NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Social distancing has meant the holy month of Ramadan has been observed differently than in years past, but one thing has not changed: the focus on giving back.

Ramadan is a time for Muslims to center themselves spiritually while helping those in need.

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“It is an obligation on every Muslim, and we take it very seriously,” Mohamed Bahe, with Muslims Give Back, told CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon. “We believe all of our good deeds are multiplied by hundreds of folds.”

Bahe says since social distancing means Muslims cannot come together in prayer and to break fast, many have decided to scale up their charitable giving.

His own group usually distributes food to the homeless every weekend in Herald Square. Now, they’re doing it every night. The organization also spent the last month delivery meals to first responders.

“It’s one of the best ways to show them we are here for you, we acknowledge what you are doing and you are not forgotten,” said Bahe.


Dr. Debbie Almontaser, of the Yemeni American Merchants Association, says many of its members are taking part in similar initiatives. The group has also raised $25,000 to give masks to members of the community.

“They themselves have tried to get themselves masks, but it’s been close to impossible, and sadly many of them have been recycling the masks they have with alcohol,” she said. “The masks we’re going to give them will last four to six weeks if they keep it clean.”

The Islamic Circle of North America has distributed nearly 15,000 food bags in New York in the last 45 days. Arshad Jamal says, along with the greater community, the group is also focused on helping other Muslims.

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Many rely on the nightly meal they receive at the mosque to break fast. But with mosques being closed, many are without food.

“Some people are old, some people are sick, their job is gone, they don’t have enough money,” he said. “We are trying to help them as much as we can.”

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New York City is also trying to help. It’s increased its capacity of halal meals at its grab-and-go sites and is ensuring they are distributed into the community for Ramadan.

As difficult as this time has been, so many Muslims say there is a silver lining to Ramadan and the pandemic overlapping.

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“I think it is just a perfect mix for us right now to be more grateful as human beings,” said Bahe.

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These groups say they’ll do everything they can to make sure no one goes hungry – not just during Ramadan, but also during the pandemic.