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Going VIRTUAL for SEQMC's 5th Annual Ramadan Community Iftar 2020

As-Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu

May the Peace, Mercy and Blessings of Allah (God) Be Upon You

We greet you during the Holy Month of Ramadan with a heartfelt Ramadan Mubarak (Blessings of Ramadan)

"The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey - then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful." -- Surat Al-Baqarah 2:185

After month's of planning and excitement about this year's community Iftar that has been hosted annually in Rufus King Park in downtown Jamaica, NY with the support of the Office of I. Daneek Miller, Councilman of District 27, Queens in collaboration with numerous Islamic organizations-- the reality of the impact and threat of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19 interrupted our expectations for such during the month of February. In that month, it became clear to many who were paying attention that an epidemic in China would make its way to America and other countries resulting in a pandemic of unknown proportions. As the one county in all of the US with two major airports, JFK International Airport being located right in Southeast Queens, some of us knew that it was here before the media and weeks before a White House in denial understood the depth of the death and devastation it would bring. Admittedly, we did not know the extent to which the contagion would predominantly impact the African American and Latino i.e., communities of color. We continue to pray for the well-being of all people as we learn to live with our new reality of maintaining distance between us to protect our health and to prevent spread of the virus; missing access to the masajid (Houses of Worship) schooling our children at home via the availability of technology-- that all do not have access to and for many a sense of isolation as we lose loved ones to unexpected abrupt death where we cannot be by their side. We ask Allah (swt) for His continued Mercy, Protection and for Him to remove this virus that we understand is here with His permission. It is a test from Our Lord that we must confront with patience so that we can persevere through it. We believe in His (swt) guidance found in the Holy Qur'an, Surah Al-Inshirah (The Expansion) or Ash-Sharh (The Opening Up) in which it is conveyed in Ayat 6 that "Verily with the hardship, there is relief."

Praying in isolation during the month of Ramadan during the Coronavirus pandemic

Shifting gears hurriedly, SEQMC determined that COVID-19 would not defeat our intent and purpose to still invite the community and host the 5th Annual Ramadan Community Iftar that became at the same time our 1st Virtual Ramadan Iftar, held on Saturday, May 16th, 2020 at 6:30 PM, al-hamdulillah (All Praise Be to God).

We welcomed the contributions of all of our guests including elected Queens representatives State Senator Leroy Comrie, 14th SD; State Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman, 29th AD and Councilman and current Queens Borough President candidate Donovan Richards, 31st CD. Co-Moderators Musaalih Bey, SEQMC Board Member and Al-Hassan Kanu, Queens Liaison - Office of NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, introduced Imam Hafiz Zaheer Ali of the Al Falah Foundation who opened the program with a Du'a (prayer) that related the significance of Ramadan's Laylatul Qadr (the Night of Power); Dr. Abdus-Salaam Musa, President of SEQMC shared the origin and initiatives of the South East Queens based organization; Imam Aiyub Abdul Baki of the Tauhid Center for Islamic Development spoke about the origin of Ramadan-- its resonance with life's transitions and the obligation to care for the people, particularly those in need. Melva Miller, Executive Vice President of the Association for A Better New York shared an update on 2020 Census activities, response rates and strategies that encouraged continued advocacy and the importance of counting all Southeast Queens and New York City residents.

The Virtual Iftar held via Zoom and live streamed on Facebook, capped off a day in which the SEQMC distributed 700 halal pantry boxes at two Jamaica locations: Masjid Al-Hamdulillah on Sutphin Blvd., and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) on 89th Avenue. Community residents were served over the course of three hours including deliveries that were made to those unable to arrive in person due to medical risk factors. In addition, SEQMC promoted participation in Census 2020 by distributing it's own developed flier that is part of our own broader campaign for Southeast Queens residents to complete the census form "What Time Is It? It's 2020 Census Time!" in coordination with participation on the Queens Borough President's Complete Census Count Committee.

Distributing food provided by the City of New York to community residents at ICNA

As is central to our mission, SEQMC continues to connect the community and its residents with information related to voter education/registration and social justice awareness to address community needs.

At this time in all of history, Muslims all over the world are experiencing a degree of separation from the mosques and have had to limit our customary traditions of increased mutual bonding during this month especially that are dearly missed, however we are ever grateful to Allah (God) that we are a resilient community knowing that ease will follow difficulty. Masjid Al-Haram that surrounds the Ka'bah in Makkah, a place for Umrah during any time of the year with the exception of the time for the Hajj pilgrimage when the journey for all Muslims at least once in their lifetime if affordable is made, was quiet without the presence of worshipers for the first time in recorded memory. View from the air here.

Makkah during Ramadan 2020 (1441) absent of Believers due to COVID-19

The Ka'bah in an empty Masjid during Ramadan 2020 except for staff and workers praying.

On the 2nd Floor of Masjid near the Zam Zam water fountains without guests in the House of Allah

Another view of the Ka'bah in an empty Masjid Al-Haram during Ramadan 2020

On the entrance level floor of the Masjid during Ramadan 2020, beautiful but empty.

What we are sharing are images of Makkah and Medina (watch a video here) under the same "lockdown" most of the world is experiencing presently. This writer has been blessed to visit Makkah and Masjid Al-Haram for the purpose of Hajj twice and is seeing images that were impossible to see while there due to the throng of Believers within and outside of the Masjid at any moment of the day. The images are serene and somewhat illustrative of our current state of being that is in contrast with the pristine characteristics of a clean or being cleaned huge edifice for the worship of God to a world in which perhaps humans need to clean up our act so that we can earn His pleasure. Too many immoral leaders and too much strife that conflicts with the peace and kindness; serenity and harmony that can exists between humanity it we reorder our priorities and follow guidance, whatever one's faith. The three branches i.e., faiths that trace back to Abraham (Ibrahim, alahi salaam; Peace Be Upon Him) all reflect upon treating God's creation with respect and reverence. In short, the "golden rule": do onto others and you would have them do unto you.

We pray for the remainder of Ramadan, about which there are still nights in which through our additional prayers of Tarawih and sincere du'a, we are seeking the Bounty of Allah (swt) for ourselves, our families, our communities and the Ummah. In Surah Al-Qadr, it is stated that the Night of Power is a night during the last ten nights of the month of Ramadan, that is better than a thousand months; a night in which the Angels from the Heavens descend upon the command of Allah (swt) and are among us. Decrees that arrive via the Angles whose only purpose is/are to serve Allah (swt) are answers to our prayers

"Behold, We revealed this (Qur'an) on the Night of Power. And what do you know what the Night of Power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. The angels along with the Spirit descend in it by the permission of their Lord with all kinds of decrees. All peace is that night until the rise of dawn." (97:1-5)

May Allah (swt) provide His continued Forgiveness, Mercy, Protection and Guidance to all. May Allah (swt) accept our sacrifices and fasting for His pleasure. Ameen. (Be it so)

The South East Queens Muslim Collective (SEQMC), Inc. wishes all 'Eid Mubarak (A Blessed 'Eid-ul-Fitr; Feast of the Fast Breaking)

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