CAIR’s ‘Sharing Ramadan’ Campaign: Well intended? Maybe. Bad Idea? Definately!

The national campaign suggested by the Council on American Islamic Relations [CAIR] to “Share Ramadan”, although perhaps well intended, is ill-conceived, misleading, and quite frankly, borders upon sacrilege. The concern of some American Muslims about the increase in anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment in America is, understandable. Albeit overblown and hyperbolic, nevertheless, it is a legitimate concern. However, sharing Ramadan, inviting people to fast for a day, sprucing up our behavior for the benefit of the media, or thinking that a non-Muslim will somehow vicariously experience what a believing Muslim feels when he or she breaks their fast, will do little to stem the rising tide of islamophobia or change public opinion about Islam and Muslims except to demonstrate the degree of ostentation (riyaa) which we are willing to embark upon to get someone to like us. It gives the impression that we are a disingenuous and desperate people. Such actions breed more contempt and suspicion than sympathy, or a warm and fuzzy feeling towards Muslims.

Ever since 9/11, American Muslims have been on the defensive, and more often than not, we are over-defensive. Many times, acting at the behest of American Muslim political and advocacy organizations, we will leave no stone unturned in prostituting various foundational aspects of our faith in order to influence public opinion. True Islam belongs to Allah; we don’t need to defend it, we only need to practice it. Not surprisingly, ten years of spin doctoring Islam, have netted very little tangible results. To this day, we’re till complaining how much they don’t like us.

Consider that acting under the unhealthy influence of islamic political organizations, American Muslims have already changed, (may Allah help us) for the benefit of public consumption, the meaning of Islam from submission to peace, we’ve established the despicable precedent that Friday prayer (Salaatul Jum’ah) does not have to be performed for Allah only but can be done on a state capitol lawn in order to make a political statement, and we’ve asserted that it really makes no difference whether you are Muslim, Christian or Jewish, it’s really just one religion. Now, as we approach the holiest month of the year, our ambitiously bodacious political Islamic leaders at CAIR, are asking us to share one of the most personal acts of devotion; the observance of the month of Ramadan, with our non-Muslim neighbors and associates!

 The ‘Sharing Ramadan’ campaign inaugurated by CAIR suggests that we do group spectacle and mockery of our own faith during the holiest month of the year, and that we invite partners with whom we will share our devotion to Allah, and then, as suggested in CAIR’s ‘Sharing Ramadan’ resource guide, film it all, and send it to CAIR.

Increasing righteous acts during Ramadan is a Sunna of our Prophet (SAWS). Make your non-Muslim friends, neighbors or family member a plate of food if you want, or spend some of the money you save during the month in charity.

However, your fast, your iftaar, your worship, and your devotional observance of the month of Ramadan, is  between you and Allah. It’s not for sale, it’s not for public relations and it’s not to impress and it’s not for show. We cannot share or magically transfer our experience of fasting Ramadan because each persons fast, is known only to Allah, Judged only by Him, and accepted or rejected, by Allah be He Exalted and Glorified. Your fast is not yours to share. If you share it, you have associated partners with Allah. 

 Fasting, iftaar, taraaweeh, qiyaami lail, are all for Allah only, and He imparts, the blessings, the joy, the spiritual bliss and the reward of Ramadan, to whomever He pleases and in whatever measure He wants.. When we invite guests to the Masjid to ‘share’ Ramadan, we should realize that they cannot share in the blessing or reward since in order to be rewarded for fasting the month of Ramadan, you must first be a Muslim, after that, you must observe the fat, and it’s applicle rules and conditions according to the Quran and sunna.

CAIR suggests that a person can fast without belief, and break the fast without fasting, and that we should thank them for it.  [Please do not forget to send “thank you” notes to the religious, political and civic leaders who attended the iftaar;][1]

Ramadan is a pillar of faith, and should in not be prostituted as part of a public relations campaign initiated by a national political Islamic organization, to alter perceived public opinion about Islam. If we allow that, then we are corrupting the very foundations of what we believe sacred, which is the unique oneness and devotional exclusivity of, and to the Almighty God, Allah (tawheed and ikhlaas). Without tawheed and ikhlaas, the essence of righteous and devotional acts of worship is rotted and devoid of any spiritual value.

Observance of the month of Ramadan is considered ritual worship (ibaadah) according to sacred law. The unanimous opinion of Islamic legal orthodoxy, is that ritual worship and devotion (including observance of Ramadan) is invalidated by partnering [shirk]; It may still look good on the outside. However, on the Day of Reckoning, when it counts, it will be worth nothing.

The slogan of CAIR’s campaign; “sharing Ramadan” suggests a compromise in devotional exclusivity (ikhlaas) to Allah, and it goes downhill from there. Although that may not be the intention behind the campaign, the slogan ‘sharing Ramadan’ is a misnomer to say the least and only adds to the confusion that a non-muslim may already have about Islam. Sharing food or sharing a meal is considered one of the noblest acts of faith, and something that every Muslim should do when he or she is able. However, feeding food is best when done for the sake of Allah, and not for the purpose of the cameras, public relations, or Muslim image making;

إِنَّمَا نُطْعِمُكُمْ لِوَجْهِ اللَّهِ لَا نُرِيدُ مِنكُمْ جَزَاء وَلَا شُكُورًا 76:9

“[Saying, in their hearts,] “We feed you for the sake of God alone: we desire no recompense from you, nor thanks:”

Taking iftaar is a devotional act that is part of the observance of Ramadan; you can’t share that with anyone. Iftaar to a Muslim is a very special moment that is part of the observance of Ramadan. Iftaar, to a non-Muslim, it’s just a meal just like any other meal. The only way for a person to experience Ramadan, is to first, believe in the Lord who commanded it, and second, observe the month according to the rules and ordinances of the Quran and prophetic tradition (Sunna). It is the divine right of God that worship should be done exclusively for him and him only.

فَمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو لِقَاء رَبِّهِ فَلْيَعْمَلْ عَمَلًا صَالِحًا وَلَا يُشْرِكْ بِعِبَادَةِ رَبِّهِ أَحَدًا 18:110

Whoever expects to meet his Lord, let him work righteousness, and, in the worship of his Lord, admit no one as partner. 18:110

Fasting is a special type of worship and devotion to Allah. Even though every act of worship is done for devotion to Allah, and for the benefit of one’s soul, fasting is particularly for Allah in ways that are beyond our comprehension. Allah has said, “All of the actions of mankind are done for his own sake except for fasting; it is done exclusively for me, and I reward it accordingly[2]

Although it frequently resorts to hyperbole and fear tactics to elicit support, CAIR is arguably a necessary organization and occasionally does good work on behalf of people who need support. The local people whom I know at CAIR are passionate, hard working people who I admire and respect, but like us all, they make mistakes, and the ‘Share Ramadan campaign is one of them.

Islamic Political organizations should not be in the habit of setting agendas for what are supposed to be religious based initiatives. It is for this reason, many Americans regard Islam as a political ideology bent on takeover instead of a god centered religion that leads to salvation for the human soul. Public relations are important, and have a place in Islam. However, islamic public relations is accomplished by going out amongst the people who live amongst you, and serving them, feeding our poor, helping the elderly shut in, who lives down the block, protecting our children from drugs, gangs, keeping an eye out for criminals, predators and violence in the neighborhood. That’s how you are neighborly in Islam, and that’s how people understand neighborliness in America.

You don’t reach out to your neighbors by sending formal invitations to politicians and religious leaders, to a controlled, choreographed, dry scripted event at the place where you worship, in an environment that is totally foreign to them. There is no spontaneity in that, no sincerity, and no personal interaction with everyday people. As far as most Americans are concerned, such events are fake, and disingenuous. Our mothers and grandmothers who weren’t Muslim, taught us better than that. I grew up on America as a Muslim, and lived next door to folks for years and we interacted with our neighbors all the time, as Muslims. We played football in the street, shared food, utensils, shoveled each other’s snow off the sidewalk, picked up each other’s mail when we went on vacations, and watched over each other’s houses. If you look out for your neighbors, they will look out for you. That’s the way things are done in America, and for Muslims who are tired of people looking at you like you don’t belong here, it’s important that you understand that.

Being a good neighbor is part of the Islamic way and it is part of the American way. Every Muslim family in America has the opportunity on a daily basis to get to know their neighbors. You don’t need a national political Islamic organization, to puppeteer you through it, step by step like you are a robot. Americans can see right through that.

Being a good neighbor is not something that you do once a year, at a staged event, with the cameras rolling and with flash cards, talking points and press kits. You can be a good neighbor and reach out to them simply by walking a few feet to the next door on either side of you with a bag of groceries, or by shoveling the freshly fallen snow off your neighbors pavement as you shovel your own, or offering to feed their dog while they are on vacation. Being a good Muslim is to worship Him alone in the proper manner, without associating partners with Him. Trying to please politicians will not bring us closer to Allah, and it is not the basis for success in this life or the hereafter. American Muslims need to rediscover tawheed and ikhlaas, and not let our worship and duty to our Lord be compromised by partnering our worship with political objectives a public relations imagery whether it is orchestrated by CAIR or anyone else.

Restricting CAIR’s unhealthy and destructive influence in our nation’s masaajid (mosques) and Islamic centers will do more to change public opinion about Islam, than a thousand camera ready iftaars and open houses. It will also open the door for American Muslims to practice Islam and interact with our neighbors in faith, sincerity, and without political or public relations consideration, all of which are detrimental to our disposition of our souls when we stand before Allah subhaanahu wa ta’ala. Islam is a religious journey, not a political campaign. If we concentrate on practicing our faith, instead of trying to control the image of it in the public eye, people might start to believe that Islam is indeed a religion based upon truth and godliness, and not subterfuge and deception. Ramadan only comes around once a year and we are not promised to see the next one.

The sad part about this is that CAIR actually does good work on behalf of Muslims in certain areas of advocacy, and since they recruit their volunteers from within the nation’s Muslim congregations, the people who work with CAIR are usually hard working, god fearing conscientious. I love our local CAIR Director here in the city that I live, and I support him in the good work he does for our community, and he does a lot. May Allah reward him and strengthen him.

This is the United States of America and people are free to do as they want. We all have to answer to Allah for our actions when we meet Him. For that reason, we should not allow our mosques, Islamic centers and congregations to be manipulated and our great to be politicized by a few people to serve their organizational self-interests. All criticism of Islam and Muslims cannot be summed up as a case of islamophobia; there are elements that come into our masaajid and politicize and take advantage of ordinary, unsuspecting Muslim Americans, using fear tactics, hyperbole, and spiritual blackmail, and we need to put an end to it so we can go about or lives, being productive while practicing Islam as a religion and not as a political ideology Let’s keep politics, public relations, and pandering to media and public opinion out of this Ramadan, and the Ramadans to come. May Allah accept our observance of the month, forgive us for our sins, and purify our intentions. Wa Allahu al-Musta’aan wa bi hi tawfiq.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

[1] CAIR brochure ‘Sharing Ramadan Resource Guide’

[2] Collected by Bukhaari

13 responses to “CAIR’s ‘Sharing Ramadan’ Campaign: Well intended? Maybe. Bad Idea? Definately!”

  1. as-Salaamu ‘alaykum, Imam. I understand your concern, however I feel the statement, “borders upon sacrilege” is a bit too strong. I concur that many Muslim organizations, especially those with an immigrant Muslim bent, are more concerned with their image than with the well-being of Islam, to label their actions as almost sacrilege is not correct either. In fact, the term itself is a bit confusing. How can something be almost sacrilegious? I am well aware of the grey areas and if anything, I would suggest labeling their actions as such. But to say they are borderlne sacrilegious is, in my sight, going too far to the other extreme. Please take this as well-intended nasihah, as you know I have a tremendous amount of love and respect for you as an imam and as my fellow Muslim brother.


    1. How can the sharing Ramadan campaign not border sacrilege when you have an American muslim political organization [CAIR] suggesting to American Muslims that we should share our dedication to Allah, and our observance of Ramadan, with the political and religious leaders of our city, as stated in CAIR’s ‘Sharing Ramadan Resource Guide’; [After compiling your list of local interfaith religious, political and civic leaders, begin mailing out invitations] , with the expressed intention of gaining the acceptance, favor, and assistance of these powerful and influential invited guests. Then they refer to them as neighbors, and as if we are imbeciles, suggest that we look at these politicians, and religious leaders, as our neighbors also, despite that no one in America refers to a politician as a neighbor unless he or she lives next to him, down the street, up the road, around the block, or at least somewhere in walking distance to your home. The issue I have is not with the semantics, there is something way more sinister afoot if we pay attention.

      So let me get this right; we are being asked by an American Muslim organization to get some politicians and religious leaders, and convince them to partner for us as we observe the month of Ramadan, in order that we may seek their favor, while we seek Allah’s favor, and to seek benefit from them and through them, while we seek benefit from Allah. For record, a non-Muslim cannot partner with a Muslim in His or her prescribed worship and devotion to Allah , since in order to do that, they must first partner with us in belief and faith, in which case, it’s not partnering since each muslim is answerable for his own deeds and not the other person’s deeds. . So how can this campaign not border on sacrilege? The answer to that is that it does not border on sacrilege, it is sacrilege! How can we fast for Allah, and then use our breaking of the fast as a means to gain favor, support, and good will from the creation of Allah? Why target the powerful to feed during this month when, so many are poor, hungry, out of work, and homeless?

      Then as we instruct the attendees at the Masjid to be on their best behavior, and to try to make the best impression upon these neighbors (who by the way aren’t really our neighbors unless they reside next to where we live in our in our neighborhood), we tell them (as mentioned in the CAIR brochure) that the central purpose of our fast is so we can feel compassionate for the poor and underclass, who by the way, are not invited to these types of events. This part I kinda understand. We wouldn’t want to invite the poor, homeless and needy to the event at our masaajid, especially after cleaning and sprucing the place up, and adding new paint if needed, as suggested by the CAIR brochure.

      So let’s see if I can grasp this new logic.

      1. We observe the fast of Ramadan and avoid food, drink, vain speech, and sex
      2. When we’re done fasting for the day, we invite the well off and powerful political and religious leaders to eat.
      3. We tell them that they are breaking the fast with us, even though they did not fast. (You can’t break your fast if you didn’t fast).
      4. We feed the well off and powerful leaders, a lavish and abundant variety of exotic cuisine.
      5. Then we try to convince them that fasting Ramadan teaches us compassion for those who are hungry and powerless, and who were not, by the way, invited to the feast. [One of the main benefits of Ramadan is an increased compassion for those in need of the necessities of life], Perhaps someone can help me understand this strategy; feed the powerful when we’re done fasting , to convince them that through fasting, American Muslims develop compassion for the poor and hungry.


      1. I agree with what you say. However, what is wrong if a Masjid invites locals to share a meal, in this case being iftar, with them, and teach them a little bit about Islam? I understand that this isn’t what you are talking about, but I have been to many events like I have mentioned and many like you have mentioned, and I found the former to be an actual way of showing others what Ramadan is. I don’t see anything wrong with that.


      2. @ T Hoss, I’m not siure what you mean. Are we howing them what Ramadan is? Or are we showing them what we turned Ramadan into. The priniple idea of observing Ramadan is that you are not concerned about showing anyone anything. You are imply engaged in the fast whch no one can see Allah. What are the visotors going to do? Come away from he event and say how they saw Muslims fasting? How can you show someone you are fasting? How can you even try to show them a fast which they cannot see, since your are not doing anything except not eating, not drinking and not having sex. How does that show you are fasting, when the person standing right next to you could be doing exactly what you are doing (nothing) and not be fasting, and not even be a Muslim? What’s the difference? The differnce between not eating and fasting is the intention (niyya) that’s what, and you cannot show someone what’s in your heart, so how can they see your intention. . Tell me more about this showing Ramadan stuff. You have my attention.


      3. I specifically mean explaining to non- Muslim’s exactly what Ramadan is, and why we observe Ramadan. One event was at the very beginning of Ramadan for school teachers and principals, even district superintendents. They were invited to share iftar, and were given a tour of the Masjid, a introduction of Islam, and finally a program on what accommodations they hoped the school leaders could make for the fasting children. Several schools specifically opened up slots for prayer (meaning you no longer needed to get specific permission) after that program, and schools, as reported by many students, started arranging alternate gym courses etc. without all the extra paperwork needed to miss the class. It was, in my opinion, a great program – a bunch of non-Muslims learned more about our beautiful religion, and our Muslim students directly benefited from it. We weren’t expecting them to understand completely about fasting, and Ramadan, or to observe it with us.


  2. Seems like your argument would apply to any form of dawah? As if our faith should be a secret that we don’t share with others?


  3. Thanks for sharing this link with me and it soothes my heart to know that their are still amongst US their are Brothers such as yourself. May Allah forgive us, bless us with good health and increase our sustenance


    1. I don’t have any problem with people visiting our masaajid to inquire about the religion and seeking a better understanding of Islam,. However, when we want to take it upon ourselves to give da’wah, we, should go out to do it, as was the sunna.. Da’wah to Allah and da’wah to Islam are governable actions in the shariah, one of the conditions of correct da’wah is that the message cannot be altered in any way. Another condition is that before you invite someone to pray, or to fast, you have to invite them to believe. If you invite them to our worship, and they comply in order to be friends with us, and not do it for Allah, then we are inviting them to shirk That’s why we can’t employ any method we want and say its okay because it’s da’wah. That is a common misunderstanding that Muslims have. Giving Da’wah is not for the benefit of non-Muslim; it’s for the Muslim! Da’wah is fard kifaaya, while ibaadah; salaat, siyaamul Ramadaan, are fard ayn. We don’t want to corrupt ibaadah for the sake of da’wah. Let’s reserve the fanfare until after Ramadan.


      1. As Salaam
        Alaikum. Your argument has not convinced me that any harm has been done. Islam and our Prophet was. Has been sent as a mercy to mankind, and the rights to enjoy its benefits has been extended to all. Im not convinced the month of Ramafan has only benefits for the one that fast. Its a spiriitual month. Secondly our Prophet was a Diplomat. Sometimes diplomacy is better dawah than mere words. Certainly we are reminded to feed a hungry man before our preaching to him.


      2. Alaikum salaam, jazaaka Allahu khairan for the good intentions intended by your cmments. If it were a matter of feeding the hungry and helping the poor and indigent then certainly, the month of Ramadn is an appropriate time for that. However, that does not seem to be the case for most Masaajid, and even in CAIR’s online handbook on how to plan, set up and execute the ‘Sharing Ramadan’ campiagn, they make a special point that you should invite political and religiuos leaders, and people of prominence (people who are not poor and are not hungry) to attend these lavish set ups and use the oppurtunity to convince them that we care for the poor. Our Masjid here in Sacramento (Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center) we feed the poor, during every month in and out of Ramadan, we never invite the press, we never invite politcal leaders to witness, we never ask for recognition nor do we care for any. Anyone is invited to join us and participate. The point is, that Americans are not as stupid as some Muslims like to believe we are. If you are really concerned about the hungry having a good meal then I’m sure in most if not all American cities there are homeless, hungry people, men, women and children on the street, in shelters, and bundled in their homes every night. Any one in America whether they are Christian, Muslim Jew, or Atheist, knows that if concearn for the poor and hungry is your real motive then you would not invite dignitaries to your Masjid, feed them lavish meals while panderring for their praise and attention and then talk about how that shows that you beieve in feeding the hungry and that is a manifestation of your faith in your Lord. Gimme a break!. I love Muslims and I can easily see the paradxical irony in that. What do you think the people who do not like Muslims or who are ambivilent towards us and our religion will think when they see stuff like that. How do you think our Lord views that! Show me a multi-million dollar Masjid centered community of Muslims in any city in the Unuted States that will freely and for no other reason than goodness of their hearts , and their love for Allah, that iwill, open ther doors and allow the cold, the hungry, the poor, the unbathed, and the unsophisticated African American, Latino, and minority poor step into any of our marble studded million dollar masaajid just to have a meal, while we are seeking nothing in return. No credit, no press, no praise and no oppurtunity to politicize the deed to our advantage. We do more harm to our image, when we are concerned mainly about our image. This is America,, we are experts at imaging and public relations, this is the land of hollywood, movie stars, and botox. Many Muslims look to the west to validate them and to make them feel good about themseves. That’s why we brag about our advance degrees from this nor that university, brag about our homes, our businesses and how much we saved on taxes. The average non-Muslim American can see right through us. If you wanna feed the poor, then all you need to do and go to them and feed them, You don’t have to put on a broadway style production in the house of Allah, and you certainly do not have to wait until Ramadan! It’s so sad, our condition. May Allah guide us, purify us, and lead us to His paths. Ameen Imam Luqman By the way, the spiritual reward of Ramadan is only given by Allah, and it is only to tose who observe the month. Those who bwelieve and submit to Allah are not thosde who do not believe and who do not submit. Otherwise, why would a non-Muslim even think of becoming a Muslim? Just because we know how to cook tasty, ethnic dishes? Don’t be fooled.


  4. To be honest, Imam Luqman is, in a way, saying what many people don’t want to say. That basically is that these events, run mainly for the powerful and well connected, are in their essence not always about “spreading our faith” or “promoting dawah.” Many times, they are about strengthening a burgeoning PR campaign that portrays American Muslim’s as this perfect, all All – American, and professional group that doesn’t represent us in any way shape or form – there is not a single group of any kind in America who is like that. Our real face is one where we ALSO have brothers and sisters working hard to get the bills paid, brothers and sisters in and out of jail, and so on. When is the last time anyone tried to organize and iftar for our incarcerated brothers and sisters? When is the last time we shared iftar with those who, by necessity rather than faith, fasted anyways, hungry on the streets?

    Do not get me wrong – I respect the brothers and sisters who run this because in their hearts they, insha Allah, have an intention of helping both Muslims and non Muslims. They are not trying any harm. Also, CAIR does a LOT of work that is indispensable to the Muslim community.


  5. Let’s just be angry Muslims, that’ll show our fellow Americans that we don’t need their acceptance. Brilliant post, I’m enlightened.

    Have you been to a single “sharing Ramadan” event or are you just angry?


    1. It’s ironic how you did almost what Imam Luqman said.

      Is your goal attaining God’s acceptance, or the American’s acceptance?

      I am not responsible for making sure that “our fellow Americans” accept me. If, after showing them what true Islam is, they still are bigoted, that’s not my problem. I have plenty of non-Muslim friends – Jews, Christians, Hindus, and Atheists…- who accept me as I am. It is within the American spirit to be accepting of people regardless of your notions, and to be honest I have experienced that first hand from my neighbors. They know we are practicing Muslims and we never really have gone and had to explain to them that Muslim’s aren’t terrorists for them to accept us and treat us well. I don’t think I have ever talked to anyone in my neighborhood about religion, and I have excellent relations with all of them.

      Imam Luqman has a point where he says that we often use these iftars to bring the well-connected into our Masjid so that we can take pictures, and say so and so came to our Masjid, look at us. I know a Masjid that has a 10,000 dollar library which is never open – only when the non-Muslim’s come for the iftar. Was that library built so that the Muslim’s AND non Muslim’s can get Islamic resources from the Masjid, or so that the Masjid can tell everyone that they have an excellent library? I think you can figure that one for yourself.

      It’s not about being angry. It’s about being real.


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