By Rashad Sharif
Special to The Commercial Appeal
Along with thousands of local Muslims, I’ve gone into Ramadan mode.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims fast during daylight hours.
It’s a time for us to re-prioritize our daily lives by putting our appetites under discipline while elevating our commitment to read (or at least listen to) the Quran from cover to cover within a month’s time.
But Ramadan isn’t just about fasting and praying. It’s also a time when we increase our charity in many ways, such as our drive to give special support to the Memphis Food Bank during Ramadan.
Sunday evening, hundreds of people are expected to attend this year’s sixth annual Ramadan Interfaith Dinner. We celebrate iftar, the evening meal that breaks our fast. We are asking those who come to the iftar to bring canned goods to donate to the Food Bank.
Muslims believe that their good actions bring a greater reward during this month than at any other time of year, because this month has been blessed by Allah.
But that isn’t to say Muslims in Memphis are only charitable during Ramadan.
Throughout the year we conduct health fairs in underserved, inner-city communities. Muslim physicians regularly volunteer as staff of faith-based service organizations such as the Church Health Center.
The award-winning Memphis Muslim Medical Clinic has been providing weekend charity services for the past decade. A Muslim women’s organization provides uniforms, school supplies, and mentoring for public school students. The Muslim Student Associations at our local universities sponsor informative programs. They also work on service projects. The masjid (mosques) in the Memphis area hold frequent open house activities with presentations and opportunity for Q&A throughout the year.
Several of the Islamic congregations send representatives into the jails and prisons of the area so that the incarcerated can receive sober counsel on the character development required for successful transition into society upon release.
And you’ve probably seen Muslims braving the elements year-round to meet the public with fruits and newspapers.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the most important Muslim practices. As we fast, we obey God, appreciate God’s gifts to us, share the suffering of others less fortunate, and realize the value of charity.
Rashad Sharif is imam of Shelby County’s oldest mosque, Masjid Al-Mu’minum in South Memphis.