Muslims prepare for fasting, charity and worship during Ramadan 2019

By Yasmeen Sheikah, Staff Reporter

From urban college campuses to suburban organizations and mosques,  Muslims throughout the area are preparing for a month of prayer, charity and most notably, fasting from dawn to dusk.

Chicago area Muslims will join more than 1.8 billion others worldwide, as stated in a Pew Research Center report, participating in a month of worship and devotion to God.

The holy month, which begins May 6, is observed annually during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar follows the lunar calendar, so Ramadan starts approximately 11 days earlier each year. A person who lives at least 33 years will have experienced Ramadan in every season.

In Islam, Ramadan is important because it is the month the Quran—the Muslim holy book—was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, however, only those who are healthy should fast. Pregnant women, ill people, elderly and prepubescent children are not required to fast.

The Prayer Center of Orland Park Imam Kifah Mustapha said fasting involves abstaining from three main things: food, liquid and intimacy.

“At sunset, people break their fast and go back into normal life, … and the next day it starts again,” Mustapha said. “People elevate their fasting by fasting through [their] senses, so [they] don’t listen to something, don’t look at something, or don’t speak something.  Some people [try to] purify the minds and the heart from the thoughts that are meant to be harmful.”

During Ramadan, Muslims throughout the area are planning to give to charity, another pillar of Islam. The Oak Brook-based Muslim Women’s Alliance, for example, has been providing local Muslims with food for the entire month of Ramadan for the last 12 years. The organization’s goal this year is to supply more than 550 families with meals during the holy month.

“One thing that our organization has always tried to do … is connect the Muslim community with different community service activities,” said Khadija Husain, MWA board director. “This way [there are] a lot of different age groups and a lot of different ethnic communities—people from different backgrounds—engaged in helping marginalized communities.”

Husain also said the organization is having its Feed a Family event May 4 at the Islamic Center of Naperville, 2844 W. Ogden Ave., from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

“We’ve created this project where we pack food supplies, cooking supplies and gift cards for groceries,” Husain said. “[The families we serve] are identified through local social service organizations and … mosques in the area. We make sure that we hit all the different localities in the city of Chicago and in the suburbs, as well as Northwest Indiana.”

Other organizations are also taking action, including the Virginia-based Islamic Relief USA, which is sending nonperishable food packages with rice, canned meats, oil and more to Muslims in 25 predominantly Muslim countries.

“We try to make sure that the food that is sent there is reflective of the types of foods that people eat in those countries,” said Minhaj Hassan, spokesperson for Islamic Relief USA. “So [the food packages] range between $30 for an Asian food package versus $70 for a Middle Eastern food package, and the shipping is included in the cost.”

Dunyah Abulaban, a freshman at Loyola University Chicago and the Muslim Student Association advisor, is excited to learn more during Ramadan this year.

“I really want to spend a lot of time reflecting on the Quran,” Abulaban said. “It’s one thing to memorize, and it is another thing to fully understand what it is saying.”

Abulaban also said she is most excited for the community bonding.

“At Tarawih [optional prayers performed by Muslims only in Ramadan]meeting new people, talking to new people, hearing new stories, seeing family is so exciting,” Abulaban said. “[It’s] honestly my favorite time of the year.”

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