So if you haven’t noticed how quiet it has been around here, yes, I’m on blogiday. I know, I know. I just had one in March/April, right? Well I firmly believe in the wonders of rejuvenation that a vacation brings. It’s not good to always be a workaholic (believe me, I know), PLUS, Ramadan is the month of Qur’an. I find it hard to read Allah’s Words when I’m busy writing my own….But before I go, I’d like to leave you with some thoughts, suggestions, and a bit of sage advice that I found in Tariq Ramadan’s beautiful, ethical seerah of the Prophet (saws), In the Footsteps of the Prophet (2007).
We need Ramadan…to get back to our origin. It is a special time–a gift, really–for us to dedicate ourselves to intense worship and pay attention to the well-being of the poor and needy. In this, we liberate ourselves from our animalistic tendencies and get closer to our more angelic qualities by controlling our natural needs and desires. We get back to the basics–the core of our creation–to worship The Creator. We are not only participating in the fast of our physical bodies, but also the fast of our tongues and hearts, avoiding untruths, vulgarities, indecencies, meanness, bad feelings and thoughts. Ramadan teaches us spiritual discipline. And as Tariq Ramadan writes in In The Footsteps of the Prophet, Ramadan is “both the month of the Quran and that of generosity, giving, and solidarity. Believers, whether women, men, or children, […are] strongly advised to pay special alms at the end of the fasting month in order to take care of the needs of all the members of the community during the days of celebration they observed. The quest for proximity to the One can only be experienced and perfected through proximity to the poor: respecting, caring for, and serving them bring one closer to God” (p.150).
And if you are having trouble finding the poor, look around. They may be closer than you think. Your friends. Your family. Your neighbors. We found plenty of poor people in Palestine, but there are also some poor people in your own backyard. For the past two months, I’ve been having phone conversations with the very stressed director of Muslimat Al-Nisaa, Asma Hanif. Based in Baltimore, MD, Muslimat Al-Nisaa is a shelter for Muslim women and children rebuilding their lives in the wake of homelessness and/or domestic violence. Open since October 1987, Muslimat Al-Nisaa is the only shelter in America providing culturally-sensitive services for a population that is often overlooked–homeless women and children. We often find ourselves giving our zakat and sadaqa to big organizations where the people are invisible to us–you know, over there, overseas somewhere. But there are people–women and children–right here in America who we can see and who need our zakat. They may be praying next to you at the masjid in tarawih tonight, but how would you know? Did you ask? Did they tell you? Well, here’s one organization who has told…but at the cost of spending too much time to retelling the same story without any action on the community’s part. So here’s the gist of it for you to retell to others and take action:
There’s a high demand for Muslimat Al-Nisaa’s services and a lack of financial commitment on the community’s part to keep their doors open. It costs roughly $10,000 per month for their maximum capacity of 50 residents. This $10,000 covers the basic necessities, such as food, utilities, rent, and the program costs—and still averages below the poverty level per person. They are in a multi-family dwelling, offering a home environment to their residents, and they have a waiting list. There are even Muslim women trying to get to the shelter from other countries because they have no viable alternative in their homeland. But at their current rate, Muslimat Al-Nisaa can’t afford to provide more shelter services, and there’s still so much more they’d like to do. For instance, in the future, they hope to open a new home for women with teenage sons, who often find it hard to find appropriate accommodations as a family in public shelters. The main problem is that they receive some donations, but oftentimes the amount received doesn’t cover their total expenditures and the flow is not constant. Muslimat Al-Nisaa is constantly faced with the grim possibility that they may have to put women and children back on the street. They cannot operate without support from the community at-large, so perhaps this Ramadan, you’ll make a commitment, however large or small to regularly contribute to their needs. Muslimat Al-Nisaa is a 501(c)3 and in need of money, repairs to their facility, reliable transportation, and more professional services such as counselors. They’d also love to build a playground in the backyard for the children, but most importantly they would like to stop worrying about whether our doors will stay open, and instead worry about helping more women and children in the worldwide community. Here’s the donation page…Alhamdulillah, at the end of each day in Ramadan, we are able to break our fast, but can you imagine how it is for those who never get to break their fast because of poverty?
But we could talk about their story all day and the stories of many other people in need. The main issue though is what will we do? This is a deen of action amidst contemplation. So take a leap of faith. Go to Jerusalem. Volunteer somewhere. Give up something you think you need. Do something different this Ramadan.
It’s hard to believe that this time last year we were getting ready to spend our last days of Ramadan in the Holy City. Nervous, excited, and anxious, we put ourselves in a land unfamiliar to us except through numerous hadiths and stories from others who had traveled there. But there were not many who we found who had traveled there. We went there in faith. And in disconnecting with our everyday surroundings, we were able to connect with you across the globe in a newfound spiritual home. The Sandal has been operating for a year now, and it has been an immense joy to see how many of you out there have welcomed this stranger into your hearts and homes. You remind me of the hadith of our beloved rasulAllah (saws):
“Islam began as something strange, and it will return to being something strange, so give glad tidings to the strangers!” (Muslim)
But in the same spirit that we took off to Jerusalem, I’m now taking off on another blogiday to spiritually connect to Allah and His Words. I have a couple of open projects I need to finish, so bear with me as I take an absence of leave from you. But I am going to try to make a commitment to you inshAllah–I’ll post notes on the Rihla on the seventh of every month inshAllah until I’ve finished watching all the Rihla videos (including this month as well, inshAllah), so see you in Shawwal, inshAllah! Ramadan Mubarak! And don’t forget about Muslimat Al-Nisaa…