Muslim Student Association Provides Iftar Meals for Refugees and Students

Loyola’s Muslim Student Organization (MSA) has partnered with Islamic Oasis to raise money to provide iftar meals to refugees during the holy month of Ramadan, according to the group.

Loyola’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) has partnered with Islamic Oasis to raise money to provide iftars for refugees. Iftar is the meal Muslims have to break their fast after sunset during the holy month of Ramadan, according to the MSA. 

Ramadan corresponds with the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Last year was the first time in 11 years Loyola students were on campus to celebrate the holy month, The Phoenix previously reported

“It is important to provide iftars to refugees, because we must always do our best to strive and help where we can, especially for groups like refugees,”  Esam Shah, a member of MSA, said. 

Harris Malik, a member of the MSA, said the MSA’s fundraisers are beneficial to Loyola students because everybody comes together and enjoys iftars. 

“Our Islamic religion and tradition teaches us to be charitable and to give our wealth,” Malik said. “One of the popular sayings is that charity doesn’t diminish wealth. We believe that if you give, God is going to bless you in ways that you wouldn’t have blessed him.” 

Islamic Oasis, founded in 2008, is a Chicago-based nonprofit organization which has offered after school programs to Muslim students since 2017. The organization also runs programs which help orphans fleeing from countries such as Somalia, Syria and Bangladesh, according to the Islamic Oasis website

“What you will see during the month of Ramadan is that people are very generous,” Shah said. “Because of a lot of blessings during this month, there are more blessings with donations. People are much more willing to give money out and feed people.”

Muhammad Shirazi, director and founder of Islamic Oasis, said he has known Omer Mozaffar,  MSA chaplain, for many years and knows the MSA has sponsored iftars for refugees every Ramadan. 

“The MSA will write a check to Islamic Oasis on April 14,” Shirazi said in a phone interview. “I am sure some Loyola students will come and help with providing food to refugees.” 

In addition, during Ramadan, students in the MSA raise money to provide iftar meals to Loyola students, according to Mozaffar. The fundraiser is not associated with the university, Mozaffar said.

“Loyola students contacted alumni and they also spoke to their own families to see whoever would like to donate,” Mozaffar said. “To either fund a whole iftar or even just a portion. We are almost fully funded for the whole of Ramadan.” 

Mozaffar said he is overseeing the fundraising within the MSA during the month of Ramadan. 

“We have one student that is responsible for ordering the food, I will Venmo the money to him and he’ll order the food,” Mozaffar said. “We have a committee that is responsible for picking up the food and setting it up.” 

Once the food is picked up, it is set up near the Muslim prayer space or Masullah in the Damen Student Center, according to Mozaffar. Muslim students then come by and grab their iftar and come back later for prayers.  

“Sometimes we will have some rice-based meals,” Mozaffar said. “Sometimes we will have burgers, sometimes we will have wraps or pizza. The rest of the food just depends on the day and the mood of everyone involved.” 

Traditionally, some Muslims may choose to break their fast in accordance with how the Prophet Muhammad did, by taking a sip of water and eating dates, according to the Associated Press

In 2022, the MSA raised $15,000 to provide iftars to Loyola students and $4,700 was left over and saved for Ramadan this year, Mozaffar said. This year, the MSA has raised $27,000 in sponsoring iftars for Loyola students. 

Malik, a sophomore, said in addition to the MSA providing iftars and fundraising, other organizations also provide iftars, such as Friends of Medecins Sans Frontieres or Friends of MSF, Pakistani Students Association and Students Organize for Syria.

“What happens is that a lot of the times other organizations have events during Ramadan,” Malik, a political science and economics major, said. “Muslim students can go to these events and they can get iftar from there, which happens a few days here and there.” 

For the fundraiser with Islamic Oasis, MSA received funds through Loyola for iftars by requesting Student Activity Funding (SAF). To get funding for the fundraiser, they had to fill out a Semester Budget Request (SBR) form and the SPOT funding request form, according to Shah.

The SBR and SPOT funding requests are the same form but differ in regards to funding limits, the Center for Student Engagement told The Phoenix in an email. SPOT funding requests grant funds to organizations to host two events. While SBR funding grants fund organizations to host four events, the email said.

“In these funding cycles, you can request money for events,” Shah said. “Through the school, we requested a few days, and we got money for iftars for only a handful of days.”

The money raised outside of SAF by alumni, students and their families adds up and can make a large difference for those in need, Shah said.

The MSA first partnered with Islamic Oasis in 2022, senior Ermina Hassan said. She connected with people at Islamic Oasis and they were able to provide iftars for Muslim students at Loyola for one night. She said she hopes to do the same thing this year. 

Hassan said she reached out to a member of Islamic Oasis and coordinated an effort to get food and trays for refugees. She also made a flyer detailing the fundraiser and sent it out to everyone in the MSA.

Last year, the MSA’s fundraiser with Islamic Oasis was able to raise 1,000, according to Hassan. This year, the goal is to reach $2,500 in sponsoring one night of iftars. Students can donate by going to the MSA group chat in Telegram and sending a donation through Venmo to Hassan, who then sends the funds to Islamic Oasis.

“So far, in the couple days that we’ve been fundraising, we’ve reached the halfway point to $2,500,” Hassan said. “ We are hoping to finish that up by the end of this week or next week.” 

Hassan said she volunteered with Islamic Oasis in high school. Once she got to Loyola, she said she knew they needed iftars for refugees so she spoke to Mozaffar. 

Between 7 and 8 p.m, throughout Ramadan, the MSA has prayer sessions and offers opportunities for worshippers to break their fast. There are nightly prayers, which end around 10:15 p.m, according to Shah. 

Featured image by Austin Hojdar | The Phoenix

Nick Pallotto

Nick Pallotto