What does Christmas mean to a Muslim like me?

To some it is a religious festival, to others it’s a cultural holiday, both filled with gift giving, joy, family, lights, peace, and hope for better days ahead.

To me Christmas was when my journey in believing in miracles started.

My favorite memory of Christmas growing up was a specific Christmas Eve, when I drew something on a piece of paper. I drew a colorful teddy with lots of circles and ovals on it and prayed really hard to get it. I don’t remember telling my mom what I was going to draw or whether we had any discussions prior in regards to it (I could easily be forgetting) but she said, “Pray and maybe you will get it, In’shaa’Allah”. So I drew it and asked my parents to ask Santa (from Gymkhana Club) to bring it for me the next morning – I was really worried it wouldn’t be possible as my demand was so late in the making but I just kept praying for it. The next morning the exact replica (to a child’s eye) of my drawing was In front of me in the form of a styrofoam puzzle. I was in absolute disbelief. How could it have been that accurate? Now it’s quite possible I saw it somewhere and subconsciously drew it. But that moment to me as a child was so awe inspiring, it struck me with such intensity, that I couldn’t not start believing in the impossible. I remember it so vividly like it was yesterday because it was the moment I started believing in miracles – well also that I had ESP – but from then on the beauty of miracles was forever etched in my heart. I knew Santa wasn’t real, I knew that Christmas wasn’t my religious holiday, but a way for my parents to teach me about my favorite Prophet and Messiah, Jesus (PBUH) and Mother Mary (PBUH) – tenets of Islam that I had to learn more about in order to be Muslim. But that particular Christmas taught me so much more.

It was beyond anything I had experienced as a kid. That day I experienced magic. I experienced something impossible. So I hope and pray that no matter how I manage to bring up my kids, I end up sharing some of that magic with them. Their little piece of joy and the intense belief in the impossible, In’shaa’Allah.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

“So she pointed to him. They said, “How can we speak to one who is in the cradle a child?” [Jesus] said, “Indeed, I am the servant of Allah . He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet. And He has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and zakah as long as I remain alive And [made me] dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me a wretched tyrant. And peace is on me the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive” [Qur’an 29:33]

Missing Makkah

Photo Credit: Falak Zaffer Ghatala.
Two Fridays ago, I was sitting under a hot steep tunnel surrounded by some very kind unknown people waiting for jummah salaah (Friday prayers) in Makkah. We didn’t have a mat so they shared theirs with us. The roads were blocked off by 10:00am so we stayed a bit far off from the mosque. The loudspeakers were our only hope to the perfect jummah salaah.

Continue reading “Missing Makkah”

Twinning of Muslims & Jews at Beth Shalom for Hunger Van.

Published January 20, 2015

Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, “Whoever amongst you sees an evil, he must change it with his hand; if he is unable to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is unable to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest form of Faith” [Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Hadith 184].

“When you see something that isn’t right you have an obligation to make it right.” – Member of Beth Shalom congregation, repeated by Rabbi Marc Rudolph.

A YouTube video of the Rabbi can be found here

Members of the congregation at Beth Shalom, hosted the Hunger Vanon December 7th, 2014, in Naperville/Aurora. Joined in for this deed were members of Islamic Center of Naperville and other friends of Hunger Van. Together they worked towards one cause, i.e. to correct an injustice in the world!

Even if it was for a single meal, it was difference worth making. It was hope given to the hundreds of homeless men and women living in the area. It was a life saved. It was two different communities working together towards a common idea of ‘Sadaqah’ / ‘S’daqah’ / ‘Tzedakha’ / ‘Charity’, and trying to make a difference in the world. It was humanity prevailing.

Sadaqah or S’daqah isn’t just about generosity and charity it is about the importance of justice prevailing in societies. There are millions of people who suffer from injustice, injustice of not being able to survive in today’s fast moving society.

A lot of homeless members are educated, hard working individuals who have had one giant crisis that has made them fall into an abyss of homelessness. These people find it hard to combat homelessness without the proper tools. When food should be the least of their concerns for getting back on their feet it is a huge hurdle faced by the millions homeless. In a society where food wastage is at an all time high, [according to the Environmental Protection Agency“food leftovers are the single-largest component of the waste stream by weight in the United States.”], it is an injustice to see hundreds of people going hungry every day. In a world of surplus there is a shortage of humanity. It is our responsibility as humble citizens to fill this gap.

Zamir Hassan created the Hunger Van project just to pursue this cause. A cause that he thought was worth devoting all of his time to. He currently runs feeding programs in 20 plus cities with the help of 3000 plus volunteers from various faiths. He has been able to join forces for the common good of society, which is a great feat on its own.

On Dec 7th, 2014, he joined hands with the congregation of Beth Shalom and the members of the Islamic Center of Naperville to provide meals to the homeless in the Naperville/Aurora community. To see volunteers in action please click here.


The turn out of volunteers (see more pictures here) was unprecedented and people worked hard to make sandwiches and salad containers with love, purpose and dedication.

Crews were divided into stations: The sandwich station consisted of a row of Z shaped honey scribblers, cinnamon sprinklers, sunflower butter spreaders and banana choppers and placers. The salad station consisted of green mixers, special ingredients blenders, salad packers and lid sealers.

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The packing crew was responsible for strategically placing uneven containers to avoid spillage and wrapping the completed product with love, the cleaning crew made sure the Temple kitchen was returned to its spotless features.

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Everyone had a job to do and it was a fantastic venture, which ended in great success.


A few members of the team also went out on the local streets to hand food to the homeless.


If you would like to be a part of the Hunger Van project or would like to bring the project to your area please register to volunteer for a Hunger Run at http://www.hungervan.org

Shalom Aleikhem: Hunger Van @AmShalom – An Act of Righteousness

“When you are asked in the world to come, ‘What was your work?’ and you answer: ‘I fed the hungry,’ you will be told: ‘This is the gate of the Lord, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry’” (Midrash to Psalm 118:17). 

“And they give food in spite of love for it to the needy, the orphan, and the captive” (Qur’an 76:8)

Religion is a way of life that teaches us how to live, teaches us how to be compassionate and teaches us right from wrong. Nevertheless, even if we did take away the texts and the spirituality from our lives, we are left with this systematic world with humanity and its basic survival needs. Our own humanity doesn’t permit us to live without compassion and our own body reminds us daily of our hunger pangs. Yet we often end up neglecting another human being who maybe in dire need of a meal, maybe due to lack of time, or passion.

IMG_2903However on October 19th, 2014 things were a little different. Zamir Hassan, the founder of the Hunger Van Project stood in front of a group of volunteers from Am Shalom (a Jewish Synagogue in Glencoe, IL) and explained the consequence of hunger, who is it that is considered to be hungry, and how a group of small volunteers can effectively make a huge difference in the world. For pictures from this event, please click here.

IMG_2905Am Shalom, on a monthly basis gathers together a group of volunteers to prepare meals for the homeless in the Chicago area. However, on this particular Sunday, Patti Vile (a member of the Synagogue) and Zamir Hassan decided to combine the efforts of both the organizations to help feed the needy. Volunteers gathered from both groups, with varied backgrounds and age groups and were stationed with different tasks for the hour. The youngest volunteer of the day was 11 years old and he made a great deal of difference in the community without even realizing his impact.

Hunger Van would like to thank all its volunteers including the children, Noah Magill (age 14), Jonah Magill (age 12) and Levi Magill (age 11) who worked continuously for over an hour to prepare over a 150 sandwiches for the poor.


Thanks to this passionate group of volunteers and the Hunger Van project, humanity was able to work towards achieving one common goal. Feeding the hungry!

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to see volunteers in action click the link


The Hunger Van was born in 2011 because Muslims Against Hunger founder Zamir Hassan, a practicing Muslim and resident of Bedminster, New Jersey decided that if hungry people such as the ones congregating around parks and train stations, could not come to the food, the food would come to them in vans, conveniently packaged and ready to eat. The cost of producing one hot meal is $6.07 and $4.85 for cold ones; and meals as well as events are donation-based. Sponsors are encouraged to raise funds for the feeding event. All of the food is vegan and can last for a long period of time without spoiling. for more information about Hunger Vanproject click here