By Nihad Awad
WORD COUNT: 611
(Nihad Awad is national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), America's largest Muslim civil rights organization. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
During our nation's current economic downturn, and in the wake of natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, many of our fellow Americans are suffering.
That is why it is so important this Thanksgiving to show thanks for all the blessings we have by reaching out to those in need.
American Muslims nationwide are helping set an example of such giving.
Members of Georgetown University's Muslim Student Association are traveling to Tennessee to perform community service projects over their school's holiday break.
In New York, Muslim attendees at a church's annual multi-faith Thanksgiving celebration donated food items for distribution to the needy.
Muslims and Jews in at least 17 cities across North America will join together to provide meals to the hungry and homeless.
Groups like Muslims Against Hunger Project and American Muslims for Hunger Relief will feed homeless people in New Jersey, New York, Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
The University of Cincinnati's Muslim Student Association and Project Downtown Cincinnati combined efforts to distribute turkeys and food packages to needy families in the Cincinnati area. They adopted this effort from the Cincinnati chapter of my own organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has run this project since 2008.
The Columbus office of CAIR also donated Thanksgiving turkeys to the YWCA Family Shelter as part of its Feeding Families project.
These are just a few examples of what can be done by committed volunteers to help their fellow citizens who are in need.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Whoever fulfills the needs of his brother, God will fulfill his needs. Whoever eases his brother's difficulty, God will ease his difficulty in this life and on the Day of Resurrection." (Sahih Al-Bukhari)
The Prophet also said: "He who has enough food for two, let him invite a third, and he who has food for four, let him invite a fifth or a sixth." He also said: "He whose food exceeds his needs, let him share it with those who do not have food." (Fiqh-us-Sunnah)
Another Islamic tradition (hadith) stresses the spiritual reward for feeding the needy. In that tradition, God is quoted as saying: "(O humankind). . .Did you not know that had you fed (those in need), you would surely have found (the reward for doing so) with Me?" (Hadith Qudsi)
In the Quran, Islam's revealed text, God said: "(The truly virtuous are those) who feed the poor, the orphan and the captive for the love of God." (76:8)
God also states: "What will explain to you the path that is steep? It is the freeing of a (slave) from bondage, or the giving of food in a day of famine to an orphan relative or to a needy (stranger) in distress, and to be of those who believe, enjoin patience (in
adversity) and encourage deeds of kindness and compassion." (90:12-17)
Because Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday, Americans of all faiths have an opportunity to offer their own perspective on this uniquely American gathering.
Muslims are taught to thank God on all occasions, even in times of difficulty.
The Prophet Muhammad said: "The first to be summoned to paradise on the Day of Resurrection will be those who praise God in prosperity and adversity." He also said, "Whoever does not thank people, does not thank God." (Al-Tirmidhi)
So this year, when we celebrate with friends and family this Thanksgiving, let us all encourage deeds of kindness and compassion, count our blessings and show true thankfulness by sharing whatever we have with those in need.
Giving thanks and performing acts of kindness should be incorporated in our lives every day of the year, not just at Thanksgiving.