If you have been invited to Iftar by a Muslim friend or colleague during the holy month of Ramadan, be gracious enough to accept and bear in mind that it is an honour for your Muslim friend to share the rites of Ramadan with you. As a non-Muslim, there are a few rules of etiquette that you must follow...
- Dress appropriately: Although it is a social gathering of family and friends, you must not forget that that you are attending Iftar, a religious rite of Ramadan. Loose, non-transparent, modest clothing is best. Do avoid tight or revealing outfits that are sure to offend.
- Learn a few phrases: Hosts will highly appreciate you making the effort to learn a few phrases in their language, whether that is Arabic, Farsi or Urdu. Ramadan greetings and ‘thank you’ in the relevant language would go down well. Search the web or ask friends to help you learn them beforehand.
- Arrive early: Remember that Iftar begins immediately after the Maghrib (sunset) call to prayer. Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early; it would be disrespectful to have your hosts wait for your arrival after they have been without food and water all day. Be ready ahead of time and do consider potential traffic jams. But also try not to arrive too early, as they may still be preparing the Iftar meal.
- Bring a gift: As this is an occasion for sharing, it would be a good idea to bring along some dessert (homemade is better than store-bought). Dates or traditional sweets work too.
- Break the fast with your hosts: Iftar can begin in many ways. Some families will break their fast with dates and a glass of milk, Arabic coffee or water, perhaps while seated casually on a carpeted floor. Other families may have a seated arrangement around a dining table and start with a hearty soup. Observe your surroundings and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Be respectful of prayers: Your host may go to pray directly after breaking the fast with dates and water or milk, so try to wait respectfully as they finish their prayers. After prayer, the family will gather again to complete the Iftar meal. This will most likely include a selection of traditional, regional Ramadan dishes. It may be a good idea for you to take the time to sample some local dishes to become familiar with the tastes and flavours, so that you can better enjoy your Iftar. The Iftar meal will usually end with desserts or fresh fruit.
- Know your cue to leave: After having dessert or fruit, you will usually be offered a cup of tea or coffee. Once you finish this, it is generally time to thank your hosts and leave.