Note: I wrote this entry like a week ago but didn’t have a chance to post ’cause I got a bit busy.
I was walking with my Muslim coworker/prayer buddy to the prayer room* at work when I asked her how her roza was going. It didn’t occur to me until after I said it that roza is the Urdu word for a fast so unless I’m talking to an Indian/Pakistani, the person isn’t going to have any idea of what I’m talking about.
I then started thinking about all the words I associate with Islam and the stuff that I do that is actually in Urdu. I’m so used to seeing/using some of the words as Islamic terms that I forget that they are in Urdu and not the actual words for them.
And so this is the part that I admit how ignorant I was when I was little…
Growing up, I thought that Indians/Pakistanis (“Desis”) made up the majority of Muslims in the United States. How could I not? The mosque we went to consisted mostly of South Asians and any kind of religious gathering in general we went to consisted of “my people”.
Like the dinners we used to go to in Ramadan, for instance.
During Ramadan, we used to attend these community iftars (this means the ‘breaking of the fast’) at the community center at the park in Fremont. Although different families would sponsor dinner for each Saturday night in Ramadan, there was always the same desified menu. Besides the traditional rice and curry dishes for dinner, we would always end up breaking our fast with dates, rooh afza, and pakoras.
I used to think all Muslims had stuff like this for iftar.
Dates, yes. It’s actually recommended for Muslims to break their fast with dates so 99.99% of all the Muslims out there take a bite into of these when sunset hits.
However rooh afza and pakoras? Not so much. These are typically Pakistani things. Rooh afza is this syrup stuff that one pours in milk that is meant to be refreshing. My taste for this drink waned for two reasons – 1) one time at one of these iftars, I saw a guy pour a few gallons of water in a container of rooh afza with milk to increase the volume of the drink 2) People started putting these thirst quencher type things into the drink which just floated at the top and looked weird. My siblings and I called them “fish eyes”. Pakoras are these fried things principally made with … dagnabbit, I can only remember the Urdu word for the flour used. Nevermind. Did I mention these are fried? Because they are. It is for this reason that my sister and I generally don’t like making these in the house since the only way to truly get rid of the smell that sticks to you is to shower and burn your clothes.
Eventually, of course, I realized that Muslims consisted of a ton of different type of people. For example, the largest group of Muslims in the United States consist of African-Americans. Also, the fact that there are Muslims from all over the world who have settled in this country plus a growing number of converts from all across the racial spectrum means that we all have our own traditions or are creating new ones as go along.
Now, some of these iftars are lot more mixed than the ones that I used to go to when I was a child. There’s nothing wrong with hanging out with your own cultural group but for someone like myself for barely fits into the culture I was born into, going to these culturally diverse iftars is part of the advantage of living in this country. And, now that I think about it, the mosque that I went to when I was young has now become a lot more diverse as well and is one of many Bay Area mosques that hold interfaith iftars.
I have to be honest, I think I prefer breaking my fast at home but sometimes it’s really nice to break your fast surrounded by people who are doing the same thing as you. It’s like, you’re all in this together, y’know?
*It’s not an actual prayer room as it is the production room that my coworker and I got permission to use for prayers.
Check out this article from a while ago on dates. Until I read this article, I didn’t realize that a lot of the dates I eat are from here in California. Medjool dates FTW.