Three months of shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has left many people struggling to provide for their families.
This is exactly the situation in south-east Manchester where lockdown has brought shops, stalls, restaurants, and travel agents to a grinding halt.
In reaction to this, the Qadria Jilania Islamic Social and Educational Center decided to start their foodbank project to provide hot meals for hundreds of people every day.
“We didn’t know that there’s a lot of need, but now we get calls from far and wide,” Ahmad Waqar Baig, the imam of the mosque told Manchester Evening News.
“Alhamdulilah, the community spirit has been amazing with everybody wanting to help, we were going to do it just for Ramadan, but we’ve had some funds come in, so we plan on doing this for the foreseeable future.”
The community effort started by local journalist Shahzad Mirza who asked Longsight residents on Facebook and Whatsapp if they were in need of hot meals.
He received stunning response, as 50 people got in touch. The number eventually rose to 300 people who now turn up for hot meals and dry goods each day.
“Somebody contacted me saying they needed help, so I started a survey to see if more people needed it to,” Shahzad went on.
“At first it was 50 people or so who came forward, then by Ramadan, we had over 300 people coming every day.”
From Monday to Sunday evening volunteers give out food packs which include, milk, fruit, tinned goods, and curries prepared in the kitchen of a local supermarket called Appna.
Saira Quershi, a member of the Greater Manchester BME [Black and Minority Ethnic] Network, said the mosque serves all people regardless of their faith.
“The thought was that there wasn’t enough halal food provision for people who were struggling and this community-led initiative was set up to support people who had lost their jobs,” said Quershi, a volunteer and part of the task force behind the scenes.
“There were a lot of people who were struggling and then Ramadan came along.
“This isn’t just for Muslim people, we also serve homeless people and the hidden members of society.
“We once had a man come in, he was a refugee and because of COVID-19 had no way to make money, he was in tears, you couldn’t write it.”
This act of generosity falls in line with what many British Muslims have been doing across the country to help their community during the pandemic.
Muslim businessman Yousuf Bhaliok, for instance, donated £200,000 to NHS in March, launching an appeal to raise £1 million.
Islam lays a great emphasis on the virtue of neighborliness, stressing on Muslims’ individual duty to be good to their neighbors.
Ibn Abbas reported that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “He is not a believer whose stomach is filled while his immediate neighbor goes hungry.” (al-Sunan al-Kubra 19049)