by Hira Uddin
Ramadan is synonymous with abstaining from food. However, many Muslims who are unable to fast from food and drink due to various reasons feel left out. Everything ranging from monthly periods, pregnancy, eating disorders (affecting both men and women), other medical illnesses, and other difficult circumstances may hinder and prevent someone from fasting during the holiest month of the Islamic calendar. However, there are many other ways to participate and benefit from this month spiritually.
Host an Iftaar
There are several teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), which emphasize the importance and rewards of feeding an empty stomach, most notably during the month of Ramadan. If you are unable to fast, you can obtain the same amount of spiritual reward by feeding a fasting person as mentioned in the following hadith (collection of sayings and teachings of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him):
“Whoever feeds a fasting person will have a reward like that of the fasting person, without any reduction in his reward” (From the books of Ahmad and At-Tirmidihi).
Bringing this joy upon the faces of your family and friends while they break their fast will also make you feel fulfilled and your personal effort is guaranteed to be rewarded – even when you are not actively fasting. Ramadan is a month in which an ordinary act benefitting others is multiplied by rewarding others.
We are in an era where ignorance is a commodity, which is why the importance of obtaining knowledge is such a refreshing teaching from the tradition of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
In fact, one of the first commands revealed to the Prophet was the proclamation “Iqra” in Arabic meaning “Read.” When Angel Gabriel revealed this command to the Prophet, incidentally in the month of Ramadan 1437 years ago, he replied “I cannot read” as he was by all means illiterate.
This commandment is significant because it reminds us that the seeking of knowledge is considered the primary act in the Islamic faith. Although Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was illiterate, it did not exclude him.
He has also stated:
“…the angels lower their wings over the seeker of knowledge, being pleased with what he does. The inhabitants of the heavens and the earth and even the fish in the depth of the oceans seek forgiveness for him. The superiority of the learned man over the devout worshipper is like that of the full moon to the rest of the stars (i.e., in brightness) (Books of At-Tirmidihi and Abu-Dawud)
“He who treads in the path of knowledge, God will make that path easy, leading to Paradise for him” (Book of Al-Muslim).
So seek knowledge; whether that’s by continuing your current studies if you are a student and just completing/understanding your assignments or picking up a book about a subject you have always been curious about and sharing the benefit with others around you.
Increase Your Good Deeds
You said it, Marge. Even if you don’t see the immediate effect of your good deed, it will manifest itself in your life, often in ways that you may have least expected, at the time you are in need of hope the most. Helping relieve the distress of another individual is highly rewarded in Islam.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was once asked, “What is the best action?” and he replied “To bring happiness to your brother brings great reward. If he does not have dress then clothe him. If he is hungry, then feed him. If he is needy, then fulfill his need” (Tabrani).
Whether these good deeds are for family, friends, strangers, or even your pets, there is goodness reserved for you as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) states, “There is reward for kindness to every living thing” (Sahih).
So yes, the moral of life is that no good deed goes to waste.
Donate Food Packages to Those in Need
The happiness your donation can bring to those who have no access to food nor water is truly priceless. Ramadan is the month of giving and increasing in one’s charity in an effort to spiritually cleanse oneself.
Islamic Relief has a program every year to donate food packages to countries in dire need of food assistance. They have color coded several countries where an individual can sponsor a food package ranging from $30 – $80.
If you are unable to sponsor a food package, you may alternatively make mini food packages filled with non-perishable food items and deliver it to your local shelter, mosque, or soup kitchen. Either of these options is guaranteed to help provide a meal to someone truly in need. What could be better than that?
Okay, so maybe you don’t have to volunteer as tribute or be as dramatic as JLaw in this scene, but Ramadan is humorously termed at times as “The Hunger Games” so perhaps it is fitting.
All jokes aside, you really don’t have an excuse to avoid this option if you cannot donate monetarily (sorry, not sorry, for the mini guilt trip). We can all give our time.
Find a local soup kitchen, food shelter, women’s shelter, homeless shelter, or mosque to volunteer your time at. There is always something to do and many ways to help out and they are always appreciative of an extra hand. You can find other friends who may be unable to fast for their respective reasons and make this a group effort to maximize your impact. This may even strengthen your bond of friendship and make you feel generally like a decent human being, which the world is currently in desperate need of at the moment.
Visit your Mosque and Increase your Remembrance of God
Do not allow anyone to make you feel unwelcome at the mosque as a woman. Your right to attend prayers or just sit in your own space and remember God in your own way by making supplications was enforced by Prophet Muhammad himself, peace be upon him.
He stated, ‘Do not prevent the female servants of Allah from going to the mosque of Allah.” (Sahih Muslim) and specifically told husbands, “If the wife of any one of you asks permission (to go to the mosque) do not forbid her.” (Sahih Bukhari).
It is important to note that both men and women approached Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) regarding personal matters regarding their faith, and he advised both without showing any favor to any particular gender. In fact, he always championed for women’s rights and in his final message warned men to treat women properly and not usurp their God-given rights. Therefore, as a woman, your space in the mosque has been safeguarded 1437 years ago by the most beloved to God, so do not permit any man to make you feel as if you do not belong in the month of Ramadan, or in any other month for that matter.
Sponsor an Iftaar at Your Masjid
This may seem like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised as to how many people do not think to donate to their local mosque to sponsor an iftar for the community. Nearly every mosque has regular programs during the month of Ramadan to feed the community at no cost to individuals, but in order to do this, they rely heavily on donations.
If you are financially able, then you can use your financial blessings to contribute to the community iftar fund or join in sponsoring half or one-third of the cost to share in the reward for feeding members of your community.
If we are blessed financially and decide to donate personal funds, then remember that:
“Wealth is not decreased by charity, so give in charity ” (Prophet Muhammad, Sahih Muslim).