First-ever campuswide Iftar honors Muslims – and celebrates the community

students join hands

Students pray as part of the campus’s first-ever Iftar, the meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan. (UC Berkeley photo by Megan Lee)

What’s the value of a good meal among friends? Plenty, if you consider as your friends 100 diverse students, staff and administrators who broke bread together recently as part of UC Berkeley’s first-ever Iftar, the meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan, a month of intense prayer and strict dawn-to-dusk fasting.

Imran Khan, an ASUC senator and organizer of the campuswide meal, said the goal of the event was to celebrate the diverse and vibrant Muslim community — as well as to build fellowship with the entire campus.

“We really wanted this to be a campuswide event with people from all different backgrounds attending,” said Khan. “It was a very special time.”

Khan said the idea of holding a campus community Iftar came to him when he realized that, this particular year, Ramadan — the ninth month of the Muslim year — overlapped with the academic year. To mark the occasion, he worked with top administrators to plan an appropriate and free event, which took place in the Foothill student housing complex’s Assembly Room.

a student speaks at a podium

ASUC Senator and event organizer Imran Khan speaks with guests during Iftar at the Foothill student housing complex’s Assembly Room. (UC Berkeley photo by Megan Lee)

Khan said the Iftar exceeded his own expectations. Within days of announcing it, 120 people had signed up, but organizers only had space for 100. “I didn’t expect for it to be so popular,” Khan said. “The room was filled with a sense of community, we were celebrating diversity, and we were all having a great time together.”

And, apparently, great food, too. Guests were treated to mandi — a traditional dish made of meat and rice with a special blend of spices — along with a vegetarian side sauce; fasolia, a type of bean, and rice; fattoush, a Middle Eastern salad; grilled chicken; hummus and baba-ghanoush with pita; and sambusa, fried pastry filled with cheese.

Thanks to the success of the Iftar, Khan hopes to make it an annual affair — and one that’s even bigger next year.

“In this climate, there’s a lot of rhetoric being thrown around,” he said. “It’s very, very important to have these spaces to hold events like this. I do hope this will continue and expand.”