Iftar gets global recognition as 'cultural heritage'

Centuries-old community tradition observed with religious zest represents Muslim culture in countries across the globe

By
Web Desk
Thursday, December 07, 2023
Residents of Ezbet Hamada partake in an iftar meal, Mataria, Cairo, Egypt, April 16, 2022. — Reuters

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) has added Iftar — the meal Muslims have to break their fasts, especially in the month of Ramadan — to its list of intangible cultural heritage.

The application for the sociocultural tradition was jointly submitted by Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan to the Unesco.

Though the concept of Iftar is more religious than cultural, the communities observe it with such zest that it represents the Muslim culture in countries across the globe.

The centuries-old community tradition was recognised by the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage which has been meeting in Botswana since Monday.

Marking the termination of fasting from dawn to dusk that teaches resilience and patience in hardships and hunger, Iftar is observed by people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds upon completion of all religious and ceremonial rites, Unesco said in an official statement

The Iftar meal is taken after the Maghrib adhan at the time of sunset and is followed by prayer, and often by different religious ceremonies according to the spirit of Ramadan.

In several Muslim countries, it is customary to mark Iftar by eating a date accompanied by tea. Recipes for dishes and pastries, however, vary greatly depending on the country.

"For communities, it often takes the form of gatherings or meals, strengthening family and community ties and promoting charity, solidarity and social exchange. The ceremonies and rituals related to Iftar are also practised by people who do not necessarily fast during the month of Ramadan," the statement read.

The elders transmit the knowledge and skills within the families "through oral instruction, observation and participation". The children and youth are often entrusted with preparing the components of traditional meals for Iftar feasts.

Moreover, the parents also transmit knowledge about the benefits of fasting and the social values and functions of Iftar to their younger ones.

The Iftar is often supported by governmental entities, non-governmental organisations, and charities, as well as through television, radio, press, and social media to promote kindness and compassion towards the underprivileged.


— Additional input from AFP