On Friday, January 24, the Muslim Student Association, or MSA, met to end their three-month-long book drive. Books occupied all the tables and were sorted by the students of MSA to give to their charities of choice.
The book drive started on November 22 and ended on January 17. Books donated between November 22 and December 19 were donated to Lazarus House, a halfway home for families who have lost their homes and are now receiving government assistance.
MSA sponsor Salina Naser said that MSA received about 65 books during this time frame.
“They got 65 books from them just before Christmas, so they were really really happy. They said that all the books were picked up by everybody,” Naser said. “The adult books went to those who came in and slept, and the kids came in and picked up whatever books they wanted on Christmas morning.”
Additionally, MSA donated the books that they received between January 6 and January 17 to two different charities: the Covenant House — a halfway home for teenagers in downtown Chicago — and Humdard — a Muslim-run charity for battered women.
President and senior Zohaib Farooq said that MSA received an overwhelming amount of books to donate to these shelters.
“There were over 250 books and we were amazed to see the amount of support our community gave into for this cause,” Farooq said.
Where to donate the books shaped up as a difficult choice, according to sophomore and club member Shahzaib Farooq. He explained that they chose the charities based upon convenience as well as importance.
“We chose the places that were the easiest in the sense that we could get the whole entire community together in things that are common and just help out each other. This is a common cause, you know, everybody can help out with this, and everybody could help spread positivity,” Shahzaib said.
Senior and Vice President Iman Sheikh said that she wanted to donate books to entertain the people that MSA donated to. She said that the whole point of the book drive is to bring a smile to the people at the shelter’s faces.
“Giving them these little books is a way to give them a little freedom and light in their lives, and let them know that there is still some good in the world,” Sheikh said.
Naser said that the hardest part of the book drive took root in sorting the different genres of books. However, Naser said that a positive flourished as a result of this sorting process that made it all worth it.
“One positive that came out of it, is a lot of people donated their previous English school books. So, we actually got to give all of those to the care closet,” Naser said. “So everything that was part of the english curriculum got recycled back into the school’s own care closet, which is really awesome.”
No matter how difficult community service may be, a big part of Islam manifests itself in Zakat, the third pillar, which means charity. The five pillars of Islam are of the utmost importance for Muslims around the world. The members of MSA said that they do a service project every year due to Zakat.
Secretary and senior Manal Syeda explained her pride for MSA as a result of them upholding this pillar.
“One big part of being a Muslim, one of the pillars is giving back. I feel like as a Muslim and being part of MSA, I feel like we are doing a good job of doing that,” Syeda said.
Sheikh explained that part of being a Muslim manifests itself in community service. She said that she uses Islam as a guiding force in her life. All of her principles are based on the pillars of Islam.
“I know that I am far from perfect, but Islam always makes me want to be so much better, and I think that’s always gonna be an important part of my life,” Sheikh said.
Shahzaib said that he always looked to Islam as a beacon in the dark. However, he also said that being a Muslim proves not much different than just being a good person. He said that he would never force his religion on anyone.
“It doesn’t mean you have to start praying five times a day, no, it just means you do your best to be a good human,” Shahzaib said.
Being a Muslim proves different for everyone, but as the basis of it, Zohaib said that Islam spreads peace and helps those who need it the most.
“A Muslim to me means love, friendship, peace, and support. I love to help others and give back to my community regardless of who it is and where,” Zohaib said.
Sophomore and club member Alina Hussain expressed excitement about doing a book drive this year because she said she thinks that books are universal.
“If you can’t experience the world firsthand, books are a good way to experience it secondhand,” Hussain said.
Junior Danya Danoura engineered the idea to do a book drive. She said that she wants to do her part to help those who are less fortunate.
“Community service is a part of me that I believe could help out those who may be in need of something I could provide. Something I personally, a high school student, could achieve,” Danoura said.
Naser said that she thinks that community service makes for an important attribute not only for the youth in the Islamic communities but also for the youth of this generation in general. She said that if the youth starts now and donates something as small as a book, it will become a habit. With this habit, she said that society can become more productive.
“I think we as a society need our youth to step up to the plate. Some of us are dropping the ball here, and that’s not good,” Naser said.
Sheikh said that although volunteering consumes a lot of time, she would not back away from it for a second. She added that being involved in the community serves as a part of her daily life.
“Just knowing that you can make a difference in someone’s life by doing the littlest things really makes it all worth it,” Sheikh said.
Syeda said that MSA would stay after the meeting ended for at least an hour as a result of planning this book drive. She expressed her pride for the club and the time that they committed to the project.
“Making someone happy … it is just good to know that the time we put in is doing some good for others,” Syeda said.
Sheikh expressed her joy in MSA and their successful book drive. She said that though the book drive is over, she hopes that MSA can influence people to start giving back to the community, no matter how small the donation. However, for now, she said MSA can celebrate their service and dedication.
“I never ever expected these many books to be donated. we got at least 300 books, and I could not be happier with the turnout,” Sheikh said.
Namratha Prasad is a Features Editor for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl