As American Muslims fast this Ramadan, maybe the rest of America should consider joining in

ramadanImam Omar Suleiman is the founder and president of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research and an Islamic studies professor at Southern Methodist University.

For Muslims, Ramadan is a time in which we fast from God’s blessings that are readily available to us and that we often take for granted.

Among the wisdoms of fasting is that if we voluntarily abstain from food and drink, we will be able to better empathize with those who are facing hardships due to poverty.

But it is not enough to merely experience hunger for the sake of your own spiritual discipline. One must also be activated toward fighting collective hunger. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “He is not a believer who sleeps with his stomach filled while his neighbor goes to bed hungry.” If a person cannot fast due to a permanent medical condition, they are to feed a poor person for every day they miss. And before the community gathers at the end of the month to feast on the day of Eid, each able person is obligated to provide what is called Zakat al-Fitr, a small charitable donation that is taken a few days before the Eid to ensure that the poor are able to feast as well.

A year later, Hurricane Katrina hit our community in New Orleans. A 61-year-old convert to Islam who lost everything that year confessed to me in a shelter with tears in his eyes that he got so hungry one night that he dug through his suitcase only to find a container of years-old lard from his cupboard to break his fast with. He laughed and recalled the Somali woman. He never thought he would be in a situation like hers.


A Muslim community in Michigan has come together with a Ramadan lights challenge to lift spirits during the holiday

200427165018-01-ramadan-lights-challenge-exlarge-169(CNN) For Muslims around the world, the holy month of Ramadan looks a little different this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gone are the community gatherings for evening prayers, and nightly feasts to break fasts with friends and family.

That’s why the Muslim community in Dearborn, Michigan, decided to start a new tradition this year, one that could be done while still abiding by social distancing guidelines.
The community is hosting a Ramadan lights competition in hopes of spreading joy and bringing back some of the holiday spirit.
While many Muslims decorate their homes during the month, a similar tradition to hanging Christmas lights, this year, the Dearborn community has turned the custom into a challenge.
Residents are invited to nominate their own houses, or their neighbor’s, by sharing their address and a photo of their decorated home by May 11. The photos will be shared on social media and the public can vote on their 10 favorite houses from each district. Judges will then pick the best lit-up homes in the city.
Documentary filmmaker Razi Jafri, who works for the Center for Arab American Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, launched the challenge in collaboration with the Michigan Muslim Community Council and the city’s annual Ramadan Suhoor Festival.
The competition is also a part of Halal Metropolis, a project Jafri works on at the center to document the lives of Muslims in Southeast Michigan.
“This will help raise spirits by providing a positive, pro-social project for the community to get involved with,” Jafri told CNN. “It’s amazing because both Muslims and non-Muslims in the community are getting so excited about it. There’s been so much positive energy that has come out of this already. “
A home in Dearborn lit up for Ramadan in 2019.

Muslims Around The World Face A Different Kind Of Ramadan

ramadan 2As the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims begin observing the holy month of Ramadan, traditionally a time of dawn-to-dusk fasting, festivities and communal prayer, an unprecedented global pandemic is changing the celebration this year in equally unprecedented ways.

Mosques usually brimming with the faithful during Ramadan are closed, including in Saudi Arabia, home to Mecca and Medina, the holiest cities in Islam. The kingdom has some 14,000 confirmed cases, with more than 120 deaths from COVID-19, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Ramadan, the month that Muslims believe God revealed the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad, officially begins at the first sighting of the waxing crescent after the new moon, leading to different countries declaring its start a day or two apart.

In Saudi Arabia, the start of the holy month began Friday. In Egypt, it began Thursday. And in Iran, Ramadan begins Saturday.

In a statement, Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud lamented the necessity to maintain social distancing to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus and the damper it would place on this year’s celebrations.



Christian, Jewish, Muslim leaders join together in call to stop politicizing steps to slow coronavirus spread


DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) — Faith leaders at Duke University came together Thursday to talk about how believers can continue to grow together in their religion despite not being able to gather at places of worship.

Leaders of Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups at Duke University all echoed that the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging religious traditions.

Duke Divinity School Dean Greg Jones said it was important for all religions to stop politicizing faith. He said it was important to stop framing social gathering restrictions as a first amendment right or political power struggle.

“Plenty of evidence of when there have been gatherings, they have produced significant outbreaks,” Jones said.

Because of that, he said all religions shouldn’t be framing what’s happening as government stopping religious gatherings. Instead it should be thought of as all believers working to protect their members who are most at risk.




American Muslims face a lonely Ramadan during lockdown

Families prepare for online prayers and virtual gatherings in a month of fasting typically marked by human connection

Marwa Mohammed attended evening prayer after breaking the fast during Ramadan at Club ICM. Iftar potluck dinner during Ramadan at Club ICM in Fridley on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. There are initiatives taken by different Muslim organizations to ensure minimum wastage of food and minimal trash waste during Ramadan and Iftar get togethers.
 Marwa Mohammed attends evening prayer after breaking the fast during Ramadan last May in Fridley, Minnesota. Photograph: Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Shaista Shiraz, 34, doesn’t have many friends in Westchester county, north of Manhattan. She left her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, five years ago after her divorce to settle in New York, the only other place she had family.

Between settling in a new city and raising her two children, Shiraz didn’t have many friends. During Ramadan, the lack of companionship always hit the hardest. This year will be even more difficult for her.

With Ramadan starting on 23 April, Muslims around the world will refrain from food and drink every day from sunrise to sunset during the holiest month in Islam. But this year, Covid-19 will rob millions of Muslims across the US from congregating for prayers, iftar and other Ramadan customs.

Mosques don’t just host daily free iftar (the meal eaten after sunset). They host fundraisers, mixers and lectures, all an integral part of the celebration. Following most iftars, Muslims go to the mosque for a communal prayer that can only be done during Ramadan, tarawih.

This year, Muslims will have to go the virtual route.

‘It is a test from God and we have a lot of lessons to learn’

The Islamic Center of Central Missouri hosts upwards of 1,000 people at its weekly Friday service. Now, only 20 to 40 people are logging in to online events. Mosque leaders hope the turnout will increase as Ramadan starts


False claim: Minnesota’s government allowing mosques to remain open while churches must close amidst COVID-19 outbreak

minnesotaPosts on social media make the claim that the government of Minnesota is allowing mosques to remain open amidst the novel coronavirus outbreak, while Christian churches are closed. Examples of this post can be seen here , here and here .

This claim follows President Donald Trump’s recent suggestion that mosques might receive special treatment ( ).

A sample post on Facebook reads: “Just want to inform you all that all Christian churches in Minnesota are closed!!! BUT the governor has allowed the mosque to remain open!! We should all be outraged at this! I spoke with a deputy with St. Cloud Police Department he said they are ALLOWED TO BE OPEN GOVERNORS ORDERS.”

This claim is false. The Minnesota state government confirmed to Reuters via email that there is “absolutely no distinction between churches and mosques in any order issued by the Governor.” It is true that in-person gatherings of congregants, without distinction of religion, are not allowed by the Governor’s Executive Order to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Minnesota’s Stay at Home Order visible here , states that all workers who can work from home must do so. However, it makes an exemption for faith leaders and workers in houses of worship, who are currently among those permitted to perform their duties “wherever their services may be needed.”


The Coronavirus Is Empowering Islamophobes — but Exposing the Idiocy of Islamophobia

GettyImages-1208729252-edit-1024x707IF ANTI-SEMITISM is the world’s oldest hatred, perhaps Islamophobia is the world’s weirdest.

How else to explain the fact that a pandemic of global and historic proportions, a novel coronavirus that is infecting people in almost every country and territory on Earth, has been weaponized by the far right to attack … Islam and Muslims?

Take India, where the spread of the virus has been dubbed a “corona jihad” by supporters of the far-right BJP government; they  claim the pandemic is a conspiracy by Muslims to infect and poison Hindus. The government itself has blamed around a third of India’s confirmed Covid-19 cases on a gathering held in Delhi by a conservative Muslim missionary group called the Tablighi Jamaat; one BJP minister called it a “Talibani crime.” As The Guardian reports, “Muslims have now seen their businesses across India boycotted, volunteers distributing rations called ‘coronavirus terrorists’, and others accused of spitting in food and infecting water supplies with the virus. Posters have appeared barring Muslims from entering certain neighbourhoods in states as far apart as Delhi, Karnataka, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh.” There have even been reports of Indian Muslims being attacked, beaten, and lynched.


Commentary: Religious communities are critical in the fight against COVID-19


As half the world is placed under stay-at-home orders to combat COVID-19, a few pastors in the U.S. are keeping churches open despite advisories against public gatherings; some Christian worshippers came together recently for in-person Easter services, Hasidic Jews have ignored social distancing rules at funerals and a church community in South Korea and Muslim pilgrims in India and Malaysia have become vectors of disease transmission. All proclaim greater trust in God than in clinicians and assert the salutary effects of religious practices in the face of a global pandemic.

By no means are all religious communities ignoring health risks. Islamic jurists around the globe have moved to close mosques — including the holiest sites of Islam in Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem — and most churches and synagogues have firmly closed their doors. Yet some leaders and communities seem out of step with the reality of the pandemic.


Coronavirus: Kasur, Muslim activist helps poor discriminated Christians

Without his intervention 120 families would starve. The village mosque had refused to distribute aid to Christians. Shakeel Ahmed rescued them by contacting some Catholic organizations. With the coronavirus quarantine, a lot of day workers lose their jobs.


Kasur (AsiaNews) – Without the help of Shakeel Ahmed, a Muslim human rights activist, 120 Christian families in the district of Kasur (Punjab) would have starved.

All of Pakistan is quarantined to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Locked in their homes, unable to work, many Pakistanis – especially day laborers – struggle to survive.

Over 4,000 people have been infected in the country, and 54 have died, but the pace of infections has accelerated in recent days. In this situation, after three weeks of blockade, many Christians were discriminated against in the distribution of aid.

After the case of a Karachi NGO, which refused to help poor Hindus and Christians in the Korangi (Sindh) area, food donations were also denied to Christians in the village of Sanda Kalan.

“Food was only delivered to Muslims,” ​​Ahmed tells AsiaNews. The Christians living in this area are almost all wage earners who have lost their quarantine jobs. They are vulnerable and risk hunger without external support. One of them, Zeshan Masihhas, says he hasn’t earned a rupee in over two weeks. He is locked up in the house with his wife and children, without food or medicine.

On March 4, aid was distributed to the poor in the village mosque. Sheikh Abdul Rahim Hamid, the local imam, organized the collection and distribution of food rations. Hungry, Christian residents turned up to receive their share, but were rejected. They were told that aid was only for the 500 local Muslims.


‘A test that comes with God’: This year, a changed Ramadan for Muslims

5e9609bb67cd0.imageThe coronavirus pandemic is affecting all three of the world’s major religions.

Easter and Passover gatherings for Christians and Jews were curtailed last week. This coming week, it will impact Muslims as they enter of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan beginning Thursday.

Ramadan is a month of fasting, of charity and of prayer, but it also is a time when friends and family break the fast together.

Ahmet Selim Tekelioglu, outreach and education director of Council on American-Islamic Relations  in Philadelphia, who has previously addressed Muslims at the Islamic Community Center of Lancaster, has called these times of “difficulty, uncertainty and hope.”

Imam Dawud Walid, executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Michigan, told ABC News that “People should take proper precautions, but don’t fall into despair. We look at these times as a test that comes from God, and with proper precautions and patience, we can get out of this.”

Dr. Shahid Babar, chief of the Division of General Internal Medicaine at Lancaster General Hospital, has urged Muslims to remain at home, wash their hands and practice patience.

“Islam teaches us to take reasonable precautions when such epidemics occur,” he said.  “Legal and health officials asked us to stop all gatherings.”

That includes Ramadan. Typically Muslims break their fast with extended family and friends and attend services together. Those events, Babar said, cannot and should not be held while the virus threat continues.

He urged fellow Muslims in the Lancaster area to follow the guidelines put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.