Abdulrauf Khan is assistant executive director at ICNA Relief USA — a network of disaster relief and social services — and anytime a natural calamity strikes, he says he is ready and present for it. Case in point, when Hurricane Irma recently battered the Florida Coast, volunteers of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) arranged shelter and after it passed, provided services — from flood-damaged homes in Naples to uprooted tree trunk clearings in Cooper City, Florida.
Mr. Khan says his motives are simple — a desire to assist his neighbors while empowering his three children. “I have a son who is 18 years old, He asked me five years ago, ‘Dad, what have you done for this country?’ We have to work and we have to make sure our children feel that ownership of the country. We have to give back.”
Giving back is a major part of Islam – in fact, charity is one of the five pillars of our faith. Aqsa Cheema is administrative coordinator for ICNA Relief South Florida, and helped with the hurricane relief, saying that she has been in the habit of giving back since she was a child attending mosque. “Charity is a big part of Islam, and giving back to the community is a big part of Islam,” says Ms. Cheema. “You go along with it, and you get the chance to distribute food and do things that can benefit the community. That’s just a basic part of the religion.”
During the hurricane, ICNA set up a shelter in Boca-Raton and welcomed any locals in need – and many said they had never met a Muslim person before. “It was their first experience coming to an Islamic Center,” recounts Mr. Khan. “They felt like, ‘this is what we feel like when we go to church, when we go to synagogue.’” And as Voice of America described it, they also felt “welcomed and at home.”