Our 2017 function was entitled “Fasting and Feasting – the How and the Why” and was held at what I and many others refer to as “Stanmore Mosque” but is correctly called the KSIMC of London, Husaini Islamic Centre in Wood Lane Stanmore.
We met on Wednesday evening 22 nd November. This was a difficult night for our shul members as there were unfortunately three Shivas and due to a lapse in diary planning a competing function at the Shul.
In spite of these logistic problems Rabbis Elchonon and Nick attended along with a record 200 audience.
The set up was similar in many ways to shul but with a few differences. Our ladies had to have their heads covered with scarves, we all had to leave our shoes on the rack in the lobby, men and women sat separately like at a wedding and refreshments were taken separately.
The evening was warmly and ably hosted by the newest member of our Forum, Mohamed Ali Gokal a young graduate and now a businessman.
We started off with a chanting of a few verses of the Koran in Arabic from a member of the Islamic Centre, which sounded a bit like a Yom Kippur prayer. Personally, I found it very
moving and thankfully it was quite short!
The first speaker was Sheikh Alihusein Datoo, a young highly qualified man, studying for a PhD, an elder of the Islamic Centre, but also a successful businessman. He preceded his talk with a blessing for us all and spoke about the Holy Month of Ramadan when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Their calendar is lunar but unlike ours is not adjusted so that Ramadan can be at anytime of the year so that the daylight hours can be long or short.
He emphasised that fasting was no use unless it was accompanied by godliness defined as penitence, abstinence and charity. Muslims pray to our God and have very similar values and practices.
The next speaker was Christine Hudson, the Church of England member of our Forum. She outlined the Christian calendar of feasts and fasts. There’s not much fasting except eating no meat on Fridays but they have solemn days where there is opportunity for reflection. She regretted the commercialisation of Christmas &; Easter.
The next speaker was Dr Ian Daniels from our shul and he outlined the feasting and fasting that takes places when we celebrate Passover.
We were then addressed by the Roman Catholic Dominican nun Sister Karen. She was from Rosary Priory and much of the land is now the site of Emanuel College! She suggested we could “fast” from using our mobile phones for a day a week!
Our last speaker was Kajal Sheth from the Jain community who use Falconer Hall in Bushey. She said the Jains, a branch of Hinduism, have no obligation to fast but they should challenge themselves by so doing. She gave an example of perhaps restricting themselves to three types of food.
There was a whisper from the front row that fish, chips and pickled cucumber would be someone’s choice!
We then had a break for a very generous array of refreshments which men and women enjoyed separately.
We regrouped for questions, a vote of thanks and an appeal for the Sufra NW London Food Bank which raised nearly £300.
We then said our goodbyes, reclaimed our shoes and made our way home after a stimulating evening. We were happy in the knowledge that we had learnt a lot in such warm and welcoming conditions.
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