Last summer, I spent Ramadan in Saudi Arabia. The stop lights in Jedah were filled with people handing out bags of food to those driving by. The streets of Mecca were flooded with children handing bread to whomever crossed their path. In the city of Medina, we were ushered into the mosque where strangers innocuously competed to be the first to feed us. It seemed as if the Saudis were so generous that ironically, not a soul went hungry during the month of Ramadan.
This generosity is a basic tenant of Islam and should be implemented more than ever now that Ramadan is upon us. A month when Muslims strive for spiritual growth, Ramadan is the time to “starve the body but feed the soul,” many say.
A week into Ramadan and Muslims throughout the Chicagoland have gotten into the swing of fasting, going to the mosque for Tarawih (nightly prayer), and marking up their calendars with Iftar (breaking the fast) party save-the-dates. Sadaqah (giving of alms) is observed during this month, but Ramadan is a good time to do more than the bare minimum. Muslims should embrace charity in the way of community service and philanthropic initiatives during this month and get in the habit of implementing it into their lives.
Ramadan works like New Year’s resolutions: people make goals for themselves regarding what they wish to change or improve in their lifestyle. Charity in the way of community service is something that the Muslim community should vigorously take up. Various Islamic organizations offer community service and outreach initiatives that community members can partake in during this holy month.
The Muslim Women’s Alliance (MWA), a non-profit organization committed to promoting philanthropy and community service, puts together countless volunteer opportunities.
“[We are] Chicago’s largest and most active women’s non-profit organization in the Muslim community,” said Khadija Husain, director of philanthropy of MWA. Husain said that MWA offers programs, workshops and events geared towards giving women an empowered voice in the Muslim community and help equip women of all ages with the tools to positively impact change. Husain believes that service and charity are vital aspects of the Islamic faith and that is why it is important to encourage them.
“Community service has always been a great part of the legacy of Muslims,”
Husain said. “By creating opportunities for Chicago Muslims to actively participate in charitable initiatives during the blessed month of Ramadan, MWA is doing its part in helping the next generation carry on one of the great principles of Islam which is to take care of those in need. Fasting is about more than abstaining from food and drink, it is also about increasing the number of good deeds you perform to gain God Most Merciful’s pleasure.”
According to Husain, MWA has an annual Ramadan Rush for Rewards initiative and is designed to help connect volunteers with the often marginalized people in society. Throughout Ramadan, MWA’s multiple community service projects have volunteers lending a helping hand to needy Muslim neighbors across Chicagoland, special needs children, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters and much more.
“MWA makes sure that the month long service projects span the entire Chicagoland which thereby impacts as many communities as possible. This gives volunteers everywhere a chance to make a difference in their own local community,” Husain said.
There are many other organizations, such as The Zakat Foundation of America, Arab American Family Services, Project Rizq and WeBridgeTheGap.org that have philanthropic programs that benefit the community. People can also talk to their local mosques about community service events that they may have.
The simplest of good deeds is magnified in the eyes of God during the month of Ramadan, so any means of charity, such as handing out packed lunches, to giving sadaqah, is a charitable investment with a huge return.