Presented by the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut, the event focused not only on spirituality, education and awareness, but also on finding common ground and building friendships among followers of different faiths.
"We hope that visitors ... got a flavor of the spirituality of the month of fasting, where Muslims fast from dawn to sunset to learn self-restraint and God consciousness. It is also the month in which the Qur'an was revealed through arch-angel Gabriel to prophet Muhammad," said Aida Mansoor, community services coordinator for the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut. "Muslims, likewise, believe in revelation that was sent down prior to prophet Muhammad, through Moses in the Torah and through Jesus in the Gospel, and through all of this we try to show the commonality [among] our faiths."
"We also wanted, through having food together, to show our hospitality and outreach to non-Muslims who are eager to find out [about] and befriend Muslims," Mansoor said.
According to the Qur'an, 2:183, "O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint."
Area Muslims brought food to share with their non-Muslim guests for Iftar, the breaking of the fast, and for dinner. About 35-40 percent of Sunday's attendees were non-Muslims, including rabbis, Christian church leaders, religious studies students and local families.
After a recitation from the Qur'an and welcoming remarks from members of the greater Hartford Muslim community, Lina Stas, a master's student at Hartford Seminary, spoke on fasting in Islam. Rabbi Marshal Press of the Hartford Hospital Chaplaincy and Carolyn Sawyerr, chaplaincy director at Hartford Hospital, also offered Jewish and Christian perspectives on fasting.
"The [Taste of Ramadan] was a tremendous outpouring of hospitality. It was very open and welcoming. Someone was seated at each table to answer any questions [non-Muslims might have]," Sawyerr said Tuesday. "As a Christian, it strengthened my own faith. ... You walked away with something even though you might not be a Muslim. It was a renewal for everyone there, no matter where they were coming from."
Children were kept busy with crafts and games while their parents listened to the lectures and a panel discussion featuring Hartford Seminary professors and leaders in the Muslim community.
Dr. Ingrid Mattson, director of the seminary's Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, the country's oldest center for such study, was among the speakers.
"I hope that the people who attended - people of all faiths - had the opportunity to meet and talk with someone from another faith. Personal interactions are important to prevent a common temptation to stereotype," Mattson said Tuesday.
Mattson, who is the first woman president of the largest Muslim organization in the United States, the Islamic Society of North America, also addressed the role of women in Islam.
"The most common misconception about Islam is that it is oppressive to women. Muslim women, like women all over the world have often had to struggle to enjoy their natural rights, but Islam is most often seen by them as a source of strength in advocating for their rights. As you saw [at the 'Taste of Ramadan'], there were Muslim women from all walks of life, from professors and moms, doctors, lawyers and teachers," she said.
The Islamic Association of Greater Hartford and the Muslim Student Association CT Council joined the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut in sponsoring the "Taste of Ramadan."
About the Coalition
The Muslim Coalition of Connecticut participates in several outreach and educational events throughout the year, many of which strive for unity among Muslims, Jews and Christians.
An interfaith conference is held annually in July, and a banquet, featuring a theme or a subject that is commonly misunderstood, is also held annually. Past banquets have included "Women Leaders in Islam," highlighting the first woman president, Mattson, of the largest Muslim organization in the United States - the Islamic Society of North America, and one on education during which two Hartford Seminary professors, one Muslim and one Christian, were honored.
"We try to join with other organizations, both Jewish and Christian," Mansoor said, describing the group's participation in the Habitat for Humanity "House of Abraham" project where Muslims, Jews and Christians built a house in Hartford for an indigent family.
"In keeping with our Islamic tradition of charitable giving, every month we serve at the Mercy shelter and South Park Inn on Main Street in Hartford. We also try to participate in anything positive that serves the greater community and have been very involved with universal health care, having participated in several press conferences urging the adoption of fair and equitable health care for all," Mansoor added.
The coalition also participated in Foodshare's "Walk Against Hunger" in May, organizing one of the largest teams in the state.
For more information about the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut, visit www.muslimcoalitionct.org.