As the sun began to set over the Lisbon sky, a rendition of ‘Bismillah’ performed by the Portugal Ismaili Choir rang out from within the Ismaili Centre to mark the time of Iftar.
Iftar is the meal served to bring people together at the end of a day of fasting during the month of Ramadan. Guests in attendance were invited to break the fast soon after sunset with dates, dried fruits, nuts, and water, as is tradition.
Ramadan is a time of contemplation and piety through good deeds such as charitable giving and voluntary service. It is an important time to reflect on our duty to the needy in society.
“Ramadan is a month of reverence, generosity, self-reflection, and ultimately self-improvement,” said Rahim Firozali, President of the Ismaili Council for Portugal, in his welcome remarks. “It also reminds us of the values of harmony and empathy that we hold dear and share with other people of faith and non-faith.” He went on to note the diverse make-up of the guests, from so many different backgrounds.
At least 12 different religious traditions were represented, including attendees from the Muslim community in Lisbon, the Hindu community, the Buddhist Union, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Religious Freedom Commission. Also present were diplomats from the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, and the European Union.
“The Ismaili Centre has always aimed to play an active role in the creation of bridges between different communities and cultures,” continued President Rahim. “It is also a space for encounters and dialogue, for the promotion of pluralism, service for the development of society, and the sharing of knowledge and culture.”
Guests enjoyed an eclectic Iftar dinner – itself a celebration of culture and pluralism – featuring a mix of dishes from South Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean.
“Gatherings such as this one, of unity and understanding, are needed now more than ever,” remarked Nazim Ahmad, Diplomatic Representative of the Ismaili Imamat to Portugal.
Nazim Ahmad also spoke of the “celebration of our shared values, compassion, respect for human dignity and solidarity,” which “strengthens our desire and willingness to help others.”
“This holy month is viewed by various communities of Muslims around the world as a comprehensive tool for change in various spheres of our lives,” said President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, “including the social, spiritual, intellectual, humanitarian, the inner, and the outer.”
“Portugal and the people of Portugal share with the Ismaili community the fundamental objective of doing whatever we can to improve the dignity of human life,” he continued.
The Jamat has partnered on numerous occasions with the Portuguese government and civil society organisations to serve the country, including the recent blood donation campaign at the Ismaili Centre.
His Excellency the President has been a frequent visitor to the Centre, last attending as a guest at the 20th anniversary celebration in 2018.
“I thank you very warmly for inviting me tonight,” President Marcelo concluded. “Once again I feel I’m at home.”