Faiz Khan (right) is the co-owner of Zait and Za'atar in St. Paul with his brother Saif Khan (left). Credit: Jaida Grey Eagle | Sahan Journal

Faiz Khan isn’t just giving donations this Ramadan, he’s giving local businesses a platform. 

The Maple Grove resident and founder of the Halal Events Management Group has been hosting the Iftar Bazaar: Halal Food Court in Plymouth throughout the month of Ramadan. The next bazaar is scheduled for April 16 and 17 at the Ramada Hotel, 2705 Annapolis Ln. N., in Plymouth, and will feature food and clothing vendors from 8 p.m. to midnight.

Khan, who is also the owner of Zait & Za’atar, a Mediterranean restaurant in St. Paul, started the Iftar Bazaar with the hope that Muslims can find new Muslim-owned businesses to support under one roof. The event is free to attend. 

As well as working with other businesses this Ramadan, Khan is also supporting Islamic education groups, his local mosque, and international aid organizations.

As part of Sahan Journal’s coverage of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, we’ll be highlighting several community members and their charitable deeds over the next few weeks. Ramadan began on the evening of March 22, and ends with a worldwide celebration of Eid al-Fitr tentatively set for April 21. The holiday commemorates the month when the Qur’an, the Islamic holy book, was first revealed more than a thousand years ago. 

Observing Muslims who are physically capable abstain from food and drink daily from dawn until sunset during Ramadan. Muslims also pray throughout the day, read the Qur’an, spend time bettering themselves, and treating others with kindness, which often includes donating to charities.

Khan shared the humanitarian relief efforts that are important to him, and talked about the organizations he will be supporting during the holy month. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

How are you giving back this Ramadan?

If you’re interested in talking to Sahan Journal about the causes and organizations you’re supporting this Ramadan, please email hansari@sahanjournal.com to set up an interview.

What are you thinking about most this Ramadan? 

Ramadan is about taqwa, or God-consciousness, and the Qur’an. For me, it’s all about the spiritual aspect of Ramadan and my connection with Allah. I’m trying to gain from this month as much as I possibly can. It’s like a boot camp for the rest of the year. 

What causes are important to you?

Homelessness and hunger are close to my heart. I used to work for the city of Minneapolis’ Stable Homes Stable Schools program to ensure that we provide affordable housing. So that’s something close to me, even though it’s completely different from the business I am in now. Ensuring that every child has a good childhood and a shot at life, is close to my heart. 

I grew up in India, and I’ve seen days when I did not have enough money for food when I was living on my own. That hits home when I see someone who is homeless.

What charities or groups are you donating to during Ramadan?

I donate to Yaqeen Institute, a nonprofit Islamic research and educational organization. They provide free online resources. They have programs where you can auto-register to donate just a dollar, or two dollars, or ten dollars a day. That money is going towards something important—educating people. They’re fighting misinformation about Islam and providing the right information and the right set of references. 

I also donate at my mosque, the Northwest Islamic Community Center, in Maple Grove. Like most mosques they have a donation box, and we put money in there all the time. We also distribute iftar boxes to families. I also support the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and Building Blocks. Islamic Relief also has a program to sponsor an orphan. 

Why is it important to give during Ramadan?

I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum. I was once in a place where I didn’t have enough resources in hand. Now, thank God, I have a roof over my head, I have food on the table, I’m healthy, I have a child that I love dearly. I have every reason to be as thankful as I possibly can. 

Being in both situations, and this can be different for everyone, but I’ve learned that when you have money it’s a bigger test than not having resources. When you don’t have resources, there are limited things you can do. But when you have money, there are multiple things you can do. You can choose to change the world or you can choose to spend on shiny things. How you choose to spend defines your character. 

It’s important for me to give, because I want to leave my daughter behind knowing that there are people in the world that are far less privileged than us. It’s possible that Allah has given us their portion of wealth to us to test us, if we will ensure that it reaches back to them in a dignified way. That’s the beauty of Islam, that’s what our religion offers—to bring equitable distribution in the world. That’s what I’ve learned and that’s what I want my child to learn as she grows up.

How can others join in your support?

If you work in a corporate setting, a lot of corporations have matching programs. You can donate and your employer will match it. For example, Helping Hands, a global humanitarian aid organization, or Building Blocks of Islam, a local charitable nonprofit, are all registered on big corporate programs. You just have to select them as the organization you want to donate to, then pay through your corporate page, and your employer will match it. 

If they match 100 percent of it and you donate $3,000, that can be $6,000. That goes far beyond what you might be capable of. I’d like to encourage people to look for opportunities around you, even the small things, not just in this month but outside of Ramadan, too. Although the blessings are multiplied this month, so why not take advantage of it? 

I’m also a cofounder and board member of a nonprofit here in Minnesota, nousury.org. Usury refers to interest, which is not allowed in Islam. The idea is to give out microloans to people in need who can prove they can pay back the loan without interest and break the cycle people get stuck in. Oftentimes, people in need reach out to pawn shop or pay day loans which charge them a huge amount of interest.

Instead of predatory lenders, people with low income can apply through nousury.org and we’ll give the money directly to whoever it has to be paid to, and you can pay that money back without any interest. It’s an organic, humane model. We’ve been in process for a few years now as a 501(c)(3) organization. You can donate here.

It’s also important to support local businesses, especially at the Iftar Bazaar. For questions about attending, call 612-471-4638. If you’re a vendor interested in participating, call 612-442-7723.

Hibah Ansari is a reporter for Sahan Journal covering immigration and politics. She was named the 2022 Young Journalist of the Year by the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists. She’s a graduate...