A Muslim group is spending the Islamic holy month of fasting by immersing themselves in a project that provides food for the less fortunate.
Through the “Meals by Muslims” Ramadan outreach, members of Oklahoma Muslim Women for Humanity and other volunteers from the Muslim faith community are serving breakfast and lunch to people gathered at the Homeless Alliance of Oklahoma City’s day shelter.
Five Muslim women served lunch at the day shelter on Tuesday. One of them was local pediatrician Asiya Shakir, who came up with the idea for the initiative in 2017.
Tuesday, Shakir and other volunteers served barbecue chicken, hot potato salad, bread and fruit to the homeless and others in need at the day shelter.
The intentional twist with the outreach — serving food while fasting — is viewed as a positive, Shakir said.
Ramadan is one of the five pillars, or obligations, of Islam. Many Muslims around the world abstain from food, drink and sensual pleasures from sunrise to sunset during the month, which commemorates the divine revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad.
“We take that acute sense of hunger and channel that into good deeds,” Shakir said.
“It’s a great use of our time, and it just makes our day better.”
She said the initiative went over so well during its inaugural run last year that the Muslim community raised enough money to provide food for day shelter meals for not just one month, but two. Volunteers from the Muslim community will be serving food at the shelter through June 26, but the group’s funding will provide meals well beyond that date.
“We got a lot of good feedback from the Muslim community and the outer community last year,” Shakir said.
“Most Muslims — the majority — are doing good things in their community.”
Dan Straughan, the Homeless Alliance’s executive director, said the outreach is appreciated because the need is great. He said already the day shelter has begun serving meals to a large number of people. Straughan said the day shelter provides meals for an average of 365 people a day, but on May 29, 415 people were fed.
“It was a record, so to have a group to commit to a month of meals is extraordinary; not only extraordinary, it’s extremely generous,” he said.
Shakir said she was excited about Straughan’s comments because of the initiative’s ability to provide more meals than initially planned. She said Muslims both in and outside Oklahoma donated money for Meals by Muslims.
Nadira Choudry, founder of Oklahoma Muslim Women for Humanity, said she returned for the second year of the outreach because of last year’s success.
“We had an excellent experience, very positive,” she said. “The people here were so nice, and we felt that this was a great opportunity to give back to the community.”
Choudry said the group had provided a free Iftar meal at a northeast Oklahoma City mosque several days before, as one of its community service projects. Iftar is the meal traditionally eaten at sunset to break the fast during Ramadan.
Another volunteer Afia Tariq said providing meals was a way to share with the community.
“As you’re fasting this month, it definitely makes you more aware of people going without food.”