LILONGWE - Despite their economic hardships, Malawi Muslims
are celebrating the holy fasting month of Ramadan with strenuous efforts to help those in need.
"Ramadan is one of the most important pillars of Islam. Therefore, by fasting, we are fulfilling an important religious obligation," Muhammad Idrissa, chairperson of Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM), the country's mother body for Muslims, told OnIslam.net.
"So with or without harsh economic conditions, which are hurting all citizens of this country, we are very determined and ready to embrace the month of Ramadan against all odds."
Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, starts Tuesday, July 9, in Malawi.
Idrissa said his group was soliciting food items from well-wishers to assist the needy during the month of fasting.
"Islam encourages charity all the time among its adherents," Idrissa said.
"But during the month of Ramadan, we have intensified our efforts to assist the needy and to this end, we would like to appeal to well-wishers out there to join hands with us as we extend our hands towards those in pain, because they either have very little or nothing at all.
"We will do everything possible to reach out to the needy who on their own will not be able to overcome the effects of the on-going economic reforms at this time, when we are about to enter the month of Ramadan."
As part of efforts to ease burdens on the poor during Ramadan, a halal meat company will distribute food items for iftar in mosques across Malawi during the holy month.
"We are very much aware that the current economic situation has been very devastating to the majority poor who include our Muslim brothers and sisters," Ezra Arab, Chief Executive Officer for Superior Group, told OnIslam.net.
"We therefore don't want the prevailing situation to discourage Muslims from observing the month of Ramadan. We have chosen to stand in solidarity with them throughout the month."
He said his company will be providing assistance to orphans in Malawi irrespective of their religious beliefs during the month.
"During the period of fasting, we are also opening doors to orphans in Malawi to benefit from our support in various forms. The number of orphans in the country keeps on rising. This has therefore compelled us to take care of them during this time.
"It is our passion to alleviate the suffering of those who have less or nothing during this period. This is what our religion dictates us to do, therefore, we have to oblige."
In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.
It is customary for Muslims to spend part of the days during Ramadan studying the Noble Qur'an.
Many men perform i`tikaf (spiritual retreat), spending the last 10 days of the month exclusively in the mosque.
The Ramadan fever has gripped Muslims of all status irrespective of their earning power or otherwise.
"For the past one year, my business has been affected greatly by the on-going economic reforms," Abdul Osman, a small scale businessman, told OnIslam.net.
"But I have enough for Iftar for my family to take us through the whole period of fasting, he told OnIslam.net.
Seizing on the holy month, a local Muslim organization providing relief to aged and sick Muslims in the lakeshore district of Mangochi, which has the highest Muslim population in Malawi, has appealed for donations.
"We are reaching out to as many Muslims as possible during the time of Ramadan," Makalani, the executive director for Afukhan Charity Trust, told OnIslam.net.
"The people we are serving in our communities are those in great need who struggle even to have three meals a day.
"We are fully prepared to cater for these people during this special month on our calendar," he said.
The Muslim charitable efforts during Ramadan have won won pundits from Malawians of other religious beliefs.
"The month of Ramadan is quite significant to the whole society in Malawi. This is what I have witnessed over the years," Bishop Joseph Chirwa, of the Reformed Episcopal Church of Malawi, told OnIslam.net.
"Muslims have been able to reach out to the needy irrespective of their beliefs.
"It is quite overwhelming to see how Muslims reach out to people without even any intention to convert them to Islam," he said.
"This is the side of Islam, which touches me. I join them in welcoming Ramadan
Islam is the second largest religion in Malawi after Christianity.Muslims account for 12 percent of the country's 14 million population. But MAM puts the number at 36 percent according to the census it conducted a few years ago.