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Youth Deliver On the Blessings PDF Print E-mail
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Community News - Community News
Written by Hena Zuberi, Muslim Link Staff Reporter   
Tuesday, 13 August 2013 14:35

 

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Maryland Youth Bring Meals to the Needy Everyday in Ramadan


The newly formed Muslim Youth of Maryland got together earlier this year and decided they wanted their first service project to be big.

They decided to spend an already packed Ramadan sharing iftar with underprivileged Muslims in and around Baltimore City. But this wouldn't be a one time service – it would last the entire month, every iftar.

With three Muslim women shelters in Baltimore City and four masajid including Masjid Saffat, Haqq, Tauhid as well as the North Charles Street musalla all received hot iftar dinners from the college-age activists from MYMD.

A reporter from the Muslim Link accompanied them on one of their delivery runs and documented the experience for our readers.


 

 

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Down the street from the convention center, Orioles Park,  past Jimmy Johns Gourmet Sandwiches and the Hilton Hotel, the streets full of cheering Ravens fans and tourists change flavors at every block. El Salvadorian soccer fans color the street with festive slogans, and then proud Black-owned business signs hang on many stores as young men sell stuff on the sidewalks.  Driving down the not so charming parts of Charm City Baltimore, there is an eerie silence, then sounds of gunfire, screaming, scuffles. We are in the heart of Baltimore. Someone knocks on my window and says 'Assalam alaykum'. I circle around the block of Saratoga Street looking for Masjid Us Salam. A magnificent exterior of brass of the stately former Provident Savings Bank, built circa 1906, is the house of Allah, close to the Lexington Market. It has served as a commuter station in the 40’s. The landmark building was designed by Joseph Evans Sperry to suggest an old treasure chest.


 

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The Muslim Youth of Maryland drive in behind me with hot trays of iftar dinner, dates, fresh fruit, bought at cost from local Muslim business. They have been delivering iftar everyday to shelters and inner city masajid for their Ramadan campaign.


 

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MYMD had hosted fundraiser a few weeks earlier and raised $30,000 to deliver iftar to shelters and masajid in Baltimore and Baltimore City. Shaykh Yaseen of Islamic Society of Baltimore was the keynote speaker. MYMD members Muhammad Shiraz and Ahmed Javaid unload the car.


 

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As we entered through the heavy wooden doors, the smell hit us. Three bins gathered the dripping water as the musallis prayed on the wet carpet, worried about the state of the roof. “Islam is spreading so fast,” says Mufti Hamid of Masjid Fatima. In 2008 this masjid had many great plans but lack of funding and steady leadership has resulted in the reigns of Masjid us Salam to be handed over to Masjid Fatima. “They need help running and building out this place. We want to make this into a hostel for new Muslims, where they can have a place to eat, sleep and learn,” said Hamid.  They plan to make a center where we can train imams so they can lead their own communities. A soup kitchen is in the works as is a reentry program for ex-prisoners in this kitchen. A library and Islamic Museum is also planned for this huge, historic building.



 

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A small store on the left side run by Br. Rasheed, who also acts as security for the masjid. is the only financial support that this masjid has right now. The building is lease to own and has been declared a preserved building by the city. Abdul Aliyy has been attending the masjid for the past 10 years, he says that one of the main problems they face is people who claim to be Muslim doing criminal acts on the corner behind the masjid. “We take a walk up here, when they come down,” says Abdul-Aliyy.



 

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Naseema* needs a Sunday school teacher, she and her friends and their moms want to learn about Islam but some of them cannot afford Sunday school class. Her sisters run around the musallah with the young part-time imam’s kids, who takes the extra food and stores it. “For four years we have not had any women come to teach us Islam, sometimes we cannot open the door and we can’t hear the imam” says a sister who is an integral part of the community.



 

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Next stop was the Bait Allah Masjid of Baltimore. A this multi-ethnic masjid, I met *Amina, a great grandmother who is taking care of her great grandchild, she doesn't know where her granddaughter is. We spoke about her pending divorce from a Muslim husband who has a sexual addiction and has not found the help he needs, as the masjid can barely afford to keep the lights on let alone hire a social worker or counselor. “It would be a great benefit if a counselor could come and volunteer some time; we really need it,” says Amina. She is on the road to become a licensed social worker because it is badly needed. “When people see us Muslims and they think we are perfect but we are human.”

She is been a part of the neighborhood for the past 26 years. She is out of work because of an injury, a Muslim since 1995. “I knew I was going to be a Muslim since I was a little girl. I like to advocate for the women because we carry and do so much, we run single parent homes,” says Amina.


 

 

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The final stop was a tiny gem of a masjid located in a section of Baltimore City that looked like a war-torn section from an underdeveloped country. Exquisitely clean and decorated with love worthy of a House of Allah. An entryway, a small prayer and immaculately kept bathrooms. It is full of history, the womb of the many masajid that sprung up around Baltimore, and runs the Islamic Community School, the longest continuous running Islamic school in the country founded in 1977.

Comments (3)
  • Rubina Ahmed  - Very impressive may ALLAH accept youth effort Amee
    I am very impressed after reading the entire article, I congratulate the entire team of MYMD muslim youth of maryland, speacially the president who came up with this brilliant idea,I was at fund raiser of MYMD ramadan project and sitting over there wondering if this youth will be able to do this for entire ramadan,but my hats off to the team and best wishes for the upcoming years to do the same,may Allah choose them again for this work Aameen.
  • Sakina Carter  - Wow!
    Asalaamu alaikum, that was a nice thing for the MYMD to do. May Allah reward them. Reading this Article has made me a little sad. When is it okay,to take pictures, of people and with out their consent? Especially in the masjid? We aren't suppose to be exposing each others faults, for the sake of a good story. Where does the remembrance of Allah come in? I have been to every Masjid on this list, and yes they all need some work done. Instead of bad mouthing them,I do my part to help(dua's, Sadaqah,cleaning).
  • Islaah Abd'al-Rahim and Maalik  - Another Perspective
    Bismaillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem Masha'allaah. My husband and I read the article twice after receiving numerous calls from concerned Muslims who live in the Baltimore area. I can honestly say that two phrases come to mind as a result of the article--contextual inaccuracy and cultural insensitivity. This letter represents our joint response: Alhamdullillaah, Our Lord judges us by our intentions, but humans can only evaluate one another’s apparent actions. We assume that the intentions of the Muslim Youth organization are pure. We assume that they meant to do ebaadah and that they wanted to help, but as long time Muslim residents of Baltimore, we were not happy with the article. The group set out to help the "underprivileged" and the "needy," but who defined these powerfully loaded words? Were the masaajid selected based upon the aggregate socioeconomic levels of the communities, or were assumptions made based upon the location of a masjid? The picture painted was that the recipients of the iftaar food were downtrodden and the community around at least one masjid was characterized as looking like a "war-torn section from an underdeveloped country"—a community where buildings have recently been leveled to make way for new construction. I believe that such characterizations are contextually inaccurate. Hard-working Muslims of all income strata attend these masaajid and try to maintain and preserve an Islamic presence in the Baltimore inner cities (a dawah that others neglect or from which they shy away). The problems that plague our inner cities often affect the masaajid located in them. Yes, indeed, they do need help. However, many of them provide services to more than their Muslim congregants; they provide help to the surrounding neighborhood residents. It is not unheard of for non-Muslim families to don scarves or kufees and come to iftaars or to Jumu’ah to ask for assistance. It is not unheard of for people to come seeking help with a turn-off notice or such. On any given Ramadhaan night in well-known inner city masaajid, you can probably find someone who is just there because he or she is hungry. The Muslims of Baltimore have been striving to help themselves and others since the 1970s, alhamdullillaah. Madrasahs, masaajid, and businesses have been developed. Neighborhoods have been established. Muslim youth have gone on to universities. This is the accurate picture, but this was not mentioned. For decades, we have seen masaajid and madrasahs remain ethnically segregated due in part to misconceptions about inner city Muslim life. As people who are constantly working to bridge gaps between Muslims, we were saddened by the article depictions: a sister alleging misbehavior by her current husband (her divorce is still pending according to the article); the “smell” being the first thing that the MY noticed upon entering another masjid; war-torn neighborhoods; sisters not having classes, etc. And while these vignettes are separately true, they do not add up to the total, moving, 3-D picture. We believe that the article was culturally insensitive. Did anyone on the editorial staff try to read it from the perspective of a Baltimore area Muslim? For decades, any Muslim community inside the Beltway was termed “downtown” and quietly thought of as unsafe, so we applaud the efforts of the MY, but we think this should have been a self-reflective exercise, not one in which they mainly highlighted the ills they encountered. One or two iftaars during Ramadhaan will not give you an accurate impression of a community. Instead, I can appreciate the approach that has been taken by the Johns Hopkins Muslim Students Association. Many of their students have been visiting Baltimore area masaajid and becoming familiar with the people and their needs over time. Many have become fixtures in the masaajid, offering support and becoming brothers and sisters to the Muslims they meet. It would have been more appropriate, in our opinion, to focus on what the MY learned about themselves through the experience. We would like to have read more about what motivated them. It seemed a tad missionary-like to follow up their good deed with what appeared to some of the Baltimore Muslim elders as an exploitation—we have come here to help you (for a month); look at how bad off these people are. Perhaps we are being over-sensitive, but little attention is paid to the many wonderful things that occur each and every day at those same masaajid. Where was the balance? There was no mention of the Muslim Social Services Agency that has been working for years to provide services to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. There was no contrast of the buildings that are need of repair with the ongoing, grassroots effort to fundraise for them, or the efforts being made to build the Gwynn Oak Masjid from the ground up (which is almost complete). There was no juxtaposition of the lack of women’s classes at one masjid with the fact that the largest and oldest Muslim women’s conference is organized by inner city Muslimaat. There was little explanation of why Masjid as Saffat is such a gem besides longevity and cleanliness. From that little masjid, many others have developed. Regular classes are held there, a school thrives there (that was mentioned) and the imam has extremely sound credentials and decades of experience. But in truth, many of the congregants at Masjid as Saffat are neither underprivileged nor needy; they are there, returning to the neighborhood of their roots to propagate Islam. No mention was made of the largest, inner city masjid, Masjid Ul Haqq, or the hundreds of people who are fed there regularly. Our point is that when depicting need, we believe that it is also responsible journalism to depict, in some way, the people’s efforts to help themselves and others. This is both sensitive and accurate. Please know that we are not faulting the MY, but are instead offering a different perspective on how their efforts, based upon the article, were received. We do realize that the intent of the article was not to showcase all of the Islamic communities of Baltimore City. We also know that the scope of the article was limited. So, perhaps the answer is more activities that bring groups of Muslims together so that they can truly learn from one another. Perhaps the answer is more coverage of what goes on “inside the Beltway.” Masha’allaah, we ask Allaah to forgive all of us for our shortcomings and to elevate all of our conditions. C. Islaah Abd’al-Rahim Maalik Abdus Samad Jones
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