August 11th, 2010
07:00 AM ET

My take: Ramadan as a season of service and dignity

Editor's Note: Karim Amin is a domestic programs coordinator and humanitarian aid worker for Islamic Relief USA, based in Alexandria, Virginia.

By Karim Amin, Special to CNN

"I didn’t think anyone knew we were out here,” said the elder from the Crow Creek reservation as she humbly accepted a bag of food and clothing from me. “But you come back every year.”

She is known as “Grandma” on the Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Grandma is one of many Native Americans living in dilapidated conditions as joblessness and poverty continue to plague Crow Creek and many other reservations across the country.Too many reservations that were intended to give the Native Americans their own sovereign land have become outposts full of trailer homes and temporary housing - a place where the original people of the Americas have been sent to and generally ignored.

I had come to the Crow Creek Reservation with Islamic Relief USA’s (IR USA) Day of Dignity, an annual effort dedicated to alleviating poverty to thousands of people across the United States.

As Grandma talked to me about her and her family, I looked into her eyes and imagined all that she has seen - the pain, the neglect, the struggle.

“I am going to bring my grandsons to thank you and welcome you,” she said with a warm smile. “We really appreciate you coming here.”

I was moved but also humbled to see that a simple bag of groceries and supplies could make such a difference.

"It’s more than that," Grandma explained. Our presence there meant more than the aid and services we were providing–it was, she said, an acknowledgment of our common humanity.

Islamic Relief USA, a nonprofit relief and development organization, began Day of Dignity eight years ago as a single event during the holy month of Ramadan. The idea was that since Ramadan is a season characterized by love, compassion and charity, American Muslims could use the day as an opportunity to act on their faith by helping those in need.

Today, Day of Dignity has evolved into an annual grassroots campaign that brings thousands of volunteers from all backgrounds together to distribute food, clothing, blankets, medical care, and other social services to homeless and underserved people. This year, the campaign’s goal is to serve about 20,000 people with the help of 2000 volunteers in more than 22 cities across the country.

At the Day of Dignity event on the Crow Creek Reservation this past June (the first one this year), Islamic Relief USA volunteers spent hours assembling and distributing aid packages filled with blankets, t-shirts, hygiene products, school supplies and food. Youth volunteers set up games and face painting for children who came to the event and health professionals were on hand to provide screenings.

But beyond the food, clothing and health services, perhaps the most touching exchange was that all day Crow Creek residents came and went, graciously accepting aid packages and stayed around to play games with the volunteers. Some of the elders sat with the volunteers to teach them about Native American language and culture.

One of the organizers of the event, Victor David, an American Muslim and long-time Native American advocate, said beyond assisting others, Day of Dignity’s’ goal is to bring diverse communities together in the spirit of giving.

“When we first came a few years back the people were hesitant first,” David said. “Now they look forward to us coming every year.”

We left hoping that we made a small a difference, if just for one day.

Islamic Relief USA will be hosting many other Day of Dignity events across the country during the holy month of Ramadan. It is my hope that American Muslims and people of all faiths will come out and join us as we extend beyond the comfort of our homes, mosques, churches, and communities to help those in need.

Almsgiving and helping those in need are major pillars of Islam and the basis of Islamic Relief USA’s work, but it is also the foundation for many other faiths.

As Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Do you love your Creator? Serve your fellow man first.”

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Karem Amin.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Islam • Opinion

soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Andriod Tasbeeh App for day-to-day adhkars, Supplications & Waziafs

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    July 16, 2013 at 1:02 am |
  2. Goes2WarAlone

    So, I see that this article about a person who wanted to give, based on their religious views, has turned into a hate board. How PATHETIC ARE ALL OF YOU WHO BELITTLE OTHERS just to make yourselves feel better about your own views?! Get a life, you pathetic excuses for a "human!" I have a family to support, and I have given three thousand dollars this year alone to charities that I choose. How about all of you? Just because you got picked on or hurt by someone/something doesn't mean you should hate/fear it. My children get picked on all the time at school because they go to a "white" school! And STILL, we teach our children not to hate. I have five sons, and they understand that people fear what they don't understand. Fear fills the heart of those who do not understand, regardless of if they can't or won't. Hate and fear are closer than a clouded mind can believe. Pity is given by those who choose to understand, and care, and I pity you "Reality."

    August 16, 2010 at 7:54 pm |
  3. Acmed Shams

    We should all be wary of overt islamophobia, and be careful to single out extremists, such as the Taliban.
    You absolutely MUST see this:


    August 12, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
  4. Reality

    Apparently, the moderators do not know much about the tenets of Islam so one more time, the top five with commentary:

    o Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    "1. Belief in Allah"

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your cleansing neurons.

    "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

    "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

    "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

    Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.
    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

    "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) alone."

    Mohammed "supposedly" spent thirty days fasting (Ramadan) in a hot cave (apparently waited on by all of his wives) before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

    August 12, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
  5. sweety pie

    The most people worry about the Mode, the Money, the Social Status, circle of friends, But they forget the spiritual part that is in all of us. We do not need a Neo-Catechomunal sect!!! Dangerous it is. If We thought the Muslims are taking the world. think again KIKO ARGUELLO, CARMEN HERNANDEZ and the priest MARIO PEZZI hiding behind a permit from Vatican are taking the world. Ex-Members say how bad it is. Ruins family life, friendships and partnerships. Find out about it and HELP me fight this organization. PLEASE

    August 12, 2010 at 6:50 am |
  6. One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

    Mr. Amin,

    Thank you for your service to the reservation. Thank you also for suggesting that sacrifice and aide through mutual respect should be more than lip service at religious events. I hope a great number of American Muslims take you up on a month of service for Ramadan.

    Would that other religions would do the same.

    August 12, 2010 at 12:26 am |
  7. Jemes

    Wherever Islam conquer, they have a minaret or symbol that signifies the event. The mosque near the former WTC is just another attempt in that direction using a policy of Taqiya. The problem with Islam it is not a religion. It is a quasi-religious political movement that dream of world dominance, as the so called prophet dreamed of revelations under some narcotic influence, I guess. Who knows? The prophet himself was a desert robber, married an under-aged girl, and killed thousands of people for their faith. His hatred for Jews, Christians and infidels made me think him as a monster. His principle of Taqiya (Fool the infidels if the infidels are large in number) is one of his main holy war ideology. I don't believe such a monster should be called a prophet. or messenger of peace. I think he was a dangerous robber and would have been hanged or shot by firing squad, had he been alive today. What liberty for a race, that consider half of its population like animals? Why should any body should think about liberty of a cult that practice dogmatism, racism(Kafir), and inhuman treatment to women and children? If the mosque is really a healing touch, then why the messengers of peace insist on having it near the WTC, when thousands of relatives of victims oppose it and call it a slap on their face?

    August 11, 2010 at 11:08 pm |
  8. (B)iraq Hussein Osama

    NEW YORK TIMES (July 28, 2007)
    The Bush administration is preparing to ask Congress to approve an arms sale package for Saudi Arabia and its neighbors that is expected to eventually total $20 billion at a time when some United States officials contend that the Saudis are playing a counterproductive role in Iraq.

    The proposed package of advanced weaponry for Saudi Arabia, which includes advanced satellite-guided bombs, upgrades to its fighters and new naval vessels .... Along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are likely to receive equipment and weaponry from the arms sales under consideration, officials said. In general, the United States is interested in upgrading the countries’ air and missile defense systems, improving their navies and making modest improvements in their air forces, administration officials said, though not all the packages would be the same.

    Along with the announcement of formal talks with Persian Gulf allies on the arms package, Ms. Rice is planning to outline the new agreement to provide military aid to Israel, as well as a similar accord with Egypt.

    The $30.4 billion being promised to Israel is $9.1 billion more than Israel has received over the past decade, an increase of nearly 43 percent.

    Its great fun for the average westerner to poke fun at the muslims and their violence.
    one may ask him, "so what are you doing to promote peace among them violent muslims?"
    answer "Oh, we are selling them billions and billions of dollars in weapon systems"
    "i see!"

    August 11, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
    • Reality

      Hmmm, last time I checked B. Obama was president of the USA. And I see nothing is mentioned about the 100's of billions of dollars the USA is spending on keeping the Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Palestine and Pakistan from creating a total civil war blood bath in the Islamic world and spilling out into the free world.

      August 12, 2010 at 12:07 am |
  9. Goes2WarAlone

    Also, to "Reality", having a hatred for a certain religion allows support for another. You may not be for organized religion, but your so-called neutral stance is making christians smile.

    August 11, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
  10. madmo

    Karim Amin, you may or may not know about Sharia. Here are few exerts.

    Sharia law commands that drinkers and gamblers are to be whipped.
    Sharia law allows husbands to hit their wives.
    Sharia law allows a plaintiff to exact legal revenge, literally an eye for an eye.
    Sharia law commands that a thief must have a hand cut off.
    Sharia law commands that homosexuals be executed.
    Sharia law orders unmarried fornicators to be whipped and adulterers to be stoned to death.
    Sharia law allows obligatory female genital castration.
    Sharia law requires women to obtain permission from husbands for daily freedoms, such as leaving the house unescorted by a male family member.
    Sharia law instructs compulsory acceptance of polygamy and forced child marriages.
    Sharia law requires the testimony of four male witnesses to prove rape.
    Sharia law orders death for both Muslim and non-Muslim critics of the Quran, Mohammed and even Sharia itself.
    Sharia law orders apostates to be killed.
    Sharia law commands offensive, aggressive and unjust Jihad.
    The Quran instructs Muslims to lie to further and protect Islam. (Taqiyya).
    There you have the FACTS. I don’t care if you are a Liberal or a Conservative, average or intellectual, if you have not bothered to read any of the Quran then you do not know Islam. Don’t assume that because it is a “religion” let alone “the religion of peace” that this is something that won’t affect you.

    August 11, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
  11. madmo

    Holy Qurap! It’s that time of year again... Ramadan, the holiest and
    most violent month of Islam. Get ready for 30 days of prayer, fasting...
    and a butt-load of death and dismemberment in the name of Allah!
    If you're wondering how this year's Ramadan killing spree compares
    to 2009, or whether other religions can keep pace with the
    Islamic body count, then TROP's got you covered! Starting on
    Saturday, we will begin posting a running total of deadly violence in
    the name of Islam compared to that of all other religions combined.

    Ramadan Bombathon 2010
    This year the Religion of Peace is bringing it, baby!

    KARIM AMIN : Please visit 'the religion of peace dot com' for Muslims achievements in past 10years worldwide. I am sure will be proud of it. ONLY MUSLIMS COMMIT EVIL THINGS IN THE NAME OF RELIGION YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW.

    August 11, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
    • (B)iraq Hussein Osama

      I'd like to see a BODY COUNT of muslim killings in areas that are not supplied and supported with American weapon systems and American troops. That would be more interesting. Unassisted Muslim Violence so as to speak!

      But when you are counting bodies in lands where BILLIONS and i mean literally billions and billions of dollars of western weapons systems are being exported to. that is not an objective Ramadan Bombathon, thats more like a Jesus in Ramadan Bombathon.

      August 11, 2010 at 6:45 pm |
  12. Reality

    With respect to body counts, the Asian i.e. non-Christian countries to include Japan's bloody WWII excursion, win that by significant amount.

    1 55 million Second World War 20C
    2 40 million Mao Zedong (mostly famine) 20C
    3 40 million Mongol Conquests 13C
    4 36 million An Lushan Revolt 8C
    5 25 million Fall of the Ming Dynasty 17C
    6 20 million Taiping Rebellion 19C
    7 20 million Annihilation of the American Indians 15C-19C
    8 20 million Iosif Stalin 20C
    9 19 million Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C
    10 18 million Atlantic Slave Trade 15C-19C
    11 17 million Timur Lenk 14C-15C
    12 17 million British India (mostly famine) 19C
    13 15 million First World War 20C
    14 9 million Russian Civil War 20C
    15 8 million Fall of Rome 3C-5C
    16 8 million Congo Free State 19C-20C
    17 7 million Thirty Years War 17C
    18 5 million Russia's Time of Troubles 16C-17C
    19 4 million Napoleonic Wars 19C
    20 3 million Chinese Civil War 20C
    21 3 million French Wars of Religion 16C

    August 11, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
  13. Reality

    What K. Amin neglected to point out:

    In the years, 2008-2009 , only $295,000 of the Islamic Relief USA funds were spent in the USA whereas over $64 million went to support Islamic causes overseas. The total funds collected for the 2008-2009 time period were over $75 million. ($10 million was not spent).

    The two top executives of the group make over $100,000/yr. Total salaries amounted to over $3 million. K. Amin's salary was not noted on the IRS Form 990. (guidestar.org)

    August 11, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
    • Goes2WarAlone

      My Lakota name id wasose isnala – goes to war alone. I am an enrolled member at the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. I am an active duty E5/SGT in the United States Army an an soon to leave on my third deployment to Iraq. To "Reality"-Why don't you take a long walk off a short pier? All these people are trying to do is to say thanks, and keep up the good work. All you're doing is spreading hate and fear. THIS IS MY RESERVATION THAT THIS IS TAKING PLACE ON. One major difference in the types of people that come here are the religious ones. The Islamic Relief people never try conversion acts, like the bible touters. "We'll help you, but first you have to come to church." You wanna talk numbers. Look up the Carlisle Industrial Schools where the Christian heads of the school allowed child molesters to work. The beating and dying of a young child was a normal thing. On our reservation, go to one of the grave yards and see the astounding number of little children who died! "Kill the Indian, Save the Man" was the policy. I remember a story about a woman who had forbidden her children to speak their native language because her oldest one died because he spoke Dakota and the preacher SHOVED a bar of soap down his throat and he died by suffocation! The only thing she could do to protect her children was keep her children from speaking their own language. Before you comment on another blog, thing about it... Continue to be a coward and comment from a far behind a computer scene.

      August 11, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
    • Reality


      This is an anonymous blog so what you say may or may not be true. If it is true, I recommend asking the Islamic Relief USA representatives why they are spending over 99% of their funds overseas.

      With respect to Christians smiling, no they are not because the foundations of their religion are tumbling down from common sense, rational thinking and the contemporary studies published by NT exegetes basically concluding that the simple preacher man aka Jesus did not rise from the dead, performed no miracles and was definitely not deity.

      August 12, 2010 at 12:17 am |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God


      Thank you for your service to our country.

      I work with about 30 different tribes as part of my job. I've seen how poverty-stricken and demoralized many of the reservations are. Even if the money spent isn't the same, I think any amount of shared humanity is of benefit.

      May you come home again safely.

      August 12, 2010 at 12:20 am |
    • Goes2WarAlone

      Again, you are doubtful. I identified myself, gave you my background, and still you doubt. I don't speak with a fork tongue like you might. I feel sorry for you-you who lives your life with doubt and the belief that you are being lied to. You live a sad life, and I am sorry to have even conversed with you. The darkness of your life has tainted the light that is the belief in being thankful. Get a family, get a life, and keep better friends than the cardboard cutouts who insist on making every one's life as sad as their own.

      August 12, 2010 at 9:14 am |
  14. Mark from Middle River

    Jamil – You just allowed Reality to play you into being a fool. Reality is now laughing at you because he is not anti-Islamic, he is anti- persons of faith. You would know this if you read any of his other post on other blogs here at CNN before commenting.

    Personally this is one of the few faults I find with some Muslims, some of you actually believe that the only people of faith are those that follow Islam. That is why Reality was able to lead you like a dog into thinking that he/she was anti-Islamic because it appears that you hold this philosophy.

    While these blogs appear to have the motivation of tearing folks further apart it does appear that it is opening eyes that persons of faith are under attack from the likes of Reality and that the biggest fear that those attackers have is the point of time when we stand together.

    August 11, 2010 at 3:56 pm |
    • Reality

      Mark, Mark, Mark,

      Faith? In what? The Flaws, Frauds and Follies of organized religions? These three F's are easily comprehended from common sense and from the studies of the contemporary exegetes of organized religions.

      August 11, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Funny Reality – Sorry, I am not Jamil. 🙂

      Nice try though ... As long as my church continues with its community out reach programs to help the community. Your hatred has no power here. It would be the same as if I only listed all the evils that some whites have done as the complete summary of white America while leaving out the ones that marched with MLK and those that work to help the African American community.

      So take your one sided hatred and begone .... I hear a house being launched into the air somewhere. 🙂

      August 11, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
  15. Donna

    Thank you for the work that you and Islamic Relief USA are doing for needy Americans.

    August 11, 2010 at 3:17 pm |
    • Reality

      One wonders if the topic non-profit helped the victims of 9/11 or any of the other thousands upon thousands koranically slaughtered to honor the will of Mohammed and Allah?

      August 11, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
  16. Jenna

    Lovely blog and congratulations on the successes of your organization. I am interested to learn more. May you have a blessed month during Ramadan and keep up the great work of helping others. For those of you spitting vitriol, remember, EVERY human being is capable of good or bad and religions are in place to offer us a moral compass whether people live up to the standards or not. This gentleman cannot even be comapared to someone that belongs in a terrorist organization any more than I can be linked to someone like Timothy McVeigh. Show some discernment and compassion please.

    August 11, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
  17. Gary

    11. 13 us soldiers killed @ ft. hood was largely ignored by the liberal Ameirican hating media.

    August 11, 2010 at 11:28 am |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      He was mentally ill. It didn't really matter which religion he was.

      August 12, 2010 at 12:15 am |
  18. Steeltoe

    Shall we now list the thousands killed by the followers of Jesus?
    Crusades, Inquistion, Witch trials, Abortion doctors. Funny how you people always forget that little bit of your book about casting the first stone.

    August 11, 2010 at 9:38 am |
    • Reality


      Most of us learn from history and from our mistakes. Islam does not!!

      The basic rules of being a good human can be found in the NT but such rules were borrowed/plagiarized from the likes of Hammurabi and the Egyptians' Book of the Dead.

      Casting stones is essential for without it there would be no way to enforce our penal codes.

      With respect to the other elements of our continuing war against terror and aggression, a summary:

      – Saddam, his sons and major henchmen have been deleted. Saddam's bravado about WMD was one of his major mistakes.

      – Iran is being been contained. (beside containing the Sunni-Shiite civil war in Baghdad, that is the main reason we are in Iraq. And yes, essential oil continues to flow from the region.)

      – Libya has become almost civil. Recently Libya agreed to pay $1.5 billion to the victims of their terrorist activities Apparently this new reality from an Islamic country has upset OBL and his “crazies” as they have threatened Libya. OBL sure is a disgrace to the world especially the Moslem world!!! Or is he???

      – North Korea is still uncivil but is contained.

      Northern Ireland is finally at peace.

      – The Jews and Palestinians are being separated by walls. Hopefully the walls will follow the 1948 UN accords. Unfortunately the Annapolis Peace Conference was not successful. Unfortunately the recent events in Gaza has put this situation back to “square one”. And this significant stupidity is driven by the mythical foundations of both religions!!!

      – Bin Laden has been cornered under a rock in Western Pakistan since 9/11.

      – Fanatical Islam has basically been contained to the Middle East but a wall between India and Pakistan would be a plus for world peace. Ditto for a wall between Afghanhistan and Pakistan.

      – Timothy McVeigh was executed. Terry Nichols will follow soon.

      – Eric Rudolph is spending three life terms in prison with no parole.

      KANSAS CITY | Thu Apr 1, 2010
      Killer of abortion doctor gets life in prison

      – Jim Jones, David Koresh, Kaczynski, the "nuns" from Rwanda, and the KKK were all dealt with and either eliminated themselves or are being punished.

      – Islamic Sudan, Darfur and Somalia are still terror hot spots.

      – The terror and torture of Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo and Kuwait were ended by the proper application of the military forces of the USA and her freedom-loving friends. Radovan Karadzic was finally captured on 7/23/08 and is charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the law of war - charges related to the 1992-1995 civil war that followed Bosnia-Herzegovina's secession from Yugoslavia.

      – And of course the bloody terror brought about the Japanese, Nazis and Communists was with great difficulty eliminated by the good guys.

      August 11, 2010 at 10:28 am |
    • Reality

      Most of us learn from history and from our mistakes. Islam does not!!

      The basic rules of being a good human can be found in the NT but such rules were borrowed/plagiarized from the likes of Hammurabi and the Egyptians' Book of the Dead.

      Casting stones is essential for without it there would be no way to enforce our penal codes. Eric Rudolph learned that the hard way.

      August 11, 2010 at 10:30 am |
    • pockets

      Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh the 'magic book' again, its not a bible its bibble babble...

      August 11, 2010 at 6:36 pm |
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.