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Fostering Brotherhood Through Zakat ul Fitr: A Unique Approach at Dar-us-Salaam

Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection and acts of generosity. As the crescent moon is sighted and the call to Maghrib rings out, Muslims around the world embark on a transformative journey. This holy month fosters a spirit of compassion and giving within our communities.

One such act of charity is Zakat ul Fitr, a mandatory donation of staple food items given to the underprivileged before the end of Ramadan. In the United States, most of the masaajid collect Zakat ul Fitr as a monetary contribution. However, Dar-us-Salaam takes an approach that is closer to the sunnah as agreed upon by the majority of Islamic scholars. Here, we follow the opinion of giving zakat ul fitr in the form of food items instead of a particular amount of money. This approach also aims to strengthen the ukhuwah (bonds of brotherhood) within the community, and preserve the izzah (dignity) of the needy.

Purchasing Food for the Needy

At Dar-us-Salaam, we begin preparing well before Ramadan. We identify families in need through our Zakat foundation and encourage community members to share their knowledge of those who require assistance. Once a list is compiled, we calculate the food needed per household.

During Ramadan, the community members purchase the required food items – rice, flour, pasta, and canned goods – ensuring the food caters to diverse dietary needs. Those who are donating are asked to drop the food essentials in the boxes placed by the entrance of Al-Huda School. These are sorted and stored in the Al Huda School building till the last few days of Ramadan.

Some of the community members insist on giving money. In that case, we use the zakat ul fitr money given to purchase the food items from Sooq Al Huda —- a shop in the Dar-us-Salaam facility that sells new and old textbooks to Al Huda school students, modest clothing, halal snacks, herbal products, and amazing Islamic gifts during Ramadan and the two Eid holidays. The money generated from the sooq is used to support Al Huda school. Once the zakatul fitr is collected, it is time to pack them up! We make sure that we honor the needy families by packing the food items in beautifully designed cloth bags.

Preserving Dignity: A Discreet Delivery System

Respecting the dignity of those receiving aid is paramount. We maintain a system where volunteer drivers delivering the food packages don’t know the families personally. Drivers receive a list of zip codes and addresses, but are instructed to leave the food bags discreetly at the doorstep, notifying the Zakat foundation staff upon completing the task. The foundation then contacts the families to inform them about the delivered food package. This meticulous process ensures anonymity and preserves the izzah of those receiving aid.

A Model for Others: Building Empathy and Community

This approach to Zakat ul Fitr distribution has been successfully implemented for years at Dar-us-Salaam, inspiring other mosques to adopt similar practices. We even encourage volunteer drivers to bring their children along, fostering a sense of empathy and social responsibility within the younger generation.

Witnessing firsthand the needs of others helps bridge the gap between the privileged and underprivileged, strengthening the spirit of brotherhood within our Muslim community.
Ramadan’s spirit lies in compassion and service to others. By facilitating Zakat ul Fitr in this way, Dar-us-Salaam promotes not just charity, but also a deeper sense of connection and empathy. We are all ultimately stewards of Allah’s provisions (rizq), entrusted to help those in need with humility and respect.

Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “Charity does not in any way decrease the wealth and the servant who forgives, Allah adds to his respect; and the one who shows humility, Allah elevates him in the estimation (of the people).” (Muslim)