TORONTO – Reviving the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Toronto Muslims are commemorating the Islamic month of Rabi al-Awwal by organizing soup kitchens in local mosques and delivering meals to the needy.
“This month marks not only the birth of the Messenger of Allah (upon whom be peace), but the birth of Islam, so we choose to commemorate it with the message of mercy and kindness,” Shaykh Faisal Abdur-Razak, Imam of the Islamic Forum of Canada, told OnIslam.net.
Participating mosques and organizations in the Greater Toronto Area that are holding weekly soup kitchens and meal delivery services to shelters include the TARIC Islamic Centre and the Islamic Forum of Canada.
“We’re working with homeless shelters, seniors programs, scores of community development programs and directly with the street-involved downtown,” said Sameer Subedar, an organizer of the program.
“Our goal is to honor the sacred month of Rabi al-Awwal by service to the community as taught by our esteemed and beloved Prophet (upon whom be peace)”.
The mosques have opened their doors to neighbors and those in need of a warm meal and have been delivering meals to nearby homeless shelters and impoverished areas in downtown Toronto.
“The TARIC Islamic Centre is located close to many neighborhoods who need to be reminded that the masjid is here to assist with not only their religious but health and social development,” Imam Shaykh Imran Ally told OnIslam.net.
Food banks in Canada are helping over 800,000 people with more than a third being children, according to the 2013 Hunger Counts Report of the Food Banks Canada Network.
“The people asking for help from food banks are diverse and often surprising,” stated the report.
“For example, 12% of households helped are currently employed, and another 5% were recently employed; half are families with children, and nearly half of these are two-parent families.”
The Prophet’s birth falls on the 12th day of Rabi-ul-Awwal (the third month in the Islamic calendar). This year, it falls on Monday, January 13.
Many Muslims see the prophet’s birthday as an important time to learn about and reflect on Muhammad’s life.
Lectures and speeches are often recorded and published as podcasts.
Around the world, celebrations of the prophet’s birthday include stalls selling Islamic books, leaflets, clothing, prayer mats and other materials.
Organizers of the program think that Muslim community engagement is often looked at within the scope of the mosque congregations, but seldom beyond.
“The pinnacle of mosques coming to life is during Ramadan, a strictly devotional time that usually only serves the Muslims,” Sameer Subedar said.
“The dream of Rabi al-Awwal being a signature month when mosques can have their doors open and serve the needy in their respective communities, is something that the volunteers are working towards.”
Toronto Muslims are looking to put into practice the Prophet’s humanitarian message in their city.
“The Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace) was the greatest humanitarian that ever walked the earth - he was extremely generous, benevolent and sociable, making all efforts to inculcate these noble attributes in his followers,” noted Imam Shaykh Imran Ally.
“The Prophet (upon whom be peace) was asked about the best of actions, to which he informed the questioner, ‘to feed (the poor and needy) and greet those whom you know and those whom you know not’.”
Muslims are the fastest growing religious community in Canada, according to the country’s statistical agency, Statistics Canada.
Canada’s Muslim population increased by 82 percent over the past decade – from about 579,000 in 2001 to more than 1 million in 2011.
Muslims represent 3.2 percent of Canada’s total population.
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