By Susan Schwartz, TMO
Readers of The Muslim Observer will be familiar with the ILM organization. ILM is the Arabic word for knowledge and is also an acronym for intellect, love, and mercy. Many programs have sprung from the fountain of ILM. One of the most important is Humanitarian Day, a project coordinated by of the Coalition to Preserve Human Dignity (CPHD).
Humanitarian Day was founded and held annually during the holy month of Ramadan and fulfills the charitable work required of Muslims by their faith. The event is held in various cities throughout the state of California and consists of booths that offer services and goods to the needy.
Among the goods are basic hygiene items, new clothes, women specific products, toys, bathing items, and fresh warm meals. Services include social services information, volunteer workshops, and basic medical assessments coordinated by the UMMA Community Clinic with possible referrals if a problem is discovered. The event that was founded in 2000 has now served nearly 80,000 needy persons. The event has been covered by all the major media outlets such as ABC, FOX News, NBC, and many others.
[This reporter has been present at the Humanitarian Day held in Los Angeles in what is commonly referred to as Skid Row. The charity shown by the Humanitarian Day workers, their compassion, and their egalitarianism in dealing with men who are considered disposable in our society was extremely impressive]. On one occasion Steven Gilliland, of the Church of Latter Day Saints, stated â€œ this work was giving American back it soulâ€
Mr. Umar Aâ€™ Hakim, a revert to Islam, will be familiar to readers of The Muslim Observer because of his position with ILM as the Associate Director. He is also the Director of Humanitarian Dayâ€™s National effort and deeply involved in the annual planning, logistics, leadership training, and execution, and has consented to an interview.
TMO: When was the first Humanitarian Day held and in what city?
Mr. Hakim: The first Humanitarian Day was held in 2001 in Los Angeles California. We often quote the beginning actually starting in 2000, which was the first ILM Foundation community sponsored Ramadan Homeless feeding on Skid row.
TMO: If you have been part of Humanitarian Day since its inception, how has it expanded?
Mr. Hakim: I joined the ILM Foundation in 2004, at a time when I needed development. Under the philosophy of teaching life skills, Allah empowered us to establish and embrace change. The mentoring of Imam Saadiq Saafir and the companionship of Naim Shah Jr. and Hanafi Shakur, prepared me for today. Over the years H-Day has transformed the way Muslims expedite domestic service and good will during Ramadan. Meaning, we engage our responsibility for charity; sharing with communities throughout California and abroad. H-Day is birthing new leaders and new open ideas. Such as youth and women leadership development, High School Muslim Student Union, associations like the Ansar Service Partnership at the University of Southern California, and the CPHD team of over 20 Muslim humanitarian leaders nationwide.
Humanitarian Day has also transformed our staff. Our own Taswiyah Mutazz, Director of HD monthly, said. â€œ ILMâ€™s philosophy of service with dignity and not seeking any acknowledgement is addictive because it makes me feel my service is purely for the pleasure of God.â€
If I look at myself entering ILM as a volunteer in 2004 and in approximately eight years evolving to direct one of the largest national domestic humanitarian programs during Ramadan in America, a graduate of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute housed at the University of Southern California, alumni of the Community Organizing Residency Program with LA Voice, active member of several Islamic centers, and recently the completion of Umrah in Mecca itâ€™s a social service phenomena that impact the individual and the society. All praise is due to God and I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve the community. Our consultation assists other social organizations, with insight to urban Los Angeles and Californiaâ€™s social issues. Our philosophy and companionship have prepped me for this type of organizing.
TMO: Please tell us of any additional cities which will enjoy Humanitarian Day this year.
Mr. Hakim: We have scheduled eight California cities this year. Updates are available on the following web site: http://goo.gl/MFv24.
TMO: Tell us, please, about Imam Saafir
Mr. Hakim: Imam Saadiq Saafir, is a remarkable human being. He is a very humble committed servant of God, whose life is devoted to extract the treasure from the Holy Quran, and insure its richness is shared with the community. ILM Foundation is a product of his knowledge, work and vision. Today, he is just as active attending the Masjid for Jummah prayer, class and all the special events. He is mentoring his son, Imam Jihad Saafir, who is the resident Imam of Masjid Ibaadillah and working on his Masterâ€™s Degree. He reads almost three sections of Quran every day and still finds time to exercise and advise others. Just recently, I accompanied Imam Saadiq on a two city tour of ILM Foundation SEED After school project which he enjoyed very much.
TMO: What groups do you ally yourself with? How do they find out about your work, or did you approach them?
Mr. Hakim: Papa Shah, Director of ILMâ€™s Prison In-Reach Program, always says, â€œthe reward is tied to the workâ€ and since 2009, I have been blessed to aligned myself with influential social networks. In 2009 I applied and was accepted into American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute (AMCLI). Assisting Muslim leaders to develop a vision, apply strategy tools for critical thinking; thus producing a professional cohort of enhanced capacities, to be effective in today civic arena. I was then recruited for NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Dialogue for Change. Where Muslims and Jewish leaders come together to bridge thought and create working relationships here in Los Angeles. Through AMCLI I then applied for a Community Organizing Residency (COR) with LA Voice PICO. Bend The Arc (formerly Jewish Funds for Justice) established this program, giving an opportunity to learn community organizing with faith-based social justice organization. This work has configure me congruently with effective people and organizations. All based upon the Los Angeles African Muslim Narrative, I so much respect and stand on as heritage. This is the paradigm of our founder Imam Saadiq Saafir, who is one of co-founders of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California and Common Ground Muslim Jewish Dialogue along with Stephen Rhode after September 11.
TMO: Are there Humanitarian Day presentations that remain in your memory because of any particular reaction on the part of the recipients?
Mr. Hakim: Many memories, especially those testimonies in the â€œPeople Helping Peopleâ€ video found on Youtube/ilmercy. I have moments where recipients pull you aside and express their gratitude for us continuing this help saying, â€œwe look for the Muslims to come every year.â€ Serving humanity helps us expiate sins and adjust our perspectives to what is truly a memorizing reality. On another occasion, I remember pacing up and down a 1,000 person serving line during H-Day when one lady yells out, â€œI love you for what you doing for usâ€ it chills down my body because when it is all said and done, this is what H-Day is all about.
TMO: Do you work with elected officials?
Mr. Hakim: Most recently we have been recognized by California Senator Carol Liu with an honor of achievement for service in the La Canada Muslim community,. Our CPHD partners, the La Canada and Pasadena communities hosted this event. South Coast Interfaith Council also awarded us with an humanitarian honor, and leadership of the Skid Row Community honored us as well with an award. We also must acknowledge the office of Jan Perry being a service in helping arrange H-Days logistics, hopefully their donation and participation could continue for this human service. It is a blessing to have the representation of city and state officials and grassroots orgs recognized H-Dayâ€™s work, having presence greatly appreciated. .. We work well with Los Angeles Law Enforcement, as they have partnered with corporate America for in-kind donations. We have also received a certificate of appreciate from the Mayor of Corona Norco and their Interfaith Council with Imam Siddiqi. Our relationship with LA Voice and their work is bringing us in contact with the LAâ€™s Mayor Office. Our efforts and relationships are growing on the basis of having expertise and equity in Los Angeles and abroad.
TMO: Have you added any other countries besides Indonesia and Ghana?
Mr. Hakim: ILM Foundation is embarking on the 4th Annual Humanitarian Day in Indonesia. The effort in mainly coordinate my current and graduate students. The event has expanded in theory and practice. It has move beyond the urban into the rural areas. In theory the focus has become to think of ways to development additional sustainable support services.
ILMâ€™s work is Ghana is growing due to our partnership with Bureau of Social in Accra, Ghana. Our work covers over three regions. Our health care imitative focuses on breast cancer and has provided screening and basic follow up services to over 500 women. During one of our events in 2010 the new elected President Ata Millsâ€™s wife attended our sponsored Breast Cancer Awareness Walk and Rally. ILM also sponsors a youth soccer club and would like to thank Zenni Sports for all their support. In addition to all the above ILM is expanding through our partnership with BSS into the construction of water wells, Mosque, small schools and community centers. We are extremely proud of ILM development in this area in less than 5 years.
TMO: When you work in Indonesia and Ghana what is your status? Are you considered NGO? Do you work directly with the government or with other groups in these countries?
Mr. Hakim: ILM Foundation is a 501 c 3 organization. For our international work we partner with existing NGO organizations in both Indonesia and Ghana.
TMO: If you have entered into other fields of work, please feel free to tell my newspaper about it.
Mr. Hakim: Yes, in 2011 I awarded a grant for certification by USCâ€™s Marshall School of Business, in New Media Management. Since then I have been producing original content and features for my blog at www.createavoice.org. Urban life has influenced the world and I intend to remind the world with new media blog-ver-sa-tions (blog+conversation). Recently I have filed business status of my new media consultancy and soon my content will be syndicated to other blogging communities.
Also we have two after school pilot programs. Our intention is, â€œEvolve Digital Education into a New Paradigm of Cognitive Learning.â€ Assisting urban youth ages 12-18 to develop and raise their GPA. In a wi-fi environment and we provided new notebooks engaging Khan Academy for about 30 students. All apart of the mission, â€œTeaching Life Skills, to Replace Social Ills.â€ We are crossing New Media and digital divide, around digital literacy in Urban America. We have worked cut out and our team is ready for it… May Allah accept intentions, service and our blue ocean mind frame.
Readers may access the following: www.facebook.com/whoopwoop, www.createavoice.org, and follow @whoopwoop on Twitter. On behalf of my newspaper and myself, I want to thank you for your time and effort in giving a truly excellent interview.