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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.