ROCKFORD — A member of the city’s faith community is making the best out of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prompted a stay-at-home order while limiting the number of people who can gather at houses of worship.


The Muslim Association of Greater Rockford is offering hot meals during Ramadan for Muslims breaking their daily fast and for anyone else — regardless of faith — who is in need.


Meals are being offered to drive-up customers at the Muslim Community Center and Mosque, 5921 Darlene Drive, each evening between 6:30 and 7:30 through May 23, when Ramadan ends.


Grocery boxes are being distributed at the mosque each Saturday between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. until the pandemic is over.


Ramadan, which began April 24, is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a time of fasting, prayer, reflection and community.


Muslims abstain from food and drink between dawn and dusk each day as part of the observance.


“Traditionally during Ramadan every Friday, Saturday and Sunday the mosque is packed. All of the community members are there. We break our fast together, we eat and then we pray our congregational prayers,” Muslim Association of Greater Rockford public relations chairwoman Sameena Zahurullah said. “Since we can’t do that right now because the mosque is closed, there are a few people in the community who wanted to see how we could maintain that sense of community and charity during the month and they came up with the idea of the hot meals.”


The meals and groceries were purchased through donations from the Muslim community and from non-Muslims as well.


The hot meals, purchased from caterers in Rockford and the Chicago suburbs, include Indian, Pakistani, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. Grocery boxes consist of rice, sugar, oil, beans, lentils and tomatoes.


“We saw families in Rockford in general, not just in our community, were struggling with food insecurity and we just wanted to address that like so many other organizations in the area are doing,” Zahurullah said.


Volunteers wearing masks and gloves have given out 200 hot meal boxes each night to people who drive up to the mosque.


“I’m a Muslim and in our religion the most important deeds are feeding the poor and helping people in need,” Muslim Association of Greater Rockford board president Dr. Khalid Siddiqui said. “So, that’s one of the obligations in Islam.”


The Islamic Circle of North America-Rockford and Rockford Today Network are also involved in the food distribution at the mosque.


The initiative has generated some joy during the ongoing stay-at-home order that has altered how Muslims and people of all faiths are practicing their religions.


“It has never happened in my lifetime,” said Siddiqui, a physician at Mercyhealth in Rockford. “I’m 56 years old and I’ve never experienced not being able to go to the mosque during Ramadan, which is kind of strange.”


Ken DeCoster: kdecoster@rrstar.com; @DeCosterKen