Ramadan in the Ridge!
Fifth Avenue halal market Balady Foods invited Ridgites of all religious stripes to celebrate the Muslim holy month with a free dinner outside the store on July 31.
Some 250 people lined up in front of the grocery between 71st and 72nd streets to feast on lamb, lentil soup, chicken, and kefta — a spicy mix of ground beef, onions, and parsley. The sundown “iftar” marked the end of the daytime fast Muslims keep during Ramadan — and for Balady co-owner Essa Masoud, it embodied the call for greater generosity during the time of prayer and reflection.
“During Ramadan we are recommended to give double charity,” said Masoud. “So getting the community together and giving free food to people is very much in the spirit of Ramadan.”
Muslims believe that Ramadan was the month during which the angel Gabriel revealed their holy book, the Quran, to the Prophet Mohammed. The exact dates of Ramadan change from year to year — in 2013, it began on July 8 and will end Aug. 7.
Masoud said the yearly dinner at his store grew out of his late father’s commitment to his business and his faith. Mahmoud Masoud — who passed away last October — would work late hours at Balady even during Ramadan, and his wife would bring him a large meal at the end of the day. The elder Masoud would then share his dinner with friends and passersby.
“It would come to a point where my dad would call over the neighbor, then he would call over this guy, and some customers would come in, and he would say ‘come here,’ ” said Essa Masoud.
Eventually, so many people were coming over that the Masouds decided to hold a single, large, catered feast each year. The crowd has grown substantially with each Ramadan since 2006, and Masoud said he hopes one day to get permits and close the street for a larger celebration. Masoud said he wanted the feast to be an event for the entire Bay Ridge community.
“Whether you’re a Muslim or not doesn’t matter, it’s for everyone,” said Masoud.