Day on, not off: honoring Martin Luther King Jr and Muhammad Ali through service

by Zana Sahyouni

For Islamic Relief USA, Martin Luther King Jr Day is a Day of Service – to mark the birthday of the activist and civil rights leader, we focus on engaging staff and volunteers to do service work. This “day on, not day off,” gives us an opportunity to reflect on the ongoing fight for racial equality and social justice, while also taking action to make a positive impact in our communities.

This year, are commemorating the whole weekend with six major service events: at Masjid Hamza in Houston, TX,  we will package 1,000 food kits; at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, VA, 440 student volunteers and 70 staff will pack 4,000 food boxes; at the National Islamic Association in Newark, NJ, we will package 1,000 hygiene kits; at the Mosque Foundation Food Pantry, we will package 2,000 hygiene kits; at Nur Ul Islamic Academy in Cooper City, FL, we will assemble over 50,000 meal; and in Tustin, VA, we will package and assemble 1,000 food boxes. The kits will be distributed within the respective communities.

MLK Day is celebrated on the third Monday of January, and this year that happens to fall on the birthday of Muhammad Ali. 

At IRUSA, we recognize Muhammad Ali’s birthday as another “day on, not day off” Day of Service. He was a strong advocate for Islam, often talking about his faith in interviews and using his platform as a famous athlete to promote the religion. Ali believed that his religion taught him the importance of standing up against oppression and fighting for justice. In his own words, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” This aligns well with the Islamic teachings on social justice and helping the underprivileged. 

We believe both men upheld values that align with our core values. MLK Day of Service and Muhammad Ali Day of Service give us the opportunity to reflect on our core values of compassion, integrity, excellence, justice, respect, inclusivity, and sustainability. 

Through service and volunteerism, we can honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali and continue the work they began to create a more just and equitable society for all. 

To learn more about IRUSA volunteer opportunities in your area, visit irusa.org/volunteer.

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