Help was needed during a time dedicated to the ministry.

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite

In mid-April, just days before Ramadan began, dozens of volunteers were spreading out on the prayer mats in the Colorado Muslim Society mosque on Parker Road. As the worshipers praised Allah in the afternoon, others began to haul huge sacks of rice, lentils and chicken in their backs.

Best friends Abdul and Abdul, who came with their entire Scout troop to help, fought over who could pack groceries as quickly as possible. Safa Hama, Sarah Alruwayi, and Etaf Alghunaim continued working on their own piece on the assembly line across the room, chatting as they walked on. It was a moment when friends could get together after a year of isolation and partake of the spirit of vacation ministry.

Scout Troop 218 members pray as volunteers pack bags for a Ramadan food ride at the Colorado Muslim Society on Parker Road.  April 10, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite

“I was looking for something like this just to see other people,” said Alruwayi as she picked dates from a box.

“We are only grateful that we have the opportunity to do something good,” added Alghunaim. “Hopefully next year it will be better.”

This was the start of a food trip for the holy month. While Muslims around the world fasted in daylight, this gathering of local mosque members tried to ensure that their neighbors could still eat well.

Men pray at the Colorado Muslim Society mosque on Parker Road while volunteers help out during a Ramadan food drive.  April 10, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite

Abir Al-Kabbani leads Colorado Muslim Society volunteers on Parker Road preparing a month-long Ramadan food giveaway.  April 10, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite

Mariam Harasis and Habiba Samir unload onions during a Ramadan food ride at the Colorado Muslim Society on Parker Road.  April 10, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite

When Ramadan ended on Thursday, Imam Muhammad Kolila of the mosque in downtown Denver said they had distributed thousands of meals. His mosque on Downing Street in Cole alone was responsible for issuing at least 1,200 bags.

The food was intended for all those in need, not just Muslims. Kolila said this was the first time he and other leaders coordinated such an effort, and they did so because so many people were affected by the pandemic.

“We made it a regular thing, especially for families with financial problems,” said Kolila. “A lot of people have lost their jobs, so at least they can find a meal at their table.”

Imam Muhammad Kolila leads the prayer on the first night of Ramadan at the Downtown Denver Islamic Center.  April 13, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite

Bags of takeaway groceries at the Downtown Denver Islamic Center.  April 13, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite

The demand for food pantries across the city has increased dramatically since the arrival of COVID-19. The growing need caused all sorts of religious and social groups to respond, such as the Sikh Temple of the Merchant City, whose members were delivering truckloads of relief supplies to key workers.

As with the Sikhs, the members of the Muslim community who contributed to the distribution of food during Ramadan said that the act helped meet a spiritual obligation as well as the needs in their communities.

“This is Ramadan,” said Abir Al-Kabbani as she led the volunteers last month. “This is our religion. During this time we have to give. “

Imam Muhammad Kolila breaks off with members of his community on the first night of Ramadan at the Downtown Denver Islamic Center.  April 13, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite

Mohammad Elsherif breaks on the first night of Ramadan at the Downtown Denver Islamic Center.  April 13, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite

Imam Abdur Rahim Ali has been serving food on Fridays at Park Hill for 20 years.

While the inter-mosque effort was new in 2021, Ali’s ward at the Northeast Denver Islamic Center had long been at the job.

“We started when we were in a small shop in Columbine and on 34th Street. A brother told me we could get food from one of the food banks and then bring the food out, ”he recalled. “We started distributing food around 2001 and we have continued that tradition.”

Every Friday, Ali and members of his mosque hang out on the corner of Bruce Randolph Avenue and Albion Street, handing out boxes of fresh groceries to anyone who drops by. They don’t ask questions or even ask people’s names. When someone needs something, they can get it as long as there is a supply. Ali said he saw nicer cars pull up last year. The pandemic has brought many people to their knees.

Miryum Ali and Aqil Suleiman hand out the final box of food during the Northeast Denver Islamic Center's weekly giveaway.  May 7, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite

Imam Abdur Rahim Ali works on the weekly grocery giveaway at the Northeast Denver Islamic Center.  May 7, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite

The Northeast Denver Islamic Center distributes groceries year-round, but Ali said it was a particularly poignant act during this vacation. While fasting is a “reset” button for the soul that allows people to return to their center each year and focus on God, Ali said that it attuned him to the needs around him as well.

“Especially in Ramadan you can feel hunger because you are fasting. But there are people out here who are hungry but don’t fast. They are just poor and need something to eat, ”he said. “You feel the hunger pains, you are more sensitive to the poor.”