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The holy month of Ramadan began Wednesday evening, and observant Muslims will fast for 30 days from sunrise to sunset, seeking a deeper consciousness.

As Ramadan kicked off Wednesday night, the local Muslim community is stepping up efforts to help the millions affected by devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria last month.

Muslims typically increase giving during Ramadan. The Orland Park Prayer Center, for example, will be collecting funds every night during Ramadan, which continues for the next 30 days, for earthquake relief.

Already, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, in collaboration with Chicago mosques and community groups, has raised $2 million for earthquake victims.

“This is such a time of sharing meals, family togetherness and enjoying each other’s company,” said Arjum and Khan, a council spokesperson. “And that is far from the case for those in Turkey and Syria suffering from loss, homelessness and hunger.”

In addition to community service, observers of the holy month will fast — no eating or drinking — from sunrise to sunset starting Thursday morning. The two meals for the day are suhoor, a predawn meal, and iftar, the meal to break the fast after sundown. Ramadan ends April 21 with Eid al-Fitr, a holiday celebrating the end of the fast.

 “For us, we really step it up during Ramadan,” Nashashibi said. “It’s an opportunity to revisit why you do what you do and make sure you’re doing it for a greater reason than receiving accolades and to be accountable to a greater power.”

The sacred season is also an opportunity for IMAN to grow support for its work. The network holds a drive to raise $1 million during Ramadan, and in recent years it has met or surpassed that goal.

“When you have the gifts of health, housing and community, you need to help those who fight and struggle to have those gifts, who have been systematically disinvested in and abandoned,” Nashashibi said.

“Ramadan is a perfect chance to uplift that.”

News now/ Zainab Y Hamza

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