This week marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, traditionally observed by Muslims around the world as the time during which Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) received the first revelation of the Holy Qur’an.
In Muslim tradition, Ramadan is a time of heightened commitment and observance to the tenets of Islam. Among others, these include special observances such as fasting, the performance of good deeds — including charitable giving and voluntary service — and through personal sacrifices of material comforts. Through these acts of piety, Muslims strive to cultivate mindfulness, and a closer connection to their faith. Service to others is an integral part of the Muslim faith, enabling individuals to give of their time, resources and knowledge for the betterment of the community and stewardship of the environment.
For the Ismaili Muslim Community, voluntary service to the broader community through civic engagement has been formalized through Ismaili CIVIC, an initiative that began in 2017. To commemorate His Highness the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee and Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, the Ismaili community pledged one million hours of voluntary service to improve th e quality of life of all Canadians. Ismaili CIVIC volunteer activities have involved over 70 civil society partners including United Way, Habitat for Humanity, and the Terry Fox Foundation. Previous Ismaili CIVIC activities in Victoria have included Shoreline Clean-up at Saxe Point Park and Gorge Waterway, block clean-up at Memorial Park and Esquimalt Road and Blood Drive at Canadian Blood Services Victoria. This year, the Victoria Ismaili Community is part of a week-long Ramadan Food Drive being held in larger cities across Canada. Across the country last year. the food drive resulted in donations of 22,000 lbs of non-perishable food supporting 18 food banks; BC contributed 3,000lbs and gave to 6 foodbanks. For this year, in Victoria, volunteers collected 800 lbs of non-perishable food to benefit the Rainbow Kitchen, a long-standing community partner. The flourishing partnership with Rainbow Kitchen has seen Ismaili CIVIC volunteers cooking regularly, contributing to donation drives, and involving youth in the Rainbow Kitchen’s activities, which includes making cookies and organizing clothing drives. During the pandemic, these efforts have expanded to supporting the Senior Meal Delivery Program, assisting in supporting isolated seniors.
The Ismaili CIVIC program, now a global initiative active in 17 countries, has mobilized Ismailis around the common “centuries old tradition of serving humanity by rendering voluntary service to improve the quality of life of the communities in which they live, regardless of faith, gender and background”. https://the.ismaili/civic. Ismailis in Victoria are revitalizing their efforts to make a difference to the city they call home through the Ramadan Food Drive, continuing to build on a legacy of service.
As we end this holy month and celebrate Eid al-Fitr, we marvel at the blessings and opportunity to serve that the month has given us. Rumi’s words, “Let the beauty we love become the good we do” remind us that giving of one’s time, effort, knowledge and resources to help others is an ongoing endeavour – with the blessings of Ramadan renewing themselves as spring does each year.
* The Ismaili CIVIC logo depicted here represents the community’s external volunteer service across the globe in every way, through the words Khidmat, meaning service. The logo contains the Roman letters “I” and “C” as well as the word “Khidmat” in Arabic, rendered in Kufic calligraphy within a sphere, embracing the East and the West, serving humanity around the world, reflecting the values of care and compassion for others.
Karima Ramji is an active community volunteer. Certified as an Advanced Cultural Intelligence Facilitator, Karima tries to practice inclusion and pluralism in all she does. She also serves as Associate Director, International, Indigenous and Strategic Initiatives at University of Victoria’s Co-operative Education Program and Career Services.
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* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, May 15th 2021