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During Ramadan, Focus is on the Needy

Worshippers at the San Ramon Valley Islamic Center combine their efforts for charitable causes at home and abroad.

Barrels for food donations were placed in prominent locations in and around the San Ramon Valley Islamic Center following Friday afternoon prayers, a testament to the community's commitment to charity during the holy month of Ramadan.

Ramadan is known for being the month of fasting in the Muslim faith, during which worshippers set aside all food and drink from dawn till dusk every day.

But, as many at the SRVIC showed, it is also the month when a majority of Muslims pay it forward with zakat, a pillar of Islam that asks able worshippers to donate 2.5 percent of their wealth to charity each year. 

"We are one of the top donors in the area to the Contra Costa County Food Bank," said Danville resident Shahla Khan. "People are helpful to each other all year round but, in this month they become more sensitive to the elderly, the sick, and and those with young children. It's a more open-hearted approach."

Every year, the SRVIC donates some 5,000 pounds of food items to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. In addition to their efforts for the local food bank, however, the charitable efforts of the SRVIC are also appreciated abroad.

Following Friday afternoon prayers, Doughterty Valley students Rabeea Abbas and Orooj Wajahat collect donations and raised awareness for the food crisis in Somalia.

At another booth, Concord resident Faran Sikandar raises money for the Dar-al Salam Oasis of Sacred Learning, an orphanage and Islamic school in Mauritania that the SRVIC, along with many other islamic communities across the Bay Area, helps sponsor. Dar-al Salam also provides housing and education for mothers as well as children.

"There are all kinds of fundraising projects that take place all year long, not just during Ramadan," noted Sikandar, who has visited hospitals and soup kitchens on behalf of the SRVIC's community service efforts.

According to San Ramon resident Noman Munif, who sits on the board of the SRVIC, Ramadan is about increased dedication to prayer and community. Throughout the month, it is customary to recite the Qur'an during evening prayers.

"For most Muslims, Ramadan is a time to reflect on the year, increase worship, reflect on yourself and to reflect on your goals," he said. "So huge part of Ramadan is not only fasting, but also charity."

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