"The Quran Tells Us to Serve"

September 30, 2008

Author: Michael Riley

Source: Asbury Park Press


This evening, Nasser Ahmed will be on the roof of the mosque at the Islamic Center of Ocean County in Toms River. He'll be looking heavenward, searching for the moon. He won't be alone; other members of the congregation will be with him. The search for the moon is a communal experience, requiring confirmation.

Muslims from hundreds of mosques across the country also search the sky. The sighting of the moon marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, and the coming of the morning is called Eid ul-Fitr, or Eid.

If no one sees the moon, the fast of Ramadan will last one more day.

Eid means "celebration," and it's done by breaking the fast of the previous month. Muslims gather in mosques to pray and rejoice, eat a small meal, and spend the day visiting family and friends.

There is much to celebrate on Eid, says Ziaulhaq Zia, a member of the mosque. But it would be mistake to assume that the sunup-to-sundown fast observed by the faithful during Ramadan is some onerous chore.

"Fasting for a month deepens faith," Zia says. "God gives you the patience, health and strength to finish."

And what goes for the body goes for the soul as well.

"We make a special effort during Ramadan to pay attention to our spiritual lives as well," adds Nasser. "Ramadan is a month of generosity."

But that generosity cannot be confined to Muslims alone, says Maqsood Qadri, imam and spiritual director of the Islamic Center.

"We are part of the community, and we must serve the community," he says. "Ramadan is the month that the Quran was received by the Prophet. And the Quran tells us to serve."

That's why, on a drizzly dark late Friday afternoon, Qadri, Nasser, Zia and a few other men and boys traveled from the mosque to Lakewood's town square to deliver hot meals to the hungry.