CAIRO – Celebrating Islam’s support for justice, compassion and generosity, the Islamic Center of Pittsburg has hosted the annual Humanity Day to emphasis on intercultural understanding and justice apparent in the spirit of the month of Ramadan.
“The Quran says God created different tribes so people can get to know each other," Noor Un Nahar, from Upper St. Clair, a former board member of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh (ICP) told Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
Gathering at the ICP, the largest mosque in Pittsburgh, attendants celebrated Humanity Day last Sunday.
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The event, hosted annually by ICP for more than a decade, celebrates Pittsburgh's diversity and showcased the work of individuals who have contributed notably to the city.
It also honored the Islamic emphasis on intercultural understanding, according to community members.
Held in the holy fasting month of Ramadan, attendants stressed that the significance of Ramadan goes well beyond fasting and Qur’an study.
"Ramadan is about thinking about others," said Sheikh Atef Mahgoub, religious director at ICP.
"Ramadan is a time to remind ourselves of two truths: We are all one humanity ... and compassion should be the basis of our lives," Ihsan Bagby, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky, added.
Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started last Tuesday, July 9.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.
Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.
It is customary for Muslims to spend part of the days during Ramadan studying the Noble Qur'an.
Many men perform i`tikaf (spiritual retreat), spending the last 10 days of the month exclusively in the mosque.
Focusing on the themes of justice and compassion, this year’s awards were offered to individuals who have worked to spread understanding in the community.
ICP's recognition "is one of the most moving awards I've ever received," said Scilla Wahrhaftig, who has worked for more than a decade speaking out against Islamophobia and raising awareness of the human costs of the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
She stressed "the need for all of us to counter anti-Muslim hatred in the US," adding that "Pittsburgh is fortunately comparatively free of Islamophobia compared to other US cities."
Other recipients of this year's Humanity Day awards included Leslie Aizenman, director of refugee services at Jewish Family and Children's Service of Pittsburgh.
Aizenman was honored for her organization's work aiding refugees settling in Pittsburgh, many of them from Iraq.
Award presentations were followed by iftar, the fast-breaking meal, during which community members welcomed questions about Islamic belief and practice.
For Elaine Linn, from Forest Hills, an active member of ICP, Humanity Day represented the spirit of the month of Ramadan.
"Justice is the biggest thing that's taught in the Quran ... the idea of experiencing how other people suffer, giving and thinking of other people during Ramadan, getting our priorities right -- the people honored Sunday do exactly that every day," she said.
“This was like Ramadan in action.”
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