Providing cultural food and a visit from a local sheikh, the Muslim Student Association invites students to attend a catered dinner tonight for its Ramadan iftar event.

The MSA and the Middle Eastern Resource Center jointly planned tonight’s Ramadan iftar – a meal served to break the fast mandated by Islam during the holy month – at 6 p.m. in the Student Resource Building. The event will feature a lecture by Islamic Society of Santa Barbara Shiekh Abdur Rahman on the relevance of Ramadan to Muslims as well as an MSA-led question-and-answer session. The traditional fast-breaking meal of dates and water and a catered dinner will follow.

According to MSA President Faheem Ahmad, the event aims to bring the Muslim community on campus together and inform fellow students – who are welcome regardless of religious affiliation – about the Islamic faith. He said he hopes the dinner provides Muslims with a place to celebrate the end of Ramadan in addition to allowing the organization the opportunity to introduce non-Muslims to the holiday’s customs.

“This is a food event for everyone who comes to understand our culture and religion,” said fourth-year history and biology double major Ahmad.

Ramadan, the ninth lunar month of the Islamic calendar, observes the time when the first revelations of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, were revealed to Islam’s prophet Muhammad. During the month, Muslims celebrate the Fast of Ramadan, refraining from eating after dawn and then resuming after the fourth prayer of the day at dusk. Additionally, Muslims must abstain from sex and smoking during the fast.

“This is the holy month in our religion to try to be closer to God, to do good deeds and build a close relationship with God,” Ahmad said.

The Alwatan Halal restaurant will cater tonight’s dinner and provide halal products – food permissible according to Islamic law. Ahmad expects about 85 people to be in attendance, but said he hopes more will come to learn about the holiday and the Muslim community.

In addition to the event’s co-sponsorship by MSA and the MERC, the Associated Students Finance Board allocated $800 for the event at its Monday meeting.

Stephanie Murphy, a third-year law & society and ethnomusicology double major, said she thought the group’s celebration would help provide a different view to the campus community of the Muslim faith and lifestyle.

“It sounds awesome,” Murphy said. “It’s good having this event to educate university students about other religions and ways of life, especially one so focused on in the media.”

Ahmad said he hope this event will offer fellow students a fresh perspective on his religion.

“This is about what real Islam is, not what you hear about in the news,” Ahmad said.