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COVID-19 Dampens Ramadan Spirits, But Local Muslims Continue To Serve Community

Dr. Mahrukh Khan (far left) and Malik Sims (far right) volunteering at the free, mobile COVID-19 testing spot in north Ferguson.
Provided by Malik Sims

Muslims observing Ramadan are now halfway into the holy month marked by daily fasting, increased religious observance, alms giving and self-reflection. Leading up to the month, which started April 24, the coronavirus dampened the spirits of many looking forward to all the festivities people usually have planned to help keep the momentum going throughout this period.

This year, Muslims won't be able to participate in extended nightly prayers at the mosques or break fasts in the evenings with friends and families. And there will be no large congregational prayers to celebrate the end of the month on Eid.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske will check in with members of the local Muslim community to hear how they're navigating the holy month of Ramadan, which landed during the most challenging point of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Joining the discussion was Dr. Mahrukh Khan and Donnell "Malik" Sims, the taskmaster at Baitulmaal – the charity arm for the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis.

The two were the driving force behind a free Muslim-run COVID-19 testing clinic in north Ferguson at 800 Chambers Road. Three days a week, shortly after they eat their last meal before sunrise and start fasting, they wake again to voluntarily treat and care for patients infected with COVID-19 in underserved areas.

"Muslims have been activated all aorund the country to get into the fight against the pandemic and really attempt to save lives, and, of course in the Quran, it [teaches], 'to save one life is to save the entirety of mankind, and in taking one [life], it is the equivalent of taking the whole of mankind,'" Sims said.

The test site is open from 6-9 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The initiative is in collaboration with St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, the City of Ferguson and various local officials. It is fully funded through the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis and Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s family foundation. 

St. Louis on the Air listeners shared some tweets about what Ramadan traditions they're missing most right now and how they're adjusting.

Listen to the full conversation: 

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.

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