7 May 2021

Gift of food gives life to Islamic community during Ramadan

| Michael Weaver
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Female volunteer cooks

Two volunteers from the Canberra Islamic community take delight in making meals as the end of Ramadan approaches. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

In a suburban backyard, members of Canberra’s Islamic community add to the amazing aromas coming from large pots of curries in preparation for breaking the fasting period during the month of Ramadan. Inside, a group of school students wrap gifts of all sizes.

Fried potatoes sizzle in oil, while on another hot plate, onions are stirred with spices and a generous amount of ghee and garlic … lots of garlic.

Cook Yani says Ramadan is a special period of rebirthing in the Islamic calendar.

“When we cook for someone who has been fasting, you will also be rewarded,” she said.

The meals are being prepared at the home of Manar Ahmad and his wife Sumaiya in Wright during Ramadan, which ends on 13 May.

A large pot of beef rendang sits with another pot of pickled vegetables with mustard oil and spices known as achaar. A pot of curried chickpeas and lentils and a bounty of baklava add to the simple yet delicious dishes served to international students at the Australian National University as part of the fourth and final breaking the daily fast (known as Iftar).

The meals are a feast for the senses, but they are also a gift for the community, says HelpingACT executive Mohammed Ali, who has helped organise a team of ladies from the Canberra’s Islamic Centre as well as students from Canberra Grammar School who wrap presents that will be given to young children.

“Food is always a gift that represents our care for the community,” Mr Ali tells Region Media over a plate of food.

“Ramadan is our most blessed month, and the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, as that is when the Qur’an was revealed.”

Mr Ali said the concept of fasting during Ramadan is not endemic to Islamic culture but is observed to represent their global brotherhood. It is also why students from Canberra Grammar School are wrapping gifts for young children in the community.

Two Canberra Grammar students holding boxes of gifts

Year 11 students at Canberra Grammar School Ben Lee and Aania Cheema with gifts ready for young children in the community. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The brotherhood extends to year 11 students Aania Cheema and Ben Lee, who said the gifts are part of extending the concept of Ramadan into the Canberra community from donations made by students and teachers at Canberra Grammar.

Their work also fulfils part of a community service component of their curriculum.

Meanwhile, the large pots of food are being readied for international students at ANU, which Mr Ali says is part of HelpingACT’s reach into the community after COVID-19 restrictions have eased.

The food has been cooked for four consecutive weeks and culminates in a community dinner for about 90 students from ANU and Canberra Grammar and members of the community.

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“Last year, Ramadan was largely missing in our community,” says Mr Ali.

“Now, with the breaking of the COVID pandemic here, we can also come out and start helping the community again.

“It’s part of our culture to be part of a global brotherhood by caring for our community, so we will keep looking inward to help our brothers and sisters in the community.”

You can find out more about HelpingACT on its website or social media pages.

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