Australia – Muslims celebrate community ties, mark end of fast

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SHAFAQNA - The bags of rice and other grains have been stacked in the halls of the Islamic Society of Brevard mosque in Melbourne and are ready to be distributed.

It is one of a number of efforts that members at the longstanding mosque have done to share with those in need and to help others in the community they have called home for just over two decades in south Melbourne.

It is especially true as members mark the end of Ramadan – the holiest month on the Islamic calendar and a time of daytime fasting when charitable giving is not only the norm but a tenet Muslims are commanded to follow.

“We try to do things like this all year round, to give to charity, the needy and the poor,” said Dr. Muzaffar Shaikh, spokesman for the mosque.

“This is especially true during Ramadan. We do this also because there are a number of needy Muslims and because this is a part of our continuous work for the community at large,” Shaikh said.

Over the years, Muslims from the mosque, which began meeting in homes, have quietly provided good works in the community, including giving blood in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to time serving the homeless at area soup kitchens, Shaikh pointed out. The mosque doesn’t have a food bank but does gather funds – about $8 to $10 – to purchase large supplies of grains to distribute.

During the month of Ramadan – celebrated by the world’s 1.6 billion Islamic adherents – Muslims are commanded to do zakat, or charity, raising funds for the poor and refugees in places like Syria or Burma.

“The last ten days of Ramadan are the holiest of the month, they are the days we call ‘salvation from the fire,’ it is the best of the best,” he said, adding that members at the mosque have been meeting nightly to hear recitations of the Holy Quran, the scriptures of Islam.

And while Ramadan fell during one of the hottest months of the year, life and fellowship continued with nightly feasts drawing worshipers and even a table tennis contest.

This Friday morning, hundreds of Muslims from across the Space Coast will gather for Eid al-Fitr, the festival that commemorates the end of the month-long fast.

There, men and women hear the calls to pray, then hear a special Eid prayer and sermon from a speaker. Outside, tall trees surround the one-story mosque, with tents set up outside to allow fellow Muslims from far-flung counties like Pakistan and Libya mingle with believers from India and other parts of the world.

Following the service, worshipers feast on everything from fresh fruits, cake, baked goods and other dishes from around the world.

“It is a blessing,” said Shaikh, one of the elders of the mosque.

“It has been extremely hot but it’s been a good fast.”

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