8 tips on sharing Ramadan with your neighbors
Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-'As: Mujahid said that Abdullah ibn Amr slaughtered a sheep and said: Have you presented a gift from it to my neighbor, the Jew, for I heard the Apostle of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) say: Gabriel kept on commending the neighbor to me so that I thought he would make an heir? (Abu Dawud).
The Prophet Muhammad said: "He is not a believer who eats his fill while his neighbor remains hungry by his side" (Baihaqi).
"By Allah, he has no faith (the Prophet repeated it three times) whose neighbors are not safe from his wickedness" (Bukhari).
Ramadan is a great opportunity to share Islam and more specifically, its values of spirituality, generosity and kindness with others, especially your neighbors. It's a great time to do Dawa. And Dawa is very much needed in the current atmosphere of anger, tension and sadness in the wake of September 11, 2001.
Here are some ideas on how you can share the joy with your neighbors this Ramadan.
1. Begin with Dua
Make Dua that Allah give you and your family the sincerity, strength, motivation and wisdom to do this. Dawa is hard work, and it needs preparation, commitment and organization.
2. Put up a Ramadan banner on your door
This can be something handmade or something more formal.
But don't stop there. Print out a factsheet on Ramadan and stick that on the door to educate readers passing by about the blessed month and what it means to Muslims.
3. Send neighbors Iftar snacks
Include a note with the food that the month of Ramadan is here and you are sharing your joy with them.
You can offer snacks that are not just "American" but also "ethnic" (i.e. African, Middle Eastern, Indo-Pakistani, etc.). You can include index cards with the snacks listing all of the ingredients. This will help neighbors avoid food that causes allergies.
4. Give kids Ramadan Mubarak balloons and candy
Let your neighbors' kids also feel the happiness of Ramadan by including chocolate and candy among your snacks. Balloons also add a nice touch, and if you can get some printed which have "Ramadan Mubarak" written on them, they may remember the blessed month even after it has passed.
5. Publish Ramadan information in your neighborhood newsletter
If you are part of a tenants' association, a group within your housing complex or your neighborhood block parents' association and they publish a newsletter, inform them about Ramadan and prepare a short write-up about the month. This is a great way of informing many more neighbors about Ramadan.
6. Have a neighborhood Iftar gathering
You don't have to invite everyone. Perhaps just the closest neighbors can attend this event. Send handmade invitations for an "Iftar gathering" at most a week in advance (avoid the word "party" as it may be misunderstood to mean a gathering including alcohol, loud music, etc.).
Ask about allergies or other food issues before establishing the menu. Include American and "ethnic" food.
Be sure to invite Muslim family and friends who are comfortable interacting with non-Muslims to this event, and brief them about how they should properly share Ramadan with the neighbors.
Also, have some written material on Ramadan available for your guests. You can print out this factsheet and put it on some fancy paper to add to the festive air of the evening.
At the gathering:
Be cordial, generous and friendly, but maintain Islamic rules of behavior and modesty. This should not be a "party" in the common understanding, but more of a religious celebration that is spiritual and respectful to all.
Don't impose information. Just let non-Muslim guests ask questions, if they want to. As well, be ready for questions about Islam and violence/terrorism, the oppression of women, etc. Give neighbors the benefit of the doubt and clarify their misunderstanding in a calm, gentle manner.
7. Get your kids on it
Tell your kids to inform other neighbors' kids what Ramadan is all about and have the children invite their classmates to your Iftar gatherings.
8. Talk about what Ramadan means to you
Whats it like to fast? How do you work/go to school and still fast? These are some questions you may be asked. Dont just point your guests to the pamphlets. Tell them and use some personal examples they can relate to.
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