Nestled in the hubbub and humidity of New Orleans, Louisiana lies a Catholic University that hosts a Muslim Student Association (MSA). Xavier University is a private, coeducational, liberal arts college with the distinction of being the only historically African American, Roman Catholic institution of higher education in the United States.
Within this unique university setting in the US, a Muslim student population thrives. Eman Al-Bassisi, a student at Xavier and a member of the MSA says, “My College is very diverse and accepting so I never really had a problem expressing my religion or talking about it to others.”
Recently, the Xavier MSA hosted a much needed outreach for the homeless in New Orleans.
According to the Huffington Post, “Homelessness was an out-of-control problem after Hurricane Katrina. After Katrina, thousands of people were living in abandoned buildings and houses throughout the ruined city.”
However, in the decade since the storm the number of homeless people has dropped from 11,619 to 1,703 chronically homeless people in New Orleans and the neighboring areas.
But the young, Muslim students in the area knew that even one homeless person was one too many and wanted to do something about it. The Muslim students took time out of their much needed spring break to assemble and distribute meals in their Feed the Homeless project.
Allah tells us in the Qur’an,
“Give to the near of kin his due, and also to the needy and the wayfarers.” – (Al-Qur’an, Surah Al-Isra’, 17:26)
As Mohammed Yusuf Dadani writes for American Muslims for Hunger Relief, “While hunger in the land of plenty is not a new phenomenon, the last few years of economic turmoil have worsened matters for the poor in this country. As unemployment has soared and bankruptcies and foreclosures have increased, the ranks of the poor have swelled in alarming proportions. So we find ourselves in the anomalous situation that one out of every six people in the richest nation on earth, is today living below the poverty line.”
Al-Bassisi wanted to help be a part of the solution to the problems facing the poorest of her community. She says, “I wanted to this project because there are Many Hadith of the Prophet to help the homeless. Plus you learn to appreciate what you have.”
One such hadith states,
“A person who strives to take care of the needs of the widow and the poor man is like one who struggles in the way of Allah (a mujahid), or like one who stands during the night to pray and fasts during the day.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari)
In the midst of the only break away from writing papers and studying for exams, these MSA members took the time to think of those who are less fortunate, to help those who the average young person wouldn’t give a second thought.
Allah tells us in the Qur’an that “We have made some of you a trial and a means for testing others […]” (Al-Qur’an Surah Al-Furqan, 25:20). And the Muslim Student Association of Xavier University is doing their best to pass this test of helping the less fortunate.
In our current climate of fear and hateful rhetoric where politicians demonize Muslims and terror attacks around the world get more headlines than good deeds do, it is an act of bravery to put a spotlight on and celebrate Islam and being a Muslim, and to exercise the teaching of our Prophet (PBUH), who sought to build communities and spread good for no other reason than they wish to please Allah.
“(The righteous are those) who feed the poor, the orphan and the captive for the love of God, saying: ‘We feed you for the sake of God Alone; we seek from you neither reward nor thanks.'” – (Al-Qur’an, Surah Al-Insan, 76:8-9)
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