Muslim soldiers will typically fall into three categories: They are children of Muslims living in America who have joined the military; they are people in the military who have converted to Islam; they are Muslims from other countries who are currently training or temporarily assigned in America or in the U.S. military. Their work stations them around the country and the world, but they are often away from their home during Muslim celebrations like Eid..
This year, due to Covid-19 restrictions, Muslims in the military are confined to the military installation they are training at or temporarily assigned. In addition, the military protocol for 2021 demands the soldier to quarantine for 14 days if they leave the base. This is without exception. Therefore, many of the soldiers feel less inclined this year, more than ever, to leave the military installation even if just for a few hours, or to attend Eid activities off the installation.
Beyond that, the reality is that soldiers who are training on a military installation typically do not have transportation to leave the base anyway. When they do find the means to do so, they may have travel passes that only allocate short periods of time for them to come and go.
Trainees are routinely accompanied by a “battle buddy” who may or may not be Muslim. A soldier who is permanent party – meaning he or she is assigned to that particular military installation - may have transportation of their own, but if they live on the base in the barracks or military housing, they may still feel that they don’t want to go through the inconvenience of leaving the installation due to the current Covid-19-mandated 14-day quarantine regulation.
So as Eid-ul-Fitr approaches and we all work collectively to maintain a semblance of community life during COVID, what can you as a citizen living near a military installation do to enhance Eid for soldiers? A lot! Here are some ideas.
- Google the military installation in your town or near you. In the directory look up the phone number for the chaplain’s office.
- Call the base’s chaplain office and find out if it has an Islamic chaplain or lay leader. Ask how you can contact them. After obtaining the phone number of the Imam (Islamic chaplain) ask him about any specific needs that the soldiers may have.
- If you have access to the base, you can certainly join the soldiers on Eid day. Even with social distancing, having a few extra people helps make the day festive.
- Military regulations prevent an Imam from taking money from the soldiers, but you as a citizen can make donations of money to buy water and iftar supplies for the soldiers.
- Military regulations due to COVID-19 restrictions forbid potluck dinners on the base. However, individual dinners in separate take-home containers are allowed on many installations. You can confirm the regulations for the particular base near you with the Imam/chaplain. If take-home food containers are allowed, you may be able to make a donation to an area Halal restaurant to prepare meals for the soldiers. Other recommendations on food:
- In order to make sure the soldiers receive these meals, you can ask the Imam how to deliver, since you personally may not be able to enter the military installation, or the restaurant itself may not have the authority.
- Do not attempt to buy meals and leave them at the base gate since this will likely not get to the intended recipients.
- You can take the time to call the Imam/ military chaplain and ask for clarification of the regulations for bringing or having meals delivered to the installation.
- If you are able to work with the Imam/chaplain, you are likely to find a way to get meals to some of the soldiers. Note that each unit has a different commander and there are general orders and commander orders that may differ. As a donor, just stay flexible and ready to work with the particular regulations.
- Donate small Eid gifts. However, realize that soldiers by the very nature of their work, must travel light. It is essential that everything they own fits in that travel pack they wear on their back when they are in the field. So if you want to donate an Eid gift, think pocket or hand size. Look for items such as:
- a pocket size Quran in Arabic only or a translated copy (Arabic-English/Arabic-Urdu/Arabic-Hausa)
- pocket-sized Islamic books like “Fortification for the Muslim” or those that feature one part or section of the Quran, like Surah Yaseen
- a knit kufi cap for the men
- for the women in the military, an olive green cotton scarf
- a palm-sized compass.
- travel-sized prayer rug.
- small vials of scented oil
Remember to keep these brothers and sisters in your Dua. The nature of their jobs as soldiers or as civilians who work for the Department of Defense often puts them in harm’s way.
In practically every instance, while they are serving in the military, they are not in their hometown. This makes the soldiers in our community our guests. In Islam, the Muslim is always respectful and welcoming to the our guests. We seek to provide comfort and compassion to them, especially if they are from far away.
Our dear beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, instructs the believer that “The one who believes in Allah Almighty and the Judgement Day should respect guests” (Bukhari).