Muslims across the world are currently observing Ramadan. It’s the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, and more importantly, one of the most sacred. The Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in this month and with it the religion of Islam.
Ramadan is a religious tradition that’s been upheld for over 1,400 years by Muslims. It’s rooted in ideas of heightened spirituality and togetherness; muslim communities rise at dawn to begin their fast together, sit down at dusk to break their fast together, pray for hours each night together, and at the end of the month celebrate Eid together. It’s also a time to build and strengthen their relationship with God and the Ummah (the global Muslim community) through spiritual study and mindfulness.
During Ramadan, many Muslims will pay their Zakat – an annual payment that goes to other Muslims in need. It’s both a spiritual duty and a crucial part of the Islamic social welfare system.
Now, a global pandemic and consequent lockdown have forced many of us to retreat into our homes and rethink our social interactions entirely. And its disproportionate impact on BAME communities in the UK is, according to senior NHS officials, hitting the Muslim community hard.
As the community reconciles with this harsh reality, they are also having to break away from traditions of unity that bind them together: Living floors that are normally packed to the brim will now sit empty because families have enough space around the dining table at iftar.
As will the mosques that would usually be filled each night with people standing shoulder-to-shoulder for Tarawih prayers. For a faith community whose core religious beliefs are based on oneness and unity, this is uncharted territory. It can feel unsettling but life in lockdown has shown us that we can and will adapt.
In the spirit of spotlighting these values during Ramadan, here are a few charities that are helping Muslim communities stay connected during this global pandemic.
Disclaimer: MESA Magazine has not partnered with or endorsed any of the charities mentioned in this article.
The Date Project by SKT Welfare
The Date Project was the brainchild of a few SKT volunteers who wanted to raise funds for a bakery in Syria to feed those in need. SKT Welfare is a charity that provides vital food, healthcare aid, and sustainable support programs for refugees and homeless people in countries like Syria, Palestine, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Somalia and the UK.
The Date Project currently has five boxes for five different causes: Orphans, Syria, Palestine, Rohingya and Yemen. Each box costs £10 (p&p not included) and 100% of the profits are donated to your chosen cause. And you can be assured that the dates are ethically sourced from Jordan Valley, by Syrian refugees who, the website states, are employed in the process.
I was recently gifted one of these boxes by my sister and was pleasantly surprised to find an activity book and handmade Eid card as well as dates in the beautifully designed tin box – which can be repurposed for storage or even sending other gifts too.
SKT Welfare is a registered UK Charity. They are running various other emergency appeals including a coronavirus crisis appeal for those in need across the UK and internationally, which you can donate to directly here.
The Cake Campaign by Islamic Relief
Better known by their social media hashtag #Cakes4Syria, The Cake Campaign is an initiative set up by Islamic Relief to provide emergency shelter, food and medical aid for displaced Syrians. In the last six years, The Cake Campaign has delivered over 125,000 cakes to homes across the UK. And their charity partner, Islamic Relief, has provided more than £287 million worth of aid to over 6.5 million Syrians since the conflict began.
Because of COVID-19, The Cake Campaigns has announced that they will be going #Cakeless4Syria. Instead of chocolate fudge cakes, supporters who donate £10 or more will be given exclusive access to a live stream each Sunday to see their donations (food packs) being delivered to the displaced Syrians. The live stream will also feature famous guests – this week’s webinar is being joined by renowned nasheed artist, Zain Bikha.
Islamic Relief is a registered UK charity. They are currently running global and UK emergency coronavirus appeals you can also donate to directly here.
Hajjah Naziha’s Charitable Organisation (or HCNO) is an interfaith charity which focuses its efforts on “help where it’s needed”. They’re best known for their overseas work that has helped impoverished communities in Pakistan, India and Africa, as well as their homeless feeds and drives in Manchester and Burnley. Last year they partnered with Muslim Hands to expand their reach into other countries and support programmes, which in turn helped them achieve a 100% donation policy.
You can pre-order their Ajwa date boxes that are sourced from Medina for £15 (not including p&p), which will see the money donated to their various causes. They also have an online bookshop you can buy and donate through too. HNCO is a registered UK charity, you can support their emergency appeals globally by donating directly to them here, or donate money for hygiene packs for the homeless in the UK here.
You might know Penny Appeal from their late-night TV fundraising campaigns that would run into the early hours of the morning. The charity was set up in 2009 to provide poverty relief across Asia, the Middle East and Africa through orphan care and emergency food and medical aid.
Not only do they have a selection of dates and Eid cards you can buy from their online shop by way of donation, but you can also choose gifts for those you are donating to. At the time of writing, Penny Appeal is out of stock on dates so keep on an eye on their website and social channels to find out when they’ll be back in stock.
Penny Appeal is a registered UK Charity, and currently have global UK emergency appeals you can donate directly to. They also have a Hardship Fund which they’ll be delivering “to vulnerable individuals, through means-tested grants” which you can find out more about here.
Gifts are great, but giving is what counts the most
As well-intentioned as all the above is, donations without the extra perks are needed too. Not only is this a time to support those who need it most, but also the charities that serve as a safety net for them. And they’ll need our help to continue running.
Various charities, big and small, have set up emergency coronavirus appeals both in the UK and globally. There are also volunteer programs from charities such as Islamic Help who are working with locals like the Ghulam family in West London to help vulnerable neighbours, as well as those abroad.
Alongside this, Islamic Help is running online webinars with Islamic scholars and shayks that people can attend with friends and family. There are a limited number of free tickets you can join a waitlist for, or you can sponsor the session by buying a ticket for £5.
Helping the Muslim community heal
With Muslims in the UK making up a disproportionate number of deaths in this pandemic, the cost of burial (which is more expensive than cremation) is taking a toll on families too. Paired with the fact that the ban on public gatherings rules out a proper Islamic funeral, the grieving process is made even more difficult.
End-of-life charities like Eden Care set up the Muslim Burial Fund in 2014 to support families and individuals through these situations. This includes students, elderly people in care homes, those with no legal status and Muslim reverts with no family support.
Bodies of the deceased can be kept in morgues for weeks and sometimes months whilst their relatives are contacted, and a burial is organised – and this will likely increase whilst COVID-19 continues to spread. You can find out more about the Muslim Burial Fund and donate here.
Whether it’s your money, time, or resources you’re giving to support those around you or those in need, please stay safe and stay at home as much as as possible – Ramadan Mubarak to all our Muslim readers!