Muslims keeping the faith - Islamic Relief USA

Muslims keeping the faith

The Herald News

October 15, 2006

By Brian Spadora

NEWARK — Ahmad Yousaf was out early on a chilly Saturday, putting what others need ahead of what he wanted.

Sure, Yousaf said, he could have slept in and spent the day watching football, like most other 20-year-olds. But he feels called to be a good Muslim, and that means being a good person.

Yousaf, of Paramus, was one of about 205 volunteers — most of them young people — providing blankets, school supplies, food and health screening to more than 2,000 homeless and low-income residents. The effort, known as “Humanitarian Day,” was organized by Islamic Relief, a worldwide aid organization with a local office in Totowa.

“I’ve found that the satisfaction that I get from watching football or something like that is temporary excitement,” he said. But the feeling he got from seeing children smile after they received a balloon animal or a new toy was different.

“That feeling will last for a long time,” he said. “It kind of makes me more grateful for all I have and understand my responsibility to those that are less fortunate.”

The event was held outside a housing project on Jelliff Avenue. Volunteers distributed goods from booths set up on both sides of the street.

Islamic Relief organized Humanitarian Day events in 14 U.S. cities this year. Each will take place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast and are encouraged to perform community service.

Though Islamic Relief is a Muslim organization, it aids the needy from all faiths and backgrounds, said Nadia Sheikh of Weehawken, a spokeswoman for the group.

Sheikh said the event was not just a way to address the material needs of the poor, but an opportunity to provide kindness and love for one’s neighbors.

“We really took the prophet’s line that a smile is a charity,” she said, referring to Muslim prophet Muhammad.

Hama Hasan of Clifton was one of about 10 volunteers from WAFA House, a Paterson-based domestic abuse crisis center that caters primarily to the needs of women of South Asian, Arabic and/or Muslim descent.

Seeing so many of her fellow Muslims working to help others was invigorating, Hasan said.

“The thing that strikes me most is how incredibly giving our community has been,” she said.

Patricia Diggs, who attended the event with her children, 5-year-old Chelsea and 3-year-old Mecca, said she was grateful for the blankets, school bags and toys that she received.

“I appreciate everything they’re giving us,” Diggs said. “I can use everything I can get.”

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