Seven years ago, in an effort to share the essence of the month of Ramadan with family and community, I started a blog. I wanted my kids to understand that beyond fasting, Ramadan is about doing good deeds, expressing gratitude, and being our best selves; I thought that by keeping a blog we would stay mindful of these issues each day. The first year, we decided to do one good deed each day; the blog became ‘30 days 30 deeds’ (www.30days30deeds.com).
Since then, each year we have focused on a different theme – from gratitudes, to duas, to traditions, to inspiring stories. This year (2017) the blog will be ’30 days 30 refugee stories’. Ramadan is very much about caring for our neighbors and doing whatever we can to help those in need. Our newest neighbors are arriving each day from every corner of the world escaping war, persecution and misery; this year we’ll highlight some of their stories, gathered from a recent trip to refugee camps in Greece and through efforts to support them in our own community. Please follow along by adding your name to this newsletter on the Home page or ‘liking’ the Facebook page at ’30 days 30 deeds’.
It’s been a blessing to see this blog grow, organically, and develop a large and loyal following of Muslims and non-Muslims around the world, from Azerbaijan to Zambia. Thank you. It’s our stories that make us human; it’s our stories that connect us and make us feel more at home with each other, as one reader shared so beautifully: I wanted you to know that your writing has been a blessing to me. As a Christian, I don’t have regular contact with the Muslim community. Your stories, therefore, have become important counterpoints to the stories of “Islamic extremism” that so frequently are in the news. You have helped to reinforce the idea for me that it’s imperative to separate the stories of violence in the news from the stories and lives of peaceful Muslims who make up the majority of the Muslim communities around the world. With every example of a Muslim life to be revered, not feared, non-Muslims can come a step closer to understanding the beauty of the Muslim faith.
This year, we’ll meet refugees and hear their stories – the Afghani professional soccer player living in a Greek camp longing to reunite with his mother; the Syrian dressmaker who makes his first wedding dress in the US; and the Kurdish parents resettled in Germany whose only desire is a better future for their children. No doubt, we’ll discover how similar we all are, if we just remove the labels.
We reached a milestone – five years of ’30 days 30 deeds’. This year, we take a look back and provide highlights from each year, add new posts for each theme, and see how the blog has evolved.
This year, we share inspiring stories of people that I’ve been blessed to meet and interview, including the incredible Pakistani octogenarian humanitarian Edhi sahib, singer-songwriter Sami Yusuf, whose post broke the record for most views, and my dear father on the occasion of his 80th birthday.
We focus on traditions, from family recipes, to cherished memories, to annual rituals, so our growing readership can also get involved. The contributions are amazing, ranging from the art of cutting a watermelon, to an ode to the fruit chaat, to fasting and fastballs, to childhood memories of Ramadan.
We say a special prayer for someone we love or discuss a situation around the world that needs our prayers. When I ask Zayd if there was one thing he could make happen with sincere prayer, he writes: “My dua is that Allah keeps all the animals in the world out of harm’s way so they can live the lives they are supposed to live.”
Our list of gratitudes range from universal themes like food, water, and life itself; to personal issues like the tight embrace of family during a frightening health scare; to more everyday pleasures —in Saanya’s case, a “Downton Abbey” marathon! The most poignant entries are letters of gratitude that the kids write. Zayd wrote to his Nunno, and Saanya shares a letter with me, which makes us both so very grateful.
We spend the month sharing moon and star shaped cookies with neighbors, hosting an interfaith iftar, walking at suhoor to raise money for children in Somalia, planting trees, taking cupcakes to homeless shelters, and making grandparents smile. The idea is not to come up with grand service projects, but to realize that there’s so much we can do in our daily actions that qualify as good deeds.