Pullman resident Mohammed Riajul Islam says serving the needy is an essential part of living the Muslim faith.
In Islam, as in other faiths, he said, people often mistake devotion and prayerfulness for righteousness, however, a truly righteous person cares for the needy in his or her community in addition to being devout. A person cannot be righteous if he or she does not serve those in need, he said.
“He is not a believer who eats three times a day and his neighbor is starving to death,” Islam said.
Through his role as the president of the Pullman Islamic Association and as the national director of Muslim Ummah of North America’s Social Services Department, Islam is doing his best to fulfill his duties by helping to ensure Palouse-area residents in need do not go hungry.
With assistance from the Community Action Center, Islam and the organizations worked together to bring the national Feed the Hungry Program to Pullman about five months ago. It is now expanding into Moscow, where food should soon be offered at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse.
Islam said the food is prepared in a commercial kitchen at the Pullman Islamic Center and served out of his Pacific Northwest Halal Meats store on North Grand Avenue in Pullman. Those in need can choose from a small menu of fresh, hot meals, which include items like chicken biryani and lamb curry. The Pullman program is funded entirely through donations and has become a model for the rest of the country, Islam said.
“Although MUNA is feeding the homeless elsewhere in the USA occasionally, this is the first time operating in the Palouse area in a well organized, regular and continuous basis,” Islam said. “This area we took as a model area and this model is being transferred now to other states.”
Islam said the program began by offering food to the hungry twice a week but starting this month, meals will be offered every other day. In addition to increasing in frequency, Islam said the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse recently reached out to the PIA and offered to help it expand the program to Moscow. Islam said a few procedural hoops remain but he has hope they can begin serving food on the Idaho side of the border by the end of January.
Islam said the group has printed small plastic ID cards for the program that can be picked up at the CAC. While the cards help ascertain who is in need and who is just shopping at Halal Meats, which is owned by Islam, there is no screening process for distributing the cards and they are not necessarily a prerequisite for receiving food. PIA Treasurer Adnan Morshed said the program is open to all but serving the hungry is not only compatible with the Muslim faith but this duty is specifically mentioned in the Quran.
“We are not being saints by giving them food, it’s our duty to give them the food – that is what Islam says,” Morshed said. “From that point of view, it is more of a duty for us in the Muslim community to help the broader society.”
Morshed said as interest grows he expects the program will grow as well.
“We are not content that we can continue every other day,” Morshed said. “If there is need and if we have enough support from the community, maybe this will extend further.”
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