Islam’s month-long fast, known as Ramadan, officially began on Tuesday. The practice is observed by Muslims all over the world during the ninth month of the lunar calendar, this year falling on July. However, Muslims only fast from sunrise to sunset and they eat dinner, which they call iftar. Tokyo Camii, Japan’s largest mosque, is offering free iftar to everyone, regardless of faith, throughout the religious observation.
Located in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo Camii serves 200 meals each day, or rather each night, for this year’s Ramadan. Three chefs, who have come all the way from Turkey, serve iftar, the only daily meal allowed during the fasting month. They begin their preparations at noon, making sure that they have enough meals for the guests expected to visit the mosque. Only Muslims observe Ramadan, which is considered one of the Five Pillars of Islam, but non-Muslims are also welcome to join in the meal.
Serving free iftar is Tokyo Camii’s way of introducing the Islamic practice, regardless of one’s belief. It is believed that serving iftar during Ramadan is a form of charity, which is also part of the Five Pillars of Islam. Locals who do not share the Islamic faith are also given the opportunity to mingle with Muslims after getting a first-hand experience of the daily meal. One 17-year old student who came to Tokyo Camii to know more about Islam even had her first taste of Turkish cuisine. Ramadan will officially end on August 7, and will be followed by a grand feasting called “Eid al-Fitr,” or Feast of the Breaking of the Fast.