“Are We Ready to
Share the Blessed Month of Ramadan with America?”
By Shakeel Syed
Shura Council of Southern California
An iftar party arranged by the
Muslim Students Association (MSA)
This brief guide for Masajid
attempts to answer the question, “Are we ready to share
the blessed month of Ramadan with America?” Each year
before Ramadan the Shura Council receives many inquiries from
private and public sector about Ramadan. They are thirsty
and they want to know. America wants to know. Everyone wants
to know what Ramadan is all about. This guide does not replace
but adds to the myriad experiences of community members, Masajid
and organizations in reaching out to America through Ramadan.
We pray this year’s Ramadan will be most spiritually
enjoyable not only for us but also for all people in our neighborhoods,
InshaAllah. Always remember, “It’s only together
we can make a difference.”
This guide is premised to serve two main groups: (1) Muslim
community of your Masjid, and (2) people of all faiths around
1. First Time Fasting Young Muslims: Several things can be
done to inspire the young people who may have decided to fast
for the first time or are thinking about it. Here’re
some ideas for both groups.
1.1 Masjid can hold special programs for young people to answer
many questions they may have about fasting. Invite another
young person who fasted last year for the first time to share
1.2. Those who have already decided to fast for the first
time, formally “recognize” them in the Masjid
newsletter and/or a dedicated evening. This will help them
sustain their commitment for their faith and its practices.
1.3. Masajid may consider giving small gifts and/or a certificate
that young children will treasure as a souvenir for their
2. First Time Fasting New Muslims: This is a growing segment
of population in our communities. They do not necessarily
believe they can fast, simply because they never did. Talking
to them and encouraging them may help them fulfill their obligation.
2.1. Hold a special program with the help of three important
people from within your community. (a) Imam or a knowledgeable
person from the community, (b) a Doctor who can highlight
the physical benefits, and most importantly (c) another new
Muslim who practiced fasting last year.
2.2. Make every effort to make the journey of a new Muslim
in your community as enjoyable and easy as possible. Embracing
them in a special way helps a lot. Assigning a person on one-to-one
basis goes a long way. It is a concern that converts sometime
leave Islam because they could not grow in it with others.
3. Ramadan Friday Khutba (sermon): If your Masjid does not
plan the content of Friday Khutba, perhaps you may like to
try it out this year. Each community knows itself best. Hence
it is easier for you to request the Khatibs (sermon speakers)
to bring your issues up in his Khutba and help community get
For example, the Masajid attendance during Ramadan, especially
on Fridays, is if not more at least twice as much as on Fridays
outside Ramadan. This means the Ramadan gets to motivate some
Muslims who typically do not frequent Masajid outside Ramadan
regularly. By the way this is no different than in other faith
groups as we learn from our Interfaith partners.
What can your Masjid do to “retain” them and how?
This can be brought up in Khutba followed by some outreach
activities to these Ramadan only OR Ramadan Friday’s
only congregants. Think of this as a Masjid Administrator.
What type of value and strength your Masjid will be able to
offer if your congregation size is doubled? This is a dynamic
that if harnessed with some planning can bring some exceptionally
4. Iftar (Breaking Fast) for Muslim Inmates: There are a good
number of State and Federal prisons in Southland. Almost in
all prisons, there are Muslims. Although Muslim inmates have
struggled over number of years and have gotten some relief
from the prison system to get their Ramadan needs met but
the relief is not adequate enough. Your Masjid can play a
critical role in helping the Muslims inside the prisons and
also fulfill an obligation to help those who are in need.
There are following Federal prisons and/or detention centers
in Southern California: Victorville (2 men’s & 1
women facilities); Downtown Los Angeles (1 large detention
center); San Pedro (1 prison and the other detention center
operated by DHS). There are several California State prisons
in Southern California in addition to the County Jails. There’s
no more joy for the inmates to get a visit from a fellow Muslim
who can simply pray with them during Ramadan.
If you like to organize Iftar feeding programs in federal
prisons, please contact Br. Jan Muhammad (818-903-1463) or
Br. Abdul Hafeez (213-253-9575).
5. Iftar exchange between Masajid: In almost all Muslim cultures,
people exchange Iftar with friends, neighbors and community
in general. The spirit is to foster love and express hospitality.
How about furthering this spirit with a sister Masjid?
Consider involving a group of or the whole community to pitch
in Iftar for X number of people for your sister Masjid. Let
people bring their own ethnic cuisine. There are some Masajid
in Southern California where communities would so much love
to see other Masajid bringing Iftar for their communities.
Food does wonders, always and everywhere. Muslims do whatever
they do for the pleasure of Allah. Sharing your meal with
a fasting person has exponentially more Ajr (reward) during
Ramadan than at any other time. Wouldn’t you or your
Masjid like to avail of this blessing?
Among so many benefits, some tangible ones could be communities
knowing, learning and loving more of each other. People pitching
in and doing their best for the other Masjid in the spirit
of extending the best hospitality. Leadership could exchange
visits with the Iftar coming in from a neighboring sister
6. Outreach: Reaching out to everyone around you during Ramadan
cannot be more effective than during Ramadan. Many people
already know Muslims observing Ramadan. However most of the
people don’t know how exactly Muslims celebrate the
entire month of Ramadan; the beginning of it, the fasting
and the celebrations at the end of the month. Here are some
examples you can reach out effectively to various segments
of the population in your neighborhood.
6.1 Interfaith communities: Write to all places of worship
in a 10-mile radius and plan to invite them to break fast
with you at the Masjid. Let them observe how Muslims fast
during the day and how it is concluded at sunset and how we
continue the spirit of fasting with special prayers in the
evenings and why.
There are several clergy and lay leaders from Abrahamic faith
groups that the Shura Council is aware of who fast in Ramadan
in solidarity with Muslims. If you like any one of them to
visit your Masjid and speak, please contact the Shura Council
Your Open Mosque Day guests are ideal people to be re-invited
during the month of Ramadan to strengthen the relationship.
6.2 Law Enforcement & Fire Dept: Ramadan is a great month
to re-establish or establish afresh relationships with your
local police, sheriff and fire departments. Many communities
have already some type of working relationship. That could
be very easily strengthened during the month of Ramadan.
Let them know many Muslims would be leaving Masajid late in
the night after Taraweeh (special night prayers) and many
Muslims also return to Masajid early in the morning. This
helps them to alert their night patrols who will not get surprised
to see late night traffic around Masajid. You can also request
them to increase the patrol for better safety.
Invite them to an Iftar or Iftar[s] and let them enjoy the
festivities and spiritual spirit of Ramadan in Masajid.
6.3 City officials: Write to your Mayor and the Council about
Ramadan and invite them to Iftar[s] and thank and recognize
them for providing pertinent services to the community and
to the Masjid. A simple award ceremony recognizing them will
go a long way when you plan to expand your Masjid or get some
Some communities, because of their excellent relationship
with the local city officials, were able to get many goodies
in return, such as an additional parking lot at no cost! Imagine
your Masjid saving hundreds of thousands of dollars by acquiring
free land and also easing up the parking problems that most
Masajid face on a perpetual basis.
6.4 School District: Write to your School District Superintendent
and request him to apprise all schools in the district about
Ramadan. It is a good idea to also write directly to the School
principals about Ramadan. The Schools will thank you for letting
them know. This will then help them to relieve Muslim kids
from PE classes and/or providing special relief for them during
the month of Ramadan. Ask them to provide special prayer area
for Duhr (noon prayers) time. Offer them free presentations
to the school population on Ramadan in particular and Islam
in general during the month of Ramadan. Organize an Iftar
for the staff. Invite them to your Masjid.
A great source for Ramadan and Eid for school teachers is
6.5 Media: All of us know the important role the media plays
in today’s world. Initiate a meeting with the editorial
board or your local paper’s religion editor or reporter.
Invite them to Masjid for an Iftar. They love positive stories
that demonstrate the freedom of religion and diversity of
Muslim communities. Let them know of all your special occasions
during Ramadan, such as Lailatul Qadr (Night of Power) and/or
Eid Al Fitr (Breaking of Fast Celebrations) or any other program
during the month.)
Introduce them to select community members, such as the ones
who’re fasting for the first time or a large Iftar gathering
at someone’s house. Help them learn the idea of hospitality
and sharing particularly in the month of Ramadan. Organize
an Iftar party exclusively for the media only either at their
offices or invite them to the Masjid to experience the whole
6.6 Academia: Most of the communities are surrounded either
by community colleges or universities. How about inviting
the faculty or the administrative leadership for an Iftar
at the Masjid?
6.7 Library: Set up an appointment with your librarian and
ask him/her to let you organize a Ramadan/Eid display for
patrons. Some libraries also organize presentations during
special holidays. Ask them to organize one for your center.
Just as with others, make sure to invite them for an Iftar
at your Masjid. A great source for Ramadan/Eid display is
6.7 Eid Cards to friends of other faiths: It is a great idea
to send Eid greetings to your friends from other faiths. An
excellent and inexpensive source to put together “customized”
Eid greetings with your Masjid’s or your personal name
is IslamiCity (www.islamicity.com/bazar).
6.8 Muslim Students Association: Encourage and support the
local MSA chapter to hold Iftar at their campus. Often times
MSA's are short of funds. Masjid proactively helping the local
MSA chapter will mean much to the young men and women. This
will motivate and inspire them to continue to do well.
7. Ramadan Marketing: Hoist a banner with Ramadan greeting
for peace conspicuously to the passing traffic outside your
center. A colorful banner with a clear message may not cost
as much and can be repeatedly used during each Ramadan. Make
Ramadan and Islam synonymous with peace.
8. Clean-up: It is extremely important to clean up Masajid
before, during and after Ramadan. Masajids use during Ramadan
increases exponentially which means cleaning, should be done
more often. Guests visiting Masajid should get an impeccable
impression. This will encourage them to return often.
9. Security: It is not a bad idea to hire private security,
if your Masjid can afford. Should you need assistance, please
ask Shura Council and we can guide you to Muslim-owned private
security companies. Alternatively, few volunteers can be picked
up from the community who can serve as Security personnel
during Ramadan. Increasingly our Mosques are being attacked
and vandalized. Pro-active efforts will keep everyone safe.
10. Zakat (obligatory alms) Collection & Disbursement:
Masajid undertake this extremely important responsibility
by default. However what is rarely done in Masajid is to keep
track of how much is collected and how much disbursed and
then compare this data with previous years.
Shura Council is contemplating to suggest a program where
the Zakat collection and disbursement can both be centralized
for optimum benefit. There’s no system in place now
where no two Masajid knows if the same person is receiving
from both Masajid while many other deserving people are being
Until such time a centralized program is in place, think of
ways which proactively your Masjid can encourage your community
to disburse their Zakat ahead of time allowing you to plan
Shura Council welcomes any ideas in this regard.
Several handy ideas to benefit from and celebrate Ramadan
Ramadan Notes for School Teachers (http://www.cie.org/ItemDetail.aspx?id=N&m_id=52&item_id=114&cat_id=104)
Online Resources (http://www.islamicity.com/ramadan/)
Posters & Readers on Islam & Ramadan (www.discoverislam.com)
For School Teachers (www.cie.org)
The author is deeply indebted to Sr. Sherrel Johnson and Br.
Kalilm Farooki for their content and editorial suggestions.)