On Monday at sundown, a group of more than 100 women gathered on the last night of Ramadan to break the fast during a celebration of unity, friendship and giving.
Presented by the Chagrin Valley Islamic Center, a Ladies Only Iftar/Chaand Raat program featured a potluck dinner, henna artists and a spirit of camaraderie. The gathering was at Signature of Solon.
Foods from Pakistan and India that lined the tables were flavored with spices like curry and cardamon and women enjoyed taking part in the variety of henna designs available.
Middleburg Heights resident Nasima Akhter, who put together the evening along with a group of volunteers, shared the dish of Biryani, an Indian/Pakistanian dish of meat blended with rice and seasoned with yogurt, cardamon cloves, cinnamon and curry.
She also got her hair done for the occasion, as many of the women gathered took off their Hijab, a veil worn by Muslim women in the presence of males outside their family, in the all-female gathering.
“This celebration signifies of course unity,” Ms. Akhter said. She explained that during Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, fasting is done to make an individual more humble and patient.
For Solon resident Dr. Simee Malik, the evening was an opportunity to get together and celebrate. The henna ceremony is often done for weddings and holidays and during times of celebration, she explained.
Dr. Malik views Ramadan as a “religious bootcamp” of sorts, a time to reconnect to God.
“We take away our worldly pleasures like food and drink to connect with God,” she said.
She said as a female during this time, she does all she can for her family, such as cook “pre-dawn meals” and have their favorite foods ready in the evening.
“That is my own way of showing God and my family how much they mean to me,” she said.
Ms. Akhter said she also decorates her home to give her family the “Ramadan spirit.”
Dr. Malik said contrary to what many think, women have been given a high role in equality in her faith.
“We were the first religion for women to own property,” she said. “There are a lot of misconceptions about women.”
Both women said they wear their Hijab by choice. It is nothing forced upon them.
“It’s definitely a form of modesty so we can protect ourselves from the opposite sex,” Ms. Akhter said.
“It is a very personal thing,” Dr. Malik said. “Modesty is a part of our religion. It is recommended but not really required.
“For me personally, when I put it on everyday it reminds me to be a better person,” she said. “I’m doing it for God.”
Monday’s event also featured a ladies gift exchange and games.
“It is about having our meal together and breaking our fast together as women,” Dr. Malik said.
The event is presented for the second year.
“It’s about kindness and generosity,” Dr. Malik added of the significance of the holiday. “We believe that whatever good we do in the eyes of God gets multiplied.”