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Affluent Muslims reach out to poor with ‘Ramzan Ration’

Half a dozen ceiling fans hum at the ground floor Maahoor Bai Community Hall at a crowded street in Dongri, giving respite from the blistering sun outside. Dozens of women who have gathered here queue up once the volunteers from the All India Memon Jamat Federation have finished registering them. Then Razia Chashmawala, the Jamat’s deputy chairperson (women’s wing), humbly hands the ‘ration bags’ out to the women. ”Those who have young daughters will also get a ladies’ purse each,” announces a volunteer.

This is a scene from one of the centres in the city distributing ‘Ramzan Ration’. In the spirit of the current holy month of Ramzan, affluent Muslims are reaching out to the underprivileged with charity. In an effort to break the myth that Ramzan is just about fasting and feasting, many have begun pooling in resources to provide relief to the dirt poor.

A typical Ramzan ration packet carries wheat, flour, edible oil, ghee, sugar, tea, sewaiyan, dates, sherbet and everything else required for iftar and sehri (pre-dawn light meal) dishes. “The poor too should have nutritious meal in the night so that they can bear the hunger during the day’s fast. There cannot be a better time than Ramzan to do charity and therefore we help the poor in whatever way we can,” explains Chashmawala. She claims she will buy at least 1000 women new dresses before Eid.

Ramzan is a time to give. And they give magnanimously. There is a belief that every good deed done in Ramzan gets divine blessings 70 times more than the same deed would get in any other month. Which is why most Muslims give out zakat, the 2.5% of their annual savings, to charity in Ramzan though they can give zakat money at any time of the year.

Free food definitely is the popular part of charity in Ramzan. Sohail Khandwani, managing trustee of Mahim dargah and also a trustee at Haji Ali dargah, informs that both the Sufi shrines together distribute almost 2000 iftar packets among the rozedars every evening. Besides, around 150 devout Muslims who sit in aitekaaf (they spend the last 10 days of Ramzan in constant prayers, away from their homes, secluded in mosques) in the seven mosques across Mahim locality will get free meals-both iftar and sehri. “These people who participate in aitekaaf don’t visit their homes till the new moon announcing Ramzan’s end is sighted. We have decided to supply food to them so that they can pray uninterruptedly,” says Khandwani.

The Mohammed Ali Road-located iconic Minara Masjid, plans to feed sehri to over 100 every night. “People have had iftar at our mosque for years. But from this year we are introducing sehri too for those in this locality shopping past midnight and cannot reach home for the pre-dawn meal,” explains Minara Masjid’s trustee Abdul Wahab Latif Merchant.

In this holy month some have taken upon themselves the task to ameliorate the condition of many impoverished imams. NGO Social and Educational Welfare Association (SEWA) Chief Yusuf Abrahni has made a short film highlighting the plight of the preachers. “The mosques are increasingly becoming air-conditioned while the imams who lead prayers and deliver sermons remain impoverished. They are paid a pittance (Rs 3000-Rs 5000 per month). Responding to our appeals, many trustees of the mosques have increased salaries of the imams,” says Abrahni, jubilant that his “Care for Imam Film” has gone viral.

Some believe in going the “extra mile”. Bandra-based activist Shadaab Patel sends 70-80 ration packets every second day during Ramzan to the impoverished living in Muslim ghetto Mumbra. “Our people have the list of target beneficiaries and we reach out to as many as we can,” says Patel. At least in Ramzan many poor feel the pinch of poverty a little less.

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