KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Aug. 18, 2011) Ramazan, also known as Ramadan, is a time Muslims use to "center" themselves through fasting and prayer. Muslims around the world do not eat or drink from dawn to sunset for 29 to 30 days during the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, which differs from the Julian calendar we use.
This Ramazan, Soldiers of Task Force Thunder (159th Combat Aviation Brigade) shared the fast-breaking meal served after sunset, known as Iftar with the Afghan Air Force's Kandahar Air Wing, the 2nd Afghan National Civil Order Police, the Afghan National Police and the Afghan Army's 4th Kandak 2nd Brigade, 205th Corps.
"It's important to recognize the religious traditions inherent in our partners because it shows our respect for them and it will help them grow closer to us as they see we respect their culture and that we understand them," said 2nd Lt. Kyle Ryman, detachment commander for the Pathfinders at Kandahar Airfield.
"The holy month of Ramazan is a gift from God to appreciate and understand (better) and to pray for God's order (in our lives)," said Col. Mujib Rahman Mabariz, the religious and cultural officer for the Kandahar Air Wing of the Afghan Air Force. "(During) that month, we learn how to deal with brothers, relatives, and friends."
The Iftar began with the Mullah, or religious leader, chanting an opening prayer, followed by the guests eating dates " just as the prophet Muhammed did centuries ago to break his fast. Then the Afghans left their seats and moved to prayer rugs, where the Mullah led the ritual of the fourth of their five daily prayers as they bowed toward Mecca, considered by Muslims to be the holiest of cities.
Iftar is a time of fellowship for friends and families, and even large communities.
"Because you are fasting all day, when you are breaking a fast, that's the joy of having the break, and to share that with relatives and friends, that's to give you more joy," Mabariz said. "Fasting has another purpose " you understand the meaning of hunger (and what that means for) people who do not have enough (food)."
The feast helped facilitate the team building Task Force Thunder has been developing since arrival in theater, Ryman said.
The Afghan Soldiers were happy to share the dinner with Soldiers of TF Thunder.
When a person shows generosity to an Afghan, the Afghan remains loyal to that person, said Hasan Sarwari, a platoon leader for the 2nd ANCOP.
"We celebrate you (Americans), and we consider you friends," he said. "This (partnership) will bring more love and understanding between us."
Mabariz said sharing the Iftar celebration was a big step toward peace and understanding between the two cultures, as well as bridging the religious gap.
"Through our mutual understanding, we will grow closer as a team and more cohesive as a (military) unit," Ryman said.
"(You) understand our religion, and we will understand (yours)," he said. "This togetherness will make us more close, more friendly. If this goes on, it will bring peace (and) friendship, and the enemy will be defeated, and there won't be any enemy left."
"Freedom will come," said Sarwari. "Enemies of Afghanistan will be vanquished."