Shaista and Rafat Mahmood had a big party this past Saturday to celebrate the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which occurred this year on Nov. 4. Literally the "Festival of Breaking the Fast," Eid al-Fitr is one of the two most important Islamic celebrations. At Eid al-Fitr people dress in their finest clothes, adorn their homes with lights and decorations, give treats to children and enjoy visits with friends and family.
Concurrent with these festivities is a sense of generosity and gratitude. Although charity and good deeds are always important in Islam, they have special significance at the end of Ramadan. As the month draws to a close, Muslims are obligated to share their blessings by feeding the poor and making contributions to mosques.
What better way than to make this year’s celebration a fundraising dinner for earthquake victims in Northern Pakistan? Long known for their generosity, the Mahmoods once again teamed up with friend and neighbor, Susan Allen, wife of U.S. Senator George Allen (R-VA). The honorary committee also included Ambassador and Mrs. Jehangir Karamat of Pakistan. Serving as honorary co-chairs were: Ashraf and Ambreen Hayat; Dr. Hamid and Shahnaz Quraishi; and Ester Coopersmith. Also in attendance was Mahmoudmian Sumrou, Pakistan Senate Chairman, and Barbara Johnson, wife of U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD).
Their goal was to have a festive evening, while at the same time doing good for an area of the world that desperately needs help. Shaista Mahmood said approximately 200 people came to the event and they raised $100,000.
She said that money would be given to two charities—The Citizens Foundation, USA and Save the Children. The first charity is responsible for building English-medium schools in Pakistan. The money that is currently being raised will be used to rebuild Pakistan’s Bagh School for Girls, which was totally destroyed in the October earthquake. Money given to Save the Children will serve the immediate needs of the people—food, blankets and water.
Ambassador Karamat spoke about the devastation in Pakistan—almost 79,000 people killed. He said that in addition to money they also need tents to provide shelter for those who have been displaced.
THE MAHMOODS served a traditional meal to their guests and the practice of giving small gifts to the children was still followed.
Mahmood said that she and her husband were unable to keep the fast the entire month; however their oldest daughter, Aliya, did.
“She’s brave,” Mahmood said.
Their youngest daughter, Sheeza, also kept the fast for part of the time.
“Fasting is so you can feel the hunger,” Mahmood said. “People who don’t have anything to eat—you can feel their condition.”
Ramadan is a month-long time of worship and contemplation; it is also a time for giving. Mahmood said that the fast begins at sunrise and ends at sundown. On the days that they are keeping the fast, they awake early and have something to eat and then break the fast at the end of the day. She said that the fast is often broken by eating dates; they might also eat samosas with various sauces.
Fasting serves many purposes. While they are hungry and thirsty, Muslims are reminded of the suffering of the poor. Fasting is also an opportunity to practice self-control and to cleanse the body and mind. And in this most sacred month, fasting helps Muslims feel the peace that comes from spiritual devotion as well as kinship with fellow believers.
“That is why it is so important,” Mahmood said.