Across Nassau County, residents are marking the arrival of spring with rituals of gratitude, reflection, and jubilation.
Such is the case at the Islamic Center of Long Island (ICLI) in Westbury, where members are observing the holy month of Ramadan with donations, community dinners, and a series of events open to all.
Through the month of Ramadan, ICLI hosts an iftar meal for community members to break their daily fast together after Maghrib prayer, conducted daily after sunset.
Afterward, attendees have been gathering outdoors at the center to mingle and catch up with community in the (slowly) warming spring weather.
Habeeb Ahmed, Chairman of the ICLI, explained to Anton Media Group during a late-March tour of the center that Ramadan always brings in lots of members of the Muslim community, whether or not they come to services regularly throughout the year.
“It’s a very popular time of year,” Ahmed said.
Throughout the month, the center also collections donations from the community to support the center and to provide 300 grocery baskets to local families, packed with grains, dried fruits, and other essential items.
During Ramadan, Ahmed explained, the spiritual value of Muslims’ charitable donations is multiplied by 70, as established in the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad.
As a result of the community’s generosity, parts of the ICLI’s property in Westbury have been transformed for temporary storage of baskets.
As part of Anton’s walking tour of the center on a sunny late-March day, Ahmed pointed out several large stacks of pre-made baskets covered with tarps on the ICLI’s less-trafficked sidewalks.
The ICLI also supplies food to its local community throughout the year with its well-stocked food pantry, open to all twice a week, featuring dried and canned goods, produce, frozen foods, household medicines, and other supplies.
The pantry was opened during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ahmed said, when lots of people on Long Island and around the country found themselves visiting food pantries for the first time. Since then, they’ve continued their emphasis on keeping the pantry stocked and available to all.
“The pandemic really changed everything,” Ahmed noted, referring to how the ICLI community suddenly had to adjust the ways that they gather, pray, eat, and serve God together.
In the coming weeks, ICLI will host celebrations of their faith, their community, and the arrival of spring.
On April 9, the Islamic Center is hosting their annual Eid Bazaar, featuring fresh fashions and jewerly for a rejuvenating spring. “Usually the weather is beautiful that day,” Ahmed said.
On April 12, the center is hosting their 19th-annual Interfaith Iftar, which invites community members of all faiths to celebrate the end of Ramadan and the arrival of spring.
In preparation for the spring and summer seaons, Ahmed has also been closely involved with planting and maintaining various vibrant flowerbeds and potted plants around the property.
“I am very much into gardening, myself,” he said. “I’m kind of responsible for this; I’ve already made about 30 or 40 big pots, but at this time, it’s a little bit too early for flowers.”
“Right now, for example, you cannot put marigolds, you cannot put sunflowers, you cannot put impatiens in.”
“Pansies like cold weather, so I’m basically buying pansies, because so many people are coming, and I want to make the place more inviting for everyone.”
“I put a lot of pots in the courtyard area already, because at night it’s been beautiful, a lot of people are out there, socializing over a cup of tea.”
Next to the ICLI masjid’s main entrance, while pointing out the ICLI’s Peace Garden (featuring magnolia trees and a 9/11 memorial plaque, among other things), Ahmed added, “Daffodils are coming in.”
The Islamic Center of Long Island is located at 835 Brush Hollow Road in Westbury. Their mission is “to serve and engage Muslims by promoting the values and teachings of Islam and to advocate interfaith harmony in a multicultural environment in accordance with the Qur’an and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad” (peace be upon him).