MOUNT OLIVE TWP. – A group of young Muslims is collecting food and donations for the homeless as they put into practice “Zakat,” or charity, one of the five pillars of Islam.
The group is working with the nationwide organization, “Muslims Against Hunger Project,” formed in 2011 by Bedminster Township resident Zamir Hassan.
“One of the values in our culture is caring for people in need,” said Zain Bhatti, 17, a rising senior at Mount Olive High School and one of three organizers of the local effort. Bhatti also is president of the Muslim Student Association at the high school.
The others are Zanib Akhtar, 19, a nursing student at County College of Morris, and her brother, Haashem, who will be a junior at Mount Olive High School.
Haashem Akhta also led a petition drive last year to have schools close for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. To date, 41,736 have signed the petition.
The school district closed schools on June 4, the 2019 day of Eid al-Fitr because of an unused snow day and officials said they will consider making future Eid al-Fitr commemorations a school holiday.
The group are all members of the Islamic Society of North Jersey based in Budd Lake. They collected $1,820 after Friday prayers and through a Gofundme page. The funds will be used to buy more than 2,000 packages of food that include 10 meals each. The food will be delivered to the Budd Lake mosque on Route 46 on Aug. 17 where they will be packaged by volunteers.
Volunteers can help package the food from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 17.
The packages will then be distributed by drivers with the Muslims Against Hunger Project to shelters and homeless people in New York City. The food will be given to anyone in need, regardless of religion.
Zanib Akhtar also said the older volunteers will mentor young people to help with the drive. Akhtar was president of the Muslim Student Association at the college last year.
“As the Muslim youth of the Mount Olive community, we would like to impact the lives of others and help people in any way possible,” Haashem Akhtar said. “We are starting with our fight against hunger. Helping one person may not change the entire world but it could change the world for one person and that is our goal.”
The Muslims Against Hunger Project is a network of volunteer communities to help the hungry and homeless. It includes more than 5,000 volunteers in U.S., Canada, Haiti, India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Philippine. and in more than 20 cities in the United States, according to the website.
The non-profit organization includes other projects, including
“Faiths Against Hunger,” a network of different faiths interacting together to provide the means and the path to self-sufficiency for those living in poverty. For more on Faiths Against Hunger visit http://faithsagainsthunger.net.
The group also operates a mobile soup kitchen. For information, visit www.hungervan.org.
The “World Community Café” is another project of Muslims Against Hunger, whose aim is to remove the stigma of soup kitchens and provide hot, healthy and nutritious meals to anyone in need.
“Muslims Against Hunger” was formed by Bedminster resident Zamir Hassan to promote the Islamic value and tradition of feeding the hungry.
“As per our Islamic teachings, it has been reported that Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) said, ‘He is not a Muslim who goes to bed satiated while his neighbor goes hungry,’” Hassan said in an interview with the werepair.org website.
Hassan was raised in Pakistan and came to attend graduate school in the U.S. in 1973. He decided to form “Muslims Against Hunger” after he visited as soup kitchen as part of his son’s school project.
He wrote on his website that his “shock at the needs in his community’s backyard caused him to reflect on his Muslim liturgy that says not to go to bed if neighbors are hungry.”
“Forty nine million people do not know where they are going to get their next meal,” said Hassan. “We are living in the richest country on the planet, why is this happening?”