Sunday, September 14, 2008

BY CHRISTOPHER DELA CRUZ
http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-11/1221366911272240.xml&coll=1

The Star-Ledger

Vickie Clower felt her burdens ease, if only for a little while, yesterday.

Clower, a Newark mother of three elementary schoolchildren, works full time, but said keeping a roof over her family s head and food on the table is still a struggle.

So when she learned that a local Muslim organization was giving away food and clothing yesterday she was thankful.

“In Newark, it s very hard raising children these days,” said Clower. “I m trying to get back on my feet. Knowing that people care, it feels nice. It s a blessing.”

Clower wasn t alone. Hundreds turned up yesterday at the John F. Kennedy Recreation Center for hot meals, clothing, shoes and health screenings provided during Islamic Relief s second annual “Day of Dignity” in Newark.

Led locally by the Services for Human Advancement and Resource Enhancement Center of Essex County, this year s event to provide services to the needy occurred during Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. Holding the event during the holy month makes volunteers more empathic, organizers said.

Fasting for Ramadan is meant as a method of self-purification, replacing bodily desires with intensive worship. But, said Abdulaleem Razzaqq, imam at the Masjid Ismail mosque in Roselle, fasting is also a way to feel true empathy with the hungry.

“You get a greater awareness that there are people less fortunate than you are,” said Razzaqq. “A lot of people are forced to fast because they don t have anything. The fasting period opens you up to be receptive of that.”

“It s a blessing to serve others while fasting myself,” volunteer Khalilah Abdul-ghani said as the aroma of chicken and other dishes wafted by. “The reward for feeding people is greater than food or drink. I feel fulfilled.”

Fatimah Abdul-Hakim, assistant coordinator of the event, agreed. “Part of the whole idea of our fasting is to remember our Creator and appreciate all the blessings we have here and take for granted,” she said. “We as Muslims live to be dignified people. And we want to restore the dignity of all people.”

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