and is often done as a community, with people gathering to break their fast together. Iftar is done right after sunset. Traditionally, three dates are eaten to break the fast, in the tradition of the prophet Muhammad, who broke his fast the same way.
Many Muslims believe that feeding someone iftar as a form of charity is very rewarding and that it was practiced by Prophet Muhammad. Hafiz Aamir Hussain, Iman of the Woodland Mosque, delivered an evening prayer during the dinner, and Mosque spokesman Khalid Saeed took a poll of attendees to find out who wanted to risk the weather or eat indoors, only to find out that people were willing to brave the onset of the storm.
As members of the Mosque laid out a light serving of sweetened milk, dates and fruit, Saeed reminded non-Muslims that the food was meant as a "test of resolve" and should not be eaten until just after sunset when Muslims would then adjourn for evening prayer, after which a more elaborate and traditional Paskistani meal was to be served.
Mansoor Shafqat of Woodland, who graduated from UC Davis in 2009 with a degree in neurology, spoke of his own resolve while a student, noting it was difficult to sit through classes all day as well as walking between classes without being able to eat or drink.
It was this "spiritual aspect of Ramadan," Shafqat related, particularly for those Muslims who also participated in sports or other heavy physical activities.