Muslims mark Ramadan with prayers, charity in Kenya

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SHAFAQNA - For the past two Fridays, since the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan began some 12 days ago, thousands of Muslims have filled Jamia Masjid, Kenya’s largest mosque, located in Nairobi’s central business district.

All major roads leading to the mosque have been closed in an effort to accommodate the swelling number of worshipers.

Jamia Mosque is an important center for Muslims in Nairobi, providing them with a place where they can carry out their five daily prayers. It is also a vital location for Muslims from all over East Africa, as it frequently hosts major Islamic events.

In one section of the mosque, a handful of Muslim businessmen can be seen unloading food and clothing, which they hope to distribute to their less fortunate counterparts during the holy month.

“I must help my Muslim brothers and sisters, or that child who doesn’t have any means of getting food during Ramadan,” Swaleh Mwangeka told Anadolu Agency, throwing a bundle of grain over his shoulder.

Mwangeka was unloading his pick-up truck, which was loaded with cooking oil, flour and other foodstuffs intended for distribution to the poor.

“I must show generosity as Allah has shown to me. This is how I show gratitude for the blessings I have received,” the 41-year-old entrepreneur told Anadolu Agency.

“I don’t want to imagine less fortunate Muslims going without Iftar or Suhoor [Ramadan breakfast and dawn meals] this month, when Muslims abstain from food and drink during daylight hours,” Mwangeka said.

“I save up every year just for this,” he added. “We’re welcoming the holy month by feeding and clothing the less fortunate during this time of intense prayer and fasting.”

While thousands of Kenyan Muslims are fasting from dawn until dusk, this hasn’t stopped food prices from skyrocketing due to the country’s poor economy.

Sheikh Hamisi Mungai, chairman of Kenya’s Council of Imams and Muslim Preachers, lauded the government for lifting curfews in predominantly-Muslim areas.

“The Muslim community is grateful that the government has decided to remove the curfews, as they would have disrupted our Ramadan schedule,” Mungai, speaking at the Jamia Mosque, said.

Sheikh Mohdar Khitamy, chairman of Kenya’s Supreme Council of Muslims in Mombasa, for his part, told Anadolu Agency that he had come all the way from the Kenyan coast to preach at Nairobi’s largest mosque.

“We will pray, fast and recite the Holy Quran throughout the month, as we seek forgiveness and guidance from Allah,” Khitamy said.

He, too, expressed thanks to the government for lifting curfews in Muslim areas “to allow us to conduct our religious activities.”

He went on to urge police to provide security for Muslims during Ramadan, asking them “not to arrest those participating in nighttime prayers.”

Halima Mohamed, a mother of two, told Anadolu Agency that she could now focus on her prayers without having to worry about finding food and shelter.

“I have no job or means of getting food,” she said. “It took me two hours to walk from the Kibera slums to the mosque today, but – thanks to my Muslim brothers and sisters – I now have something to eat.”

Muslims account for roughly 11 percent of Kenya’s total population of 4.3 million. Most of them live along the Kenyan coast and in the country’s northeastern region.

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