The 1 billion people who observe Ramadan are probably aware that today marks the halfway point of this special month. In observance of Ramadan, we bring you a blog from guest author Lina Hashem of the charity Islamic Relief USA.
Noah is not Muslim, but like many people displaced by conflict in South Sudan, he’s practically fasting—not because it’s the month of Ramadan, but because there’s not enough food. Noah’s fast is one of desperation. When his family has no food, they don’t know when they’ll be able to eat again. Fear mixes with their hunger, pressing on them every day. This kind of hunger exists in South Sudan … in the United States … in every corner of every country in the world.
Hunger is a constant presence in his life. Noah and family had to leave their home in northernmost South Sudan to escape violent clashes. Where they settled, near Juba, the situation is more stable, but for displaced families like his, survival is a struggle every day.
“Our situation is not okay,” Noah told Islamic Relief USA staff members during a visit earlier this month. “Money is really a hard situation for us. There’s no food, no proper care.”
Ramadan is the month when Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. This year, in the United States, that means almost 17 hours without food or drink. But for those fasting by choice, the food we’re abstaining from is sitting in our kitchens, just waiting for us. However, it is not just about fasting, but about carrying out more charitable acts in order to feel the burden of the poor. The fast is part of a heightened focus on spiritual matters. It deepens the impact of the lessons Muslims read in the Quran throughout the month—lessons in self-improvement, in empathy, and caring for our fellow humans. As a result, Islamic charities, like Islamic Relief USA, notice a huge increase in donations during Ramandan, which is crucial for families like Noah’s.
These lessons inspire Islamic Relief USA’s work year-round, but in Ramadan, food programs are increased to share more with hundreds of thousands of people in the United States and around the world. Like all Islamic Relief USA programs, this Ramadan food program is for anyone, regardless of faith, ethnicity or any other criterion other than need. Neighbors of all faiths are hungry together, and together they all receive whatever we can offer.
The goal in Ramadan is ultimately to free our brothers and sisters in humanity to fast only if they want to—not because they have to.
Noah heard that some of these food packages were coming to Juba, so he got on his motor scooter and drove almost 200 miles. It was a long and dangerous ride, and he arrived tired and sweating—but in time. His thin body relaxed a bit in relief as he loaded the food onto his scooter, carefully binding the heavy package to the back of his seat. He’d be sharing it with 40 members of his extended family.
Noah, 23, dreams of a more stable life once things settle down in his country. He wants to finish school and build a more secure livelihood for his family. But in the meantime, he needs to keep them alive.
Staff knew it wasn’t enough—no food package could be enough. But at least for that week, Noah’s family didn’t have to fast.
How do you observe the charity component of Ramadan? Let us know in the comments section below!