Rose Omar, right, Ahmad Sheikh, Ibrahim Ahmad and Haneef Ahmad fill backpacks with basic school supplies Tuesday at the Islamic Center of Cape Girardeau.
To help the poor and needy is among the highest callings in the Quran, and for members of the Islamic Center of Cape Girardeau, one way to accomplish this is to hand out backpacks filled with school supplies to area students in need.
Ahmad Sheikh said the center partners with ICNA Relief for the distribution, which numbered 500 backpacks on hand Friday evening at the Cape Girardeau location.
“We started in 2011,” Sheikh said. “This is our seventh year participating.”
Sheikh said every year they’ve participated, they’ve filled at least 350, sometimes as many as 700 backpacks.
“This year, our target is 500,” Sheikh said.
Ahmed Imam, left, passes a backpack to Shafiq Malik as they fill them with basic school supplies Tuesday at the Islamic Center of Cape Girardeau.
ICNA Relief is a nationwide organization, Sheikh said, and each year, they distribute more than 20,000 backpacks in several states.
According to ICNA Relief’s website, more than 100,000 backpacks have been distributed in 26 states since 2009, when the program began.
“There are two reasons we do this,” Sheikh said, watching the assembly line of volunteers adding notebooks, folders, pencils, sharpeners, crayons, glue sticks and erasers to backpacks. “One is the power of education, which the Quran emphasizes.”
The other reason is charity, Sheikh said.
“We want to make sure all children in the Cape area have what they need,” Sheikh said, adding, “Charity begins at home. This is our home.”
During the holy month of Ramadan, the Islamic Center held a fundraiser and school-supply drive, Sheikh said, and ICNA Relief provided the remainder of needed supplies.
This isn’t the only outreach effort the Islamic Center holds, Sheikh said, citing programs designed to feed the hungry and provide outreach to disaster victims.
Hafez Amer said he wants to help the poor, and said this effort is a small token of what the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad teach.
Amer added, “We feel happiness when we give more than we take.”
“‘He will not enter paradise who sleeps on a full stomach while his neighbor is hungry,'” Amer quoted from the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings.
Amer said it doesn’t matter who the neighbor is, whether he is black or white, Christans or Jewish — if the neighbor needs, there is an obligation to help.
“Allah is the one who gives sustenance to the people,” Amer said. “He wants us to help each other and made the help as mandatory.”
Tahsin Khalid, the Center’s Imam, or prayer leader, said he got involved with this backpack distribution effort because “it’s my profession.”
Khalid, who teaches in the education department at Southeast Missouri State University, said, “I teach teachers. I like to be part of this. I love to teach, and not everyone has what they need. If a student has no pencil, how can they write?”
Sheikh said the distribution Friday would reach several students, and any leftover backpacks will go to Jackson, Scott City or other nearby towns.
“We try to catch all needy children,” Sheikh said.