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Keeping up the Giving Tradition

By Alaa Mohammad Shareef, BA

How can I give back to others and my community if I still can’t leave my house?!

Keeping up the Giving Tradition

This is a question that many of us may still be struggling with as we finish these last few blessed days of Ramadan. Many of us spent most of the month missing our friends and family and figuring out new ways to catch the blessings this year. While we have no control over our current circumstances, there is still plenty that we can do to kindle the giving spirit of Ramadan.

Start with a mind shift

Many of us may still be feeling that something has been taken from us this year — we may be grieving what Ramadan was like in the past and what we missed out on now. And that’s okay. Acknowledge it and process it. Then, work on shifting your perspective. It’s all about how you think about it and then channeling the usual Ramadan energy into other outlets. There is still time!

First, recognize and appreciate that social distancing is following the sunnah. Know that by following the orders to stay in place, you are also following the Sunnah of our Prophet Mohammad (S). Just as you set your intention to fast each day of Ramadan seeking the reward of the fast, also set your intention each day to participate in social distancing–seeking out and trusting in the reward from Allah for doing so. Allah (SWT) is fully aware of our sacrifice, and just as every test is meant to bring us closer to Allah (SWT), let us navigate the ways of remaining close through this one. Reframe the thought of missing out on ibadah at the masjid as an opportunity to reconnect with Allah (SWT) in solitude.

Second, try to appreciate other positive things that social distancing in Ramadan is letting us do. Many of us are no longer dealing with hectic commutes and school drop-offs shortly after suhoor. We may have been able to sleep in a bit more this year. We are no longer obligated to attend many social gatherings that may have been a drain on our time, energy, and even our spirituality. We get to have more time to focus on connectedness with our families–check out The FYI’s COVID-19 Ramadan Toolkit for much more on how to do this! As you start to shift your perspective about a COVID-19 Ramadan, you can then start to think about reframing giving, volunteerism, and feeding others during this month.

Re-imagine how to be charitable

Keeping up the Giving Tradition

Abdullah ibn Abbas, one of the companions of the Prophet (S), said:“The Prophet was the most generous of people, and he was even more generous in Ramadan.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari) In other ahadith, his generosity was compared to the “fair winds,” suggesting that it was always swift and continuously blowing, extending its value and reach. (Al Bukhari, Hadith 6)

While we may not be able to physically host fundraising iftars or attend charitable events, there are many other ways to engage in monetary giving this Ramadan.

  • Donate to a virtual charitable cause that means something to you or to your family.
  • Most Muslim private schools are sustained by student tuitions and are struggling with the financial impact of the pandemic on families. Support your local schools or community centers.
  • Find ways to show appreciation to educators and essential workers such as delivering iftar-treats.
  • Consider supporting first responders who risk their lives during this crisis.
  • Support local small businesses like halal shops, bakeries, and family-owned restaurants while adhering to safety protocols.
  • Pay your Zakat to verified campaigns and organizations that do work you wish to support.
  • Donate to food pantries to support others during this pandemic.

Increase your social impact 

Keeping up the Giving Tradition

Jabir ibn Abdullah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Every good deed is charity. Verily, it is a good deed to meet your brother with a cheerful face…” (Al Tirmidhi, Hadith 1970).

Giving doesn’t always have to be monetary, and with financial difficulties abound during this pandemic, it’s a perfect time to reframe what giving means. Our good deeds towards others–our social impact--is another way to engage in giving during Ramadan. Try to envision the Coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to build a better world–with whatever means are at your disposal.

Volunteering opportunities may feel difficult from the comfort of our homes, but now more than ever, organizations and individuals are seeking services across different disciplines and can benefit from your unique skills. Before you jump in, make sure to spend time figuring out what your specific skillset is and what you have to offer. If you’re looking for how to match up your skillset with things happening in your geographic location, check out Idealist for more ideas. Then, get going! Here are some ideas you can consider:

  • Apply with the Care Coalition: Crises Coronavirus or other local mutual aid organizations seeking aid.
  • Many organizations, like the YMCA, have now posted virtual volunteering opportunities. Research the ones local to you and get started!
  • Consider how you can help those less fortunate than you by helping to build their safety net through donating money, food, and time to shelters, food banks, and assisting low-income families receive their benefits, apply for grants/funding, and file taxes. Check out much more about this in this article.
  • Join a team of volunteers in your community who prepare food packages. Consider picking up and delivering food packages, and be sure to follow safety protocols.
  • Make phone or video calls and offer conversation to neighbors, elders, people you learn have gotten sick, or anyone who may be grieving the loss of a family member or friend.
  • Offer your skills to help people as they navigate the work-from-home lifestyle; You can do this by:
    • Teaching enhanced technology skills.
    • Tutoring a child and offering homework/virtual classwork help.
    • Virtually entertaining children of work-at-home parents in order to help give them space and time.
    • Running errands for widowed or single parents.
    • Offer to teach Quran or the steps of prayer to someone who wants to learn and implement it in Ramadan.
    • Young people can also try these ideas for the common good.

Spending time and effort on your family is also a form of sadaqa. The Prophet (S) said, “The best of you are the best to their families, and I am the best to my family.”

If anyone is more deserving of you striving to serve them and get rewarded greatly, it is your family! Refer to the Family Bonding section of The FYI’s COVID-19 Ramadan Toolkit for much more on how to do this.

These are just a few ideas! Whatever you come up with as a means of volunteering your services, be sure to set your intentions for the sake of Allah (S) and be confident in reward for every act of kindness.

Find new ways to feed fasting people

Keeping up the Giving Tradition

The Prophet (S) said, “Whoever feeds a fasting person will have his sins forgiven, will be saved from hell fire, and will have the same reward as the fasting person without diminishing the reward of the fasting person in the slightest.” The Companions said, “Not all of us find that with which to feed a fasting person.” The Prophet replied, “God gives this reward to whoever breaks the fast of another even with a sip of milk, a date, or a drink of water.

Using this hadith as a guide, many of us have had the privilege of helping others break their fast through hosting iftars at home or at the mosque, or providing suhoor meals to those performing night prayer at the mosque.

How can we keep up the tradition of feeding fasting people when we must adhere to social distancing regulations?

Despite not being able to share big meals together or feed others, there are still many ways to get the reward of feeding fasting people. As discussed above, donate to support projects that distribute Ramadan food packages and sponsor iftars locally and abroad. Check out the various campaigns by Launchgood to make your selection–multiply your reward by spreading your donation across sites. Create or join a local group that aims to feed others by having food delivered to those in need. Cooking for others in your family is sadaqa too! If you live with others and are not usually the one cooking–this is the time to try and earn some reward for it!

Although we will certainly miss the special traditions of a non-quarantined Ramadan, we should remain hopeful that the giving spirit of Ramadan is something we can always bring to life. Allah’s doors of Rahmah are still open–we just have to find creative ways to engage in sadaqa and benefit from giving back to our community. For many more tips and strategies on this topic, check out The FYI’s COVID-19 Ramadan Toolkit.

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Zakat eligibility of The FYI

The Family & Youth Institute, or The FYI, is a well-known Muslim organization in the United States. It works to promote mental health and wellness by strengthening and empowering individuals, families, and communities through research and education. It has been working for many years to bring Islamic perspectives to understanding and promoting mental health in our communities.

It is dedicated to serving and supporting Muslims – safeguarding our deen, our families, and our future generations. Therefore, the work of The FYI comes in the category of ‘fi sabeelillah’ or the Path of Allah, within the eight categories where Zakat money can be used.

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed for it and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah, and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah, And Allah, is Knowing and Wise.”
(Al-Tawbah 9:60)

According to scholars who widen the meaning of fee sabeelillah to include any activities that promote Islamic growth, The FYI is indeed eligible to receive part of the Zakat funds for its programs and services. I urge Muslims in America to support this organization through their donations, general charity, and through their Zakat. I ask Allah swt to strengthen and guide The FYI to continue its good work in supporting Muslims.

Shaikh Ali Suleiman Ali, PhD

About Shaikh Ali

Sh. Ali Suleiman Ali was born in Ghana where he spent his childhood studying with various Muslim scholars. He then moved to Saudi Arabia and enrolled in the Islamic University of Madina.  He graduated with a degree in both Arabic and Islamic Studies. Dr. Ali went on to complete his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Sh. Ali serves on the Advisory Council of The Family & Youth Institute. He is the Senior Imam and Director of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton, Michigan. Additionally, he serves as the Director of Muslim Family Services in Detroit and is a council member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). He is also a member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and the Association of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).