CAIRO – Welcoming the holy fasting month of Ramadan, a group of Chicago Muslim organizations have launched a widespread Ramadan campaign focused on hosting food drives and “Going Green” as part of an annual tradition of enhancing their faith and spirituality.
“The Sabeel Food Pantry was established by the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America to lend a hand to those in the neighborhood that find themselves in need of some support,” Roger Othman, Executive Director of Chicago-based Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA) told OnIslam.net via e-mail.
“Over the past 12 years the Pantry has held an annual turkey drive during the season and distributed turkeys to the needy,” he added.
Opening its doors all through the year, the pantry welcomes all faiths and backgrounds.
Volunteers also deliver food to people unable to walk, the homeless, and their neighbors.
Along with its efforts all through the year, the Sabeel pantry, an Arabic word that stands for the right path, plans an interfaith iftar later on July.
“On July 11th, the Pantry will co-sponsor an interfaith Iftar dinner with CBC. The Iftar will be held at Sabeel Center on 8800 Ballard Road in Des Plaines, IL,” Othman said.
“There will be an interfaith lecture by Shaikh Omar Muzaffar.”
Giving free food was not the only service offered by Chicago Muslim groups this Ramadan.
With lots of family gatherings and shared iftars planned all through the holy month, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) has launched a new “Go Green” campaign across Chicago mosques.
“In Ramadan Muslims congregate a lot more than during other months, probably 20-30 times as much,” Dr. Mohammed Kaiseruddin, Chairman of CIOGC, told OnIslam.net via mail.
“Every day evening congregations match those of Friday congregations in other months.”
At these gatherings, lots of plastic and styrofoam are used for convenience, availability and cost, resulting in thousands of environmentally unfriendly plastic bottles, and styrofoam plates, bowls and cups at every Masjid.
Stepping in to take an action, the “council started promoting two things as starters: recycle the plastic and eliminate the use of styrofoam in favor of biodegradable products,” Dr Kaiseruddin said.
“The Council has not only created an awareness, but has also identified affordable biodegradable products and has even facilitated their purchase.
Rush For Rewards
In the month of charity, another Muslim group, Muslim Women’s Alliance (MWA) was leading a project that focuses on feeding the homeless and providing food baskets to families in need during the month of Ramadan.
“MWA began organizing weekly hands-on community service projects in Ramadan as a way for our members to perform charitable acts during this blessed month,” Khadija Hussain, MWA Director of Philanthropy, told OnIslam.net via e-mail.
“This initiative has been spearheaded by Sabina Abdul Qadir, the MWA Director of Community Service, for the past few years. She begins organizing the events with her volunteer program managers 6 months prior to the start of Ramadan.”
Under the title, Ramadan Rush for Rewards (RRR), the charitable program aims “to provide needy Muslim families across Chicagoland with basic supplies during the entire month of Ramadan”.
“Over 200 volunteers of all ages gathered to assemble and package boxes of food for over 450 local Chicago family,” Hussain said.
“Our other projects this month include: collection drive for domestic violence shelter, serving breakfast to homeless shelters at three different locations in Chicago, preparing lunches for local food assistance programs, connecting our volunteers with children with special needs at two different disability centers, serving survivors of domestic abuse, as well as hosting a community iftar in a local urban masjid.”
Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, falls this year between Sunday, June 29, and July 28.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.
Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.
It is customary for Muslims to spend part of the days during Ramadan studying the Noble Qur'an.
Many men perform i`tikaf (spiritual retreat), spending the last 10 days of the month exclusively in the mosque.
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