Volunteers prepare to fill boxes with food Saturday at Sam's Club in Farmington Hills. The food will be distributed to more than 850 needy families across southeastern Michigan for Eid al-Fitr. (Steve Perez / The Detroit News)
Like other Muslims in Metro Detroit, Irfan Sheikh spent the holy month of Ramadan striving to reach spiritual heights.
The information technology worker from Fraser fasted between sunset and sunrise each day, prayed frequently and donated to Humanity First, a nonprofit that pursues global relief efforts.
This week, he’s ready to mark Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that ends Ramadan: preparing roast chicken and traditional dishes for a feast at his mosque, then congregating with friends and relatives for festive activities.
After a month devoted to contemplation and willpower, “it’s a time of celebration, a time of family, a time of gathering,” said Sheikh, 40. “This is what we enjoy. … It’s kind of a rejuvenation.”
That philosophy inspires thousands of other believers across the region as Eid gets underway.
Known as the “feast of fast-breaking,” the observance typically is three days and includes prayers, communal meals, gift exchanges and more.
Depending on the sighting of the moon and astronomical calculations, some Metro Detroiters begin celebrating Monday while others start Tuesday.
The period opens with prayers at the mosque, reflecting on blessings and spiritual goals.
“We need to continuously improve and remember the lessons learned and adapt those new ways … continue our quest of being a good person the rest of the year,” said Mansoor Qureshi, president of the Detroit chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA.
The holy month also emphasizes charitable efforts — which assume more importance as violent upheavals affect those in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Throughout Ramadan, members of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton contributed nearly $500,000 to support several causes aimed at helping others — including international humanitarian efforts through the Syrian American Medical Society and Islamic Relief USA, president Haaris Ahmad said.
They also bought more than 100 toys for children in Detroit, he said. “It’s amazing how continuously people keep giving and opening their hearts,” Ahmad said.
As part of the Ramadan Fight Against Hunger campaign headed by the Michigan Muslim Community Council, the Tawheed Center in Farmington Hills has led an annual food drive to benefit those in need across the region.
This year, partnering with more than a dozen area mosques, the center raised an estimated $80,000 to buy rice, sugar, flour and other items for some 850 families in about 30 communities, said Muqsid Syed, board treasurer. Volunteers loaded and distributed the goods on Saturday.
“Giving to the poor is one of the pillars of Islam,” he said. “In the month of Ramadan, we go through fasting to know what a hungry person goes through. … That makes you realize how blessed you are. It gives you extra pleasure to share some of the goodness with the poor.”
From remembering the less-fortunate locally and abroad to preparing for personal growth, the time is spiritually rewarding, said Kecia Escoe, a Muslim from Detroit.
“We’re happy we’ve been invited to Islam and can do what Allah commanded us to do. It’s instant gratification in the grand scheme of time.”