Local Muslims to mark start of Ramadan by feeding the hungry

Members of the Islamic Society of Central New Jersey make lunches to feed the hungry on the last Saturday of every month, and will also do so for the first day of Ramadan.

Millions of Muslims worldwide will begin a month of intense prayer and fasting this weekend as Ramadan begins.

In the United States, the first prayers for Ramadan will held on Friday evening, and the first day of fasting will be Saturday.

Muslims who fast during Ramadan abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk for the entire month. Ramadan is a time when Muslims focus on self-improvement, self-discipline and to growing closer to God through prayers, acts of compassion and charity.

Members of the Islamic Society of Central Jersey in South Brunswick will start their first day of fasting by making sandwiches and lunches for those in need from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the mosque, which is located at 4145 Route 1 south.

The Islamic Society of Central Jersey partners with the Hunger Van to feed the hungry one Saturday every month. The Hunger Van brings food and other items to the homeless on the streets, engages communities, and promotes a pledge to serve humanity. The Hunger Van project was created in 2011 by Muslims Against Hunger, a grassroots movement started in New Jersey, and has become a group that transcends religious and social barriers. Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and others come together as one voice to share the message that hunger has no religion, and every member of society is important.

On Saturday evening at sunset, the Islamic Society of Central Jersey will host an Iftar, or dinner, for the community to celebrate the first day of fasting. Following the Iftar, special nightly prayers held during the month of fasting called Taraweeh will be held. Ramada lasts 29 to 30 days, based on the lunar calendar. A celebration and feast known as Eid ul-Fitr, marks the breaking of the fast at the end of the month.

Preparing food for the Hunger Van draws a large group of volunteers at the Islamic Society of Central New Jersey. Members of the mosque will be fasting for Ramadan, but will still prepare lunches for others on Saturday.