Sharmin Ruba, who works for Islamic Relief in Bangladesh, explores how sincerity is driving support for vulnerable people this Ramadan.

Sharmin Ruba of Islamic Relief Bangladesh.

To me Ramadan is always very special as fasting is a way to get closer to Allah. The Qur’an clearly states that, “fasting has been prescribed upon you just like it was prescribed to nations before you so that you may attain Taqwa (piety).”

The whole year, I eagerly look forward to embracing the holy month, which in Bangladesh is completely unlike any other time of the year. It is filled with unique events, sound and sights. The government reduces working hours by an hour, which helps staff who want to get home earlier to prepare for the evening. I recite the Holy Qur’an as well as prepare one or two special dishes for iftar.

Sometimes I get invites to iftar gatherings, which I always politely refuse because I love to stay at home and break my fast with my family.

I have two sons, aged 13 and 19. Both began fasting at the age of 9 – back when fast food was a way to incentivise their fasting! Now they avoid fast food, understanding how unhealthy it is.

Sincerity is more important than ever

This is the month in which sincerity – one of Islamic Relief’s core values – seems to particularly stand out for me. I sincerely try to adhere to Ramadan, because I also know that my prayers and repentance will be accepted by Allah.

Sincerity has become even more important to me during the Covid pandemic. Last year, we had a Ramadan which nobody had experienced before. Our government imposed a countrywide lockdown and we had to stay at home. We were all stuck in our houses.

There was no hustle and bustle in the streets buying food. All the shopping malls were closed. Men could not go to mosque for Jummah and Eid prayers and for the first time there was no Eid shopping. We missed precious, small gatherings with close relatives and friends.

This Ramadan will be no different. Covid is spreading very fast across Bangladesh, and with more intensity than last year. So, I believe we should be cautious and maintain social distance. My parents-in-law – who are both older and vulnerable – live with us so we sincerely try to avoid any gatherings, keeping them in our minds.

Sharmin Ruba shares health information with people living in Jheelpar slum, Dhaka.

Always do the best you can

I have learnt from my parents that whatever you do, do the best you can – and when a person sincerely does good job like fasting and prayers it gives them immense pleasure. I believe that without sincerity one cannot achieve success in life, and my sincerity means I always find myself entrusted with important tasks.

And there are few tasks more important than the work we do here at Islamic Relief.

The charity was quick to respond when the Covid crisis struck, with all staff in Bangladesh working tirelessly to help tackle the pandemic as well as support the most vulnerable communities. Then, during Ramadan, super cyclone Amphan hit. Homes and farmland were devastated. My colleagues left their own families to help to evacuate people in coastal communities and provide much-needed support to survivors.

A lifeline for people in need

Islamic Relief has continued to offer a lifeline as the country grapples with an economic crisis on top of a public health emergency. Many have had their livelihoods disrupted and been plunged into dire straits, left unable to afford food or essential hygiene items such as soap, facemasks, and hand sanitiser.

We have been at the forefront of raising awareness in poor communities, showing them how social distancing and good hygiene can help protect them from coronavirus.

I am very aware that this Ramadan will be a difficult time for many. As well as worrying about the virus, many face deepening poverty and uncertainty about where their next meal will come from. Islamic Relief will remain by their sides, putting our sincerity into practice as we work to ease their hunger and provide some comfort.

For that, I am sincerely thankful to our big-hearted donors around the world this Ramadan and beyond.

This year, let’s feel the pain and loss of our  brothers and sisters across the globe.  Donate to our Ramadan appeal today.