Being My Brother’s Keeper

Naazish - Glendale Heights,, Illinois
Entered on April 6, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50

Last week, I was both humbled and honored to have received the “Inspiring Woman Award.” It was given by the Muslim Women’s Alliance in Chicago for volunteering with the refugee population, and for mobilizing my community to join me.

As elated as I was, I believe being my brother’s keeper is a reward in itself. It has given my life meaning and purpose. My volunteering is also about knowing that, as a Muslim and a human being, Allah expects no less of me.

As I spoke to a room of 250 women, I recalled Sura Rahman of the Quran where Allah mentions his signs — the food we eat, our days and nights — and then asks, “Which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?” The question is repeated 31 times. Yes. Which are His favors can we deny?

There is no doubt in my mind that we will be asked to account for how we showed our thanks for His blessings. Volunteering is my way of trying to be answerable to God.

He will ask us to account for how we used the peace and prosperity he has blessed us with; He will ask us what we did with our good health; He will ask us how we put our ability to read and write towards making His earth a better place to live in. Or how we thanked Him for the hot water that runs through our taps. All these are luxuries for most people in the world.

He will ask us how we thanked Him for the fact that our children don’t cower in fright when they hear a plane go by or that they go to bed each night, without crying themselves to sleep because they’re hungry and there’s no food to eat.

As a parent I know I must be doing something right. Giving back, to my children, is becoming second nature as well. One November night they slept outdoors in Chicago’s cold winter as part of “Sleep Out Saturday,” to raise awareness and funds for the homeless. My ten year old, Taskeen, had asked for donations as she went trick or treating that year. The kids have raked yards for senior citizens and they’ve helped deliver Meals-on-Wheels. In school, for an assignment titled “What would you do if you were given $100?” my first-grader, Yousuf, wrote, “I’d give it to the kids in Palestine because they’re injured and dying and have no medicines.”

Through our choices with time and money, I’ve shown my children, that nobody can do everything but everyone can do something. As they say, “action springs not from thought, but from readiness for responsibility.

If each of us made a commitment to one or two instances of volunteering a month, how much lighter the world’s burdens would be. And to make that a reality, volunteering cannot be viewed as a choice. Rather it is a responsibility and bearing it well, that is what makes all the difference.