By Amin Khwaja
Volunteer, Islamic Center of Long Island
The Holy month of Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and is celebrated by an estimated 1.8 billion Muslims around the world as a time of fasting, spiritual reflection, self-contemplation, increased meditation, austerity, and heightened awareness of the suffering of others, all aimed to deepen our connection with God.
It is mentioned multiple times in the Quran that Belief in God should be followed by Good Deeds. “Indeed, those who have Faith and do Righteous Deeds, these are the best of Creation” (98:7). Muslims strive all year to do righteous deeds but this commitment to service is heightened during Ramadan. They endeavor to heighten their duty to serve others and increase charity to draw closer to Allah by serving His creation. During this blessed month, Muslims increase their charitable donations, feed the hungry, pay their Zakat (obligatory charity), and support local and international charities. Millions of people benefit from the generosity of Muslims around this time of the year, including the most vulnerable populations the world over.
The Islamic Center of Long Island (ICLI), being one of the largest Islamic institutions on Long Island, keeps the need to serve the community and congregants front and center while planning various activities, events and services for the month of Ramadan.
As COVID-19 restrictions eased in Nassau County, ICLI based in Westbury, NY, decided to have in-person congregations but not on-site Iftars (evening meal to break the fast). The congregants were reminded to adhere to social distancing guidelines, and because of their full cooperation, onsite prayers and activities continued interrupted throughout the month. IT enhancements were made to allow for more virtual participation and expand prayer capacities across the center. Temperature checks and masks were mandated for onsite activities.
Hot meals distribution at ICLI
ICLI needed a massive organizational effort to prepackage hundreds of fresh meals every day for drive-through distribution at the center. A total of 4,000 Iftar meals were given away. In addition, the ICLI food pantry was able to distribute 600 bags of groceries weighing about 5 tons to 500 families in Long Island and NYC. There was also distribution of Zakat (charity) money to the most vulnerable people within the community.
There were various other activities designed around the youth of our community. We conducted a virtual mental health and wellness seminar with mental health experts and the interactive format allowed for a lively discussion with the youth attendees and the panel. This was very well received as there is a need for open and honest dialogue about mental health, and to break down the stigma and shame associated with mental health disorders within the community.
There were two interactive, virtual Iftar events held during Ramadan. The first event was Interfaith Iftar with the theme of “A greater spiritual discipline – fasting in the Abrahamic Traditions”. Members of various faiths gathered virtually to share a bounty of blessings, friendship and gratitude and have a meaningful discussion with the panelists. The second was a virtual Meet and Greet Iftar for new Muslims to gather and celebrate the breaking of fast together as a community.
There was also a youth overnight event attended by over 100 youth. They prayed, played and interacted all night in a safe environment, culminating in a pre-dawn meal and then ended with the dawn prayers.
ICLI also planned a goody bag distribution for children on the day of Eid (May 13). 1,500 goody bags were assembled by the volunteers to hand out during Eid festivities.
With the Blessings of Allah, and the hard work and selfless dedication of their Chair, Executive Director, Executive Committee, staff, volunteers and congregants, ICLI was able to celebrate the Holy month of Ramadan in a safe, and spiritually rewarding manner.
Eid Mubarak. This Eid-ul-Fitr, may Allah shower us all with His Mercy and Blessings of Peace, Prosperity and Good Health.