By Susan Schwartz, MMNS
Readers of The Muslim Observer will be familiar with the ILM Foundation of Los Angeles, primarily through its efforts in the Skid Row area of Los Angeles on Humanitarian Day held during the holy month of Ramadan. During this event a street is closed for the day and ILM, in cooperation with other groups, lines both sides of the street with booths containing food, essential clothing items, toys, personal hygiene products, medical aid, and numerous and various other necessities.
ILM is the Arabic word for â€œknowledgeâ€ and is also an acronym for Intellect, Love and Mercy. ILM was founded in 1998 by Imam Saadiq Saafir, now resident Imam of Masjid Ibaadullah. ILM works with those people who are most at risk, providing aid and education in addition to the basic necessities for survival. Imam Saafir found in the teachings of Islam the inspiration to create a culture of serving others within ILM based on the Holy Quran and the example of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh).
During one of his classes Imam Saafir came to know Naim Shah, Jr. and was impressed by his potential. Believing that any organization must ultimately be in the hands of its youth, Imam Saafir chose Naim to be the Executive Director of ILM. During the course of the interview Naim often mentioned his parents and Imam Saafir as his inspirations.
ILM is now in its tenth year, and Naim Shah, Jr. is its Executive Director. Naim has consented to be interviewed by The Muslim Observer and discuss ILMâ€™s work; its future plans; its expansion beyond Los Angeles, and its cooperative efforts with Muslim and non Muslim organizations. The ILM Operation Team consists of Umar Hakim, Go Beyond the G.A.M.E. Director and Humanitarian Day-LA Co-Chair; Naim Shah, Sr., Community Outreach Director; Taswiyah Mutazz, Food Program Director; Kenyatta Omar,Youth Mentor Coordinator; Jeanette Ali, Event Fundraising Director; Hanif Ali, Interfaith Director; Asif Kazi, Humanitarian Day Co-Chair, and Shaykh Ayub S. Haroun, Religious & Arabic Director.
Naim Shah, Jr. now continues the story of ILM.
Naim told of several events planned for the calendar year 2008. On February 24th there will be a day long event at Masjid Omar ibn Al-Khattab. The event will deal with ILM Foundationâ€™s historical trip to Ghana, Africa in 2007. It will be titled : â€œIslam: A World Movementâ€.
On June 7th, ILM will hold its First Annual Humanitarian Day Conference. The venue will be the Los Angeles Convention Center. The convention will offer training to prospective Humanitarian Day site coordinators as well as an opportunity to learn of other great humanitarian efforts led by various Muslim and non-Muslim organizations in LA.
â€œThe highest level a human being can strive to achieve is to serve G-d through serving others. It is not easy and requires training, discipline, education, resources and patience. We feel that interested parties – future participants – will get this and much more at the conferenceâ€ said Naim. Naim feels that Humanitarian Day is a gift from Allah; that all communities should benefit from. To this end Islamic Centers and other humanitarian organizations will be invited to participate. Partnering with other Muslim and non Muslim groups is encouraged. Among present partners are: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon); the Reverend Ferguson of Trinity Baptist Church; the Fred Jordan Mission; Leslie Croom of H.O.P.E., and the Reverend Doug E. Nelson of the Levitical Network.
During the summer, beginning July 1st and lasting for two weeks, ILM will take a small group to Ghana to be immersed in a beautiful, diverse cultural environment.
ILM is hoping to open the first Humanitarian Day Care Center on or about July 1, 2008 and will provide approximately eight beds for woman and children.The housing, unlike that which is available in the community at large, will be Islamically sensitive.
â€œConvert one day into a life missionâ€ Naim said in speaking of the work of ILM.
Naim praised the cooperative work of the Masjid Ibaadillah; Masjid Omar ibn Al-Khattab; CAIR-LA; Islamic Center of Irvine; Orange County Islamic Foundation; Islamic Society of Orange County; SAC International, an international used clothing company founded by philanthropist Ali Chohan; SABA Trust, an organization that oversees philanthropy work in Pakistan and was founded by Saghir Aslam; United Economic Development Foundation (UEDF), an organization that sponsors trips for Hajj, coordinates local food programs and other community projects and was founded by Jami Mohammed; Masjid Al Shareef; Masjid At-Taqwa; JEBA; the UMMA Community Clinic; Islamic Shura Council of Southern California; MPAC; Bilal Islamic Center; the Islamic congregation of La Canada-Flintridge and the Islamic Society of Corona-Norco. With regard to the last he spoke of the pioneering work of Akbar Rizvi in Senior Citizen activism.
ILM has expanded beyond the flagship Los Angeles chapter and presently has established chapters in Las Vegas, Nevada; Austin, Texas; Kalamazoo, Michigan and Accra, Ghana. Recently in Las Vegas ILM hosted the first annual Serving Neighborly Needs Conference. The Conference was held in Masjid Al Sabur, led by Imam Fateen Siefullah. Muslim Observer editor-in-chief Aslam Abdullah was a featured speaker at the event.
In Austin ILM is headed by Hanafi Shakur; in Kalamazoo ILM is headed by Zarinah El Amin Naeem; in Las Vegas ILM is headed by the afore mentioned Imam Fateen Siefullah. His city will be hosting Humanitarian Day events. Also in Las Vegas and in Austin, ILM will have youth sports camps under Go Beyond the GAME. Student mentoring programs are due in June 2008.
During Ramadan 2007 Naim traveled to Accra, Ghana with Shaykh Ayub S. Haroun. Ghana is the native country of Shaykh Haroun. An ILM chapter was established and a successful Humanitarian Day event held. Plans, though not yet concrete, are underway to spread Humanitarian Day to South America and Asia.
Other cooperating organizations include Dawah 2000 which operates from Masjid Ibaadillah and is headed by Naim Shah, Sr.; Women United for Moral Excellence under the leadership of Jowhara Shah (Naimâ€™s mother); Friends in Deed, a group which conducts toy drives and is headed by Fareed Farukhi; Janaza Educational Burial Assistance (JEBA) headed by Abdur Rahim Akbar; Az-Hakim Foundation, named for and headed by the famous NFL athlete (now retired); â€œStop the Violence, Increase the Peace Foundationâ€, Khalid Shah, founder, dedicated to ending gang violence, and O. G.â€™s in Service (Original Good Guys) dedicated primarily to youth activities on Skid Row.
ILM has extended its reach to prison ministries. This outreach includes answering correspondence from inmates; speeches; sending small Islamic items, and mentoring services when prisoners exit the system.
TMO: Naim, ILM does so much. If you could, in a few sentences, tell our readers how you imagine the vision of ILM to be, what would you say?
NAIM SHAH, Jr.: Our vision is to ignite a social revival based on the tradition the Ansars established under the leadership of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) over 1400 years ago. When the muhajars (immigrants) traveled from Mecca to Medina, they sacrificed all they had to secure the future of Islam. They walked over 280 miles in the sand to reach Medina with nothing to claim as their own, other than what was in their possession. The key is to study and to extract the way their lives were re-established. Well, it took faith and loving for others what you love for yourself. Under the leadership of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) the homeless muhajars were paired with an Ansar until the Muhajars could depend on themselves. Today if we cannot reach the level to physically bond with someone in need, then financially bond with them through Zakat (charity) or offering a job, spiritually bond with them through Iman (faith), or intellectually bond with them through teaching or training.
TMO: Is there one particular excerpt from the Holy Quran which you would care to cite?
NAIM SHAH, Jr.: The Holy Quran says:â€We created you into nations and tribes to get to know one of another not to despise one another and the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is he who is most righteous.â€ 49:13
TMO: Can you site examples of lives in the communities you serve that have been turned around by ILM or that have given you reason to be optimistic about the future?
NAIM SHAH, Jr: ILM has affected the lives of many people in different ways. We assist a senior family`with transportation and general upkeep. What they appreciate more than anything is to know someone cares. We try to create opportunities for Muslims to engage to help the community. Youth leadership is one of our key components. Yusef Jordan, South Bay Islamic Center Humanitarian Day Coordinator, has raised over $3000 towards this event over the past few years. ILM recently endorsed his great effort in a community service letter to his school. Those less fortunate motivate us and remind us of our humanity. Things are so challenging today that we must meet the challenge to convert our annual and monthly events into a sustainable institution to witness those we assist one day, to reach a position to assist others.
TMO: Naim, thank you so much for your time, and congratulations on the excellent work that you do.