The spirit of Iftar

The late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, general secretary of MDMK Vaiko, the Prince of Arcot and his wife at an Iftar party   | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives


Over the decades, Iftar, the sunset meal with which a Muslim ends his fast has gained political significance. The tradition of political iftar parties was started by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, mainly as a get-together for his friends and acquaintances. Gradually, the ritual has become a symbol for political gamesmanship.

During the month of Ramzan, political leaders in Tamil Nadu host and attend a number of Iftar parties, sometimes turning it into a space for making political statements. However, politicians in the State maintain that the event is more a symbol of communal harmony and brotherhood than a political tool.

File photo of M. Karunanidhi at an Iftar feast

File photo of M. Karunanidhi at an Iftar feast   | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

“Iftar, from a historical perspective in India, was started by Jawaharlal Nehru, but more as a social gathering. When Muslims felt targeted due to the violence during the Partition, he felt it would give confidence to the minorities, and as an act of supporting them,” says Tamimun Ansari, MLA, and founder of the Manithaneya Jananayaga Katchi.

According to him, it is the duty of the majority to give confidence and support to the minorities. “Iftar parties are seen as a political tool because of the media’s focus on these events. But they are common among others like traders, elderly people, leaders of village communities, etc. In fact, jamaats hold iftars in nearly 10,000 villages in Tamil Nadu,” he says. “There are lots of divisions in the country. Communal harmony has to be instilled. When leaders attend iftar, party members who belong to the (Muslim) community will be happy that their leaders are also celebrating their festivals,” says R. Sarath Kumar, president, All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi.

MDMK leader Vaiko recalls that Anna and Kamaraj were keen on communal harmony in the State. “Even during the Partition days, Hindus and Muslims lived in harmony in Tamil Nadu. We invite Muslims to our Pongal celebration. Participation in Iftar is a message of peace to all communities,” he says.

According to Mr. Vaiko, who has been attending Iftars for many years, one of the tenets of Islam is to feed the hungry. “It is also a virtue of the Tamils,” he says. He recalls that he held Iftar functions for jail inmates whenever he was imprisoned.

Iftars help to defuse tensions when community leaders are invited. “Those who are invited for iftars would want communal harmony to be maintained. When things seem to go out of hand, they can step in and douse the fire invoking the spirit of brotherhood and humanity,” he adds.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 9:01:12 AM |

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