Prayers flowed into the cafeteria through loudspeakers as groups of Muslims took their first bites of food for the day.
Plates of dates, watermelon and water were stacked in the center of long white tables. It was 8:45 p.m. on Tuesday at the Islamic Society of Wichita, and the fast for the day had just been broken.
Ramadan is a holy month of fasting, introspection and prayer observed by Muslims. During Ramadan, Muslims do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset.
Afterward, they share food with family and friends.
“It is based off of a month of salvation,” said Hussam Madi, spokesman for the society. “We nourish the soul during this month.”
Every night for two hours during the month of Ramadan – May 26 to June 24 – people gather at the mosque to pray, break their daylong fast and eat a meal as a community.
Wearing a lavender hijab, square silver-wire glasses and a huge smile, 25-year-old Colleen Cranfiell said she recently converted to Islam. She spoke warmly about the community she has found in the mosque.
“I’ve made friends from India, from Bangladesh, from Egypt, from Jordan,” she said. “So one, it’s a cultural experience, I appreciate that. You can learn about language history, culture, customs.”
Typically, Muslims pray five times a day. For Cranfiell, the third prayer of the day — which occurs in the late afternoon — is the hardest during the fast because she is beginning to feel tired.
“You get through it,” Cranfield said, smiling.
While the fast is being broken, people sit in quiet contemplation, allowing prayers to fill their ears.
Once they have finished their snack, they gather into the prayer rooms — men on the left, women on the right. The rooms are divided by a glass wall.
Taking off their shoes and covering their hair, the women step onto red- and green-patterned carpet, facing a wall while preparing for the last prayer of the day.
As the prayer begins to echo through the intercom, men stand in a line with their heads down, shoulder to shoulder, bowing in unison to the words “Allah o Akbar.”
When the prayer ends, people begin to file into the cafeteria.
“It’s time to eat!” Cranfiell said as she sat at a long, white table.
A meal of rice, meat and vegetables is served. The volume in the cafeteria begins to grow as people laugh and smile eating dinner together.
Zaki Kaddoura, 20, sat with his friends laughing through mouthfuls of rice. Kaddoura, who is from the United Arab Emirates, reminisced about celebrating Ramadan with his family.
“Back home … we had more of the family gatherings,” Kaddoura said. “I’m a student here, so I just come to the mosque. Back there, they had big family parties.”
“What do you mean? We are your family,” Kaddoura’s friends yelled from across the table.
Kaddoura laughed as he took a drink of water.
“I’m talking about related family,” he said. “I miss my mom’s food.”
The end of Ramadan is celebrated with Eid-al Fitr, a day of worship and celebration.
On Eid, the fast is broken and everyone goes to the mosque, said Tanya Abdelaziz.
“It get’s pretty crazy because it’s like every Muslim in town goes to the mosque,” she said.
With 26 different countries represented at the Islamic Society of Wichita, Eid is a time when people’s different cultures are on display.
“When you have 26 different cultures showing up in their cultural dress and the best clothes they’ve got, it’s amazing,” Abdelaziz said.
The Islamic Society of Wichita, 6655 E. 34th St. North, is hosting a Guests and Neighbors Iftar Dinner on June 12, where non-Muslims are welcome to join breaking the fast at the end of the day from 8:30 to 10 p.m.
“It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a time for sacrifice so we can remember God and also be thankful for what we do have,” Abdelaziz said.