FALLS CHURCH, VA - Moroccan Malika Abumarek walked into the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia, to pick up some food during Ramadan. The grandmother appreciates the extra supplies, like flour and cans of tuna, for her immigrant family who are often just scraping by.
The food is donated by Islamic Relief USA, an Alexandria, Virginia, nonprofit that for 25 years has been providing food and humanitarian assistance worldwide, now to more than 40 countries.
Abumarek opened a box full of nonperishable items and placed them into two royal blue bags to carry home.
“I am happy to see the basics we cook with like rice, sugar, and oil,” she said. “The food is also helping my friends who live nearby and also need help.”
During Ramadan (May 15-June 15 this year) Islamic Relief USA is supplying thousands of the special food packages to people in need in northern Virginia and the Washington, D.C., area, as well as cities in Texas, New Jersey and Illinois.
Tahani Jabarin, social services director at the Islamic Center, explained that the food is not just for Muslims.
“The neighborhood around the mosque has many Latin Americans who don’t have very much,” she said, “and we give them food, not only during Ramadan, but one day every week.”
Jabarin said there has been an influx of refugees coming to the center for food, especially from Iraq and Syria.
“The top numbers are coming from Syria,” she said. “It’s really sad to see the head of the household looking for a job, who can barely find a job that brings food into the household.”
About a couple of weeks before Ramadan, an assembly line of volunteers for Islamic Relief USA packed 1,000 boxes with the food staples at a warehouse in northern Virginia. Said Durrah, the group’s national volunteer manager, said the boxes were also being distributed at churches, food pantries and social services organizations.
“We don’t distinguish people based on religion, color or creed,” he said, “so the boxes, although distributed for Ramadan, are for families in need of all different faiths.”
Many of the volunteers who packed the boxes were with family or friends to share the spirit of helping others.
“I like the feeling of helping people, especially this month because it’s Ramadan and we’re supposed to be the best people we can be,” said 10-year-old Serene Daoud.
While placing a container of salt into a box, Shama Islam remarked that “one of the pillars of Islam is charity, so we’re trying to fulfill that here.”
Volunteer Hana Bensadik drove five hours to get to the warehouse from southern Virginia.
“I just wanted to do something that I know makes a difference and has an impact on the day-to-day lives of people,” she said.
As Touris Sadiq was leaving the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center with bags of food, she said she was grateful.
“This helps me and my family a lot, especially during the month of Ramadan.”
Sadiq said the provisions were a welcome addition to her family’s evening meal, which occurs after sunset when Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast.
“Alhamdulillah,” (Praise be to God) she said.