Muslims believe that if you help others break their fast during Ramzan, the month of fasting and purification, the rewards will be 70 times the money spent doing so.
Little wonder, then, that politicians take a keen interest in hosting iftaar parties — in their case, probably hoping they’ll be blessed with a multiplying votebank.
Iftaar or the breaking of the fast involves inviting friends and neighbours to a collective meal. There is special emphasis on feeding the poor.
“If a man helps another break his fast, it is equivalent to the blessings received from one roza (day of fasting),” said Riaz Ahmed Khan, vice-president of the Ulema Council and the Jamat-e-Islami (Maharashtra). “But what we did quietly at home has now been extended to politics.” Quite like Ganeshotsav and Navratri.
In this case, the votebank is India’s largest minority — over 25 lakh people in Mumbai alone.
As the month of Ramzan progresses, leaders begin sending out invitations to their iftaar parties. From the chief minister to local legislators, every leader grabs this opportunity to publicly reaffirm his or her ‘secular’ credentials. Leaders from the Congress and Samajwadi Party are known to throw lavish dinners for “friends” that include influential Muslim religious heads and businessmen.
Khan gets many invitations, he said, but hardly attends. “It has become fashionable to throw iftaar parties,” he rues. “I believe it’s very unhealthy. The spirit of iftaar is destroyed.”
Added Dr Rehmatullah, general secretary of the All-India Council of Muslim Economic Upliftment: “Even people who have never hosted iftaar parties have now started, hoping to gain political mileage.”
But Congress legislator from Muslim-dominated Kurla Naseem Khan denied this reasoning. “Non-Muslims attend iftaar parties too,” he said. “There is no political colour to this.”
His views find an unlikely supporter in senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Gopinath Munde. He hosted a series of iftaar parties — even at his bungalow — when his party was in power and sees nothing wrong in attending these gatherings. “Iftaar parties promote interaction between Hindus and Muslims,” he said. “There is nothing political about it.”