It is customary for millions of Muslims to welcome the fasting month of Ramadan with big gatherings to break their fast.
For the second year, this is quite difficult due to the coronavirus pandemic which has forced Muslims to cancel large celebratory meals and community iftars.
With a determination to serve others, London’s busiest mosque will provide thousands of iftar meals to those in need and NHS workers during Ramadan.
The free meals came as the mosque cancelled its big iftar events for the second year.
“One of the big things we do at the mosque every year is feed several hundred people who come and have iftar,” said Khizar Mohammad, media and communications manager at the East London Mosque & London Muslim Center, Arab News reported.
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“However, government guidelines currently permit religious institutions to open for prayer only and therefore we can’t host the iftar.”
The meals, each costing £3, will be distributed to frontline workers at the nearby Royal London Hospital and local people in need.
“We have an appeal every year and anyone who wants to feed the hungry will donate,” Mohammad said.
“Feeding people in Islam is a highly encouraged good deed whether it is your guest or the poor and needy. Many people donate to the iftar campaign and it is funded by them.”
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The mosque has been providing meals to frontline workers on a weekly basis during the pandemic.
“The Royal London Hospital is close by and we have been providing staff with meals throughout the lockdown as a gesture of thanks. During Ramadan, these meals will become daily rather than weekly,” Mohammad said.
“We usually load the meals up into our van, drive two minutes down the road, and give them to a member of staff at the hospital who will then take them to the right department.”
The mosque also provides about 200 people in the London borough of Tower Hamlets with groceries, cooked meals and hygiene packs when needed.
“As for providing meals to the vulnerable and those in need in the local area, they will usually phone in and request them. We have a list of around 200 people whom we provide with groceries, cooked meals or hygiene packs,” Mohammad said.
“People regardless of their faith can request to be added to the list or to have Ramadan iftars sent to them. Alternatively, they can collect the items themselves if that is more convenient.
“If we raise enough money, we will also fund iftar in other countries that are less fortunate such as Yemen,” he added.