We asked Muslims how they’re giving back during Ramadan. Here’s what you said

A hijab-wearing mother and 3-year-old daughter smiling.
Sofia Reda, 3, and her mother, Makena Reda, pick up an order at a restaurant in Bell to take home to family members breaking their Ramadan fasts.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

LaunchGood, a fundraising platform for Muslims that has raised more than $318 million since it launched in 2013, didn’t start out as a philanthropic platform. Chris Blauvelt, its co-founder and chief executive, initially wanted to create a platform to help Muslim artists, musicians and filmmakers raise money for their creative projects.

But he said that as soon as it launched, people were much more interested in raising money for charity. “That’s where Muslims’ hearts really are,” he said.

Zakat, the practice of Muslims contributing a portion of their wealth to those in need, is one of the five pillars of Islam — and an integral part of Ramadan. Since 2015, LaunchGood has hosted a Ramadan Challenge, which allows users to search through vetted charitable campaigns. They can also automate their giving for all 30 days of Ramadan or the last 10 nights.


Blauvelt, who was previously a film producer, said his new passion is the “storytelling that comes with fundraising” and which inspires people to give.

Earlier this month, The Times asked readers to share how they were giving back for Ramadan. As the holy month draws toward its end with Eid al-Fitr, tell us more of your stories by filling out our form.

Faith, fasting, food, entertainment and more. Here’s The Times’ full coverage of Ramadan this year.


Supporting Muslims in South L.A.

Zayn Razi of South L.A. works with the nonprofit Islah L.A., which provides a food pantry, supportive housing and counseling for the community. LaunchGood is hosting a fundraising campaign for Islah Academy, a school “run by local community leaders to give children a safe learning environment in an area where the public school system has funneled many of our children into prisons.”

Razi wrote that he “chose to work with this community because it is filled with brilliant people with beautiful hearts, but they are limited by the lack of resources of the inner city. They have a long history of being a force for good in the community, and the potential of what they can do if they get more resources is limitless.”

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Hosting a multispiritual iftar

Mehak Anwar of Pasadena is the co-director of Vigilant Love, a grassroots movement to protect communities subjected to Islamophobia in the greater Los Angeles area. The team hosted its seventh Bridging Communities iftar on April 14.

“It was beautiful to virtually gather our multispiritual community and hold space during Ramadan to uplift the arts, activism and continued community building amidst an ongoing pandemic,” she said.

She was also finding ways to support Believers Bail Out, a Muslim-led grassroots organization that works to bail out Muslims in pre-trial detention or in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “My faith guides me towards many of the same values Believers Bail Out centers in their work — like resisting and abolishing the prison industrial complex and building a world rooted in transformation, community safety and healing,” she said.

“Growing up, giving back during Ramadan was the most important part of this Islamic month for my family. There was more of an emphasis on giving back than there was on fasting!”

— Mehak Anwar, Pasadena


Volunteering to address homelessness

Margari Hill of Chino Hills wrote that this Ramadan, she’s giving back by volunteering her time to address hunger and homelessness in Southern California. Hill, the executive director at Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, participated in the Intellect-Love-Mercy Foundation’s Humanitarian Day at the Islamic Center of Santa Ana on April 23.

“I want to move beyond raising awareness and get out there, support direct aid and continue to organize for solutions for a more just society where everyone has a home,” she said.


She chose to work with the foundation “because they have been at ground zero of the humanitarian crises of homelessness in California for decades. I was appalled reading the numbers of unsheltered folks right here in Southern California. I come to this event with an open heart, ready to learn and work.”

Last year, Maqsood Rahimi celebrated Ramadan, a time of reflection, piety and charity, in the city of Kabul, where he grew up.


Holding a donation drive for Afghan refugees in Sacramento

Roohina Diwan of San Jose started working with Al-Misbaah — a Northern California nonprofit supporting refugees with food assistance, community education and youth activities — after being moved by a presentation from one of its directors, who shared her story of needing food assistance as a child.

This Ramadan, Diwan has raised money for more than 200 hygiene kits for Afghan refugees in Sacramento, and she planned to host four large iftars in her home for her family and friends to assemble them.

“This is a great way for us to spend our time gathering but also doing a good deed and keeping the gatherings we are attending at this blessed time purposeful,” Diwan said.

You can help Afghan refugees by donating money to or volunteering with organizations in California.


Working with seniors

Zainab Hussaini of Placentia oversees programs for seniors at Olive Community Services. Activities include story time with youth, health education and nature walks led by students of the Art and Wilderness Institute.


“Our seniors are engaging in physical, mental and social activities in this month, which is important as some have been isolated as they are cautious of larger gatherings at mosques,” she wrote.

Hussaini was “raised by two resilient grandmothers who taught me life lessons no school could teach. I am also distanced from my parents who live back home in India. I see my grandmothers and my parents in my Olivers. Their love, concern and smiles make it all worth it in the end.”

One new activity this year is a “10-day going green challenge ... to promote sustainable practices in this holy month by refraining from use of plastic and Styrofoam,” Hussaini shared.

“Don’t get overwhelmed by trying to change the world. Start in your local community. Whether it’s buying someone a meal or just giving them a kind word, you don’t know how a small thing might change someone’s life for the better.”

— Zayn Razi, South L.A.


Volunteering for a Muslim women’s support group

A.J. Jamison, who was raised Muslim, volunteers with the West Coast Islamic Society’s support group for women who’ve converted to Islam. She does this, she said, as a tribute to her grandmother, who died of COVID-19 last year.


Jamison’s great-uncle, who joined Islam during the civil rights movement, was the first out of six converts in their family.

“I love the idea of women supporting women,” Jamison said. “Some feel hurt by society because once they become Muslim, they get many rude stares and bigoted remarks. They need sisterhood to build their confidence.”

Karter and Doaa Zaher’s stereotype-busting “Hijabi Queens” project comes to life as a trio of murals on the walls of the ethnic enclave.


Volunteering to support incarcerated Muslims

“We are providing incarcerated Muslims with in-person visits from volunteers, Ramadan greeting cards drawn by local youth to be sent to incarcerated Muslims and free iftar meals for formerly incarcerated Muslims,” said Amin Eshaiker of Anaheim, program manager of the nonprofit Link Outside.

“I was inspired by the transformation of Malcolm X, whose incarceration was the [precursor] to his transformation into an internationally renowned civil rights leader, and by the fact that incarcerated Muslims have historically been neglected when it comes to outside support, despite being one of the fastest growing religions in prison.”


When Tobias Tubbs was incarcerated in a state prison in Lancaster, he immersed himself in books to learn more about his religion, Islam.


Supporting refugee families

Miry Whitehill of Eagle Rock runs Miry’s List, a nonprofit that uses crowdsourcing and social media to connect people who want to help refugee families. It has supported more than 850 families since it was founded in 2016.

“This year for Ramadan we are uplifting the voice of 10-year old Rahaf Abedy, a new Californian from Iraq who has joined forces with Miry’s List in support of families resettling in the U.S. as refugees,” Whitehill shared. “Rahaf created this campaign video and our goal is to raise $150,000 to purchase the most essential items to make a new arrival family’s home comfortable, safe and functional.”

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Celebrating Muslim organizers

“I’m organizing an iftar on April 29 that will bring together labor and anti-racism organizers, community leaders, and policy advocates of different faith traditions, as well as representatives of local elected officials,” wrote Anika Akhter of Los Angeles County.


She’s working with Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice and the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative to highlight organizerswho don’t always receive recognition for the important work they do.”

“Nowadays we are blessed to have many advocacy organizations that do the leg work for us and compile lists of actions that are important for us to take,” Akhter wrote. “I believe that if everyone adopted this mindset and committed to giving back as much as possible in their daily lives through these relatively simple actions, we would positively transform society.”

Ramadan is a time for gratitude and charitable giving. We want to hear how you give back to the community.

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