SoFlo Profiles of Service to Humanity
The South Florida Muslim population is vibrant, diverse, and socially engaged. We hope in this blog to bring you a number of different voices that make up the SoFlo Muslim community. Each month we will be highlighting an individual that has decided to go above and beyond themselves. The common thread of all the individuals profiled is their dedication to serving the community at large, regardless of faith. We also hope to inspire you to different pathways that one can get involved, big or small, in your own unique way.
Financial and Development Director
SANAD Trust Foundation
What type of community work do you do?
My husband and I co-founded Sanad Trust Foundation, Inc. 10 years ago; a grass-roots community organization serving Miami, Broward and Palm Beach counties. “Our mission is to provide education, wellness, and community programs that preserve the innate good and serve the well-being of children, families, and elders”. We believe that children and families are the core and heart of any community. If we can offer support, find creative solutions to their struggles and enrich their lives, we can create better, healthier communities across the nation. Our principles and values are inspired by faith and Prophetic guidance, which we believe offer a transformative model to building and sustaining communities. Our tagline embodies what we are striving to do for the children and families that entrust us; “Have Adab (moral etiquette), Share Knowledge. Show Love.”
In a world that appears bereft of good character, plagued by an excess of information and misinformation and polarized between compassion and hatred, the world more than ever is in need of such an effort, especially for our children and elders. The work that I do with the Foundation is not just a job or even a passion, it’s a lifelong commitment to develop and institutionalize a vision for our children and families. It’s personal and sacred for two reasons; it’s connected to my children, their upbringing and their future and it’s been an opportunity to be in service of humanity as inspired by my Islamic faith and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). I feel really blessed knowing that my personal, academic, spiritual, and career goals can all be aligned through my work with Sanad Trust Foundation. My academic training is in Finance, Business, and Nonprofit Management but I’ve always had a strong desire to learn about my faith. This has led me to pursue many Islamic educational opportunities including those in alimah studies, Arabic language , Islamic Teacher Education. and others. I see myself as a lifelong learner and plan to continue the pursuit of education, God-willing “from the cradle to the grave”.
What brought you to South Florida?
I moved to Miami, Florida in 2007, soon after my marriage to Rehan. I was born and raised for the first 11 years of my life in Gujranwala, Pakistan until my family moved to Montreal, Canada in 1995. My husband Rehan has been a part of the South Florida/Miami community since he was 2 years old. His family moved to Miami from Montreal, Canada in 1980. I guess my husband’s connection to his birth city was strong as he would travel back 28 years after to marry me in the same city of Montreal:) My mother-in-law Nigar Mirza and my late father-in-law Shaukat Mirza (May Allah have mercy on him) are a part of the generation that are considered the pioneers in Miami; those who built the mosques, established halal stores, organized cultural programs to preserve their heritage. The work that Rehan and I are able to do today is a direct result of the foundation our parent’s generations laid through their sacrifice, hard work and incredible resilience. I met many of these pioneers and their families as a newlywed. Along the way, we befriended many others that either moved to Florida to raise their families or had been living here but our paths never crossed. We have been blessed with great friendships and beautiful company, alhamdulillah. I am grateful for the life Allah has allowed us to build here in Miami.
What causes are you passionate about?
I happen to be passionate about a lot of things and they are not just “causes.”. I feel that passion is not something that needs to be reserved or expended on a cause only. It is an integral part of what makes me a human. As a mother, I’m passionate about my children and their happiness. As a wife, I’m passionate about building a meaningful life with my husband while supporting his dreams and goals (as well as those that are shared). As a professional, I’m passionate about my role and duty to the Foundation and advancing its mission to the best of my ability. As a daughter, I’m passionate about the needs of our elders and our responsibility to serve them. As a Muslimah, I’m passionate about my relationship with God, His messenger (peace be upon him), and the book of Allah. As a human being, I’m passionate about my work and contributions to the world and humanity around me, striving to make this world a little better than what I inherited. In short, I take my responsibility towards myself and others seriously and give to each area that deserves my time and attention, passionately.
Can you give a piece of advice on how to get active in the community?
Getting involved with the community can mean different things for different people. For some, it may mean volunteering for a food or toy drive. For others, it may mean serving on a board of a mosque or community center. This community involvement also evolves over time and takes different forms with the varying needs and circumstances of our lives like marriage, birth, loss, etc. Our profession, socio-economic circle, peers and academic training all influence and shape how and why we choose to get involved with the community. Our personal interest, motivations and goals can dictate whether we stay or walk away from the opportunities to get involved. My advice to myself and others is to be intentional and deliberate about the why of your involvement. Define your intention and then remain sincere in following it through. This also means that your community involvement and service should not harm others but rather improve and better the state of the community and the lives of people. Find an institution or a mentor that can help you find clarity and match your passion for community service to a cause or a project.
Can you give us a personal story that makes South Florida so unique?
A personal story that reflects the connection I have to South Florida begins with the birth of my son Jamal in 2009. Jamal’s birth was the catalyst for starting Sanad Trust. Rehan and I wanted to preserve his fitra (innate good nature) for as long as possible, while providing him with opportunities for academic, social, emotional and spiritual growth. We envisioned an educational space for him and our daughter Tabassum (whom Allah blessed us with two years into the start of the project) that would offer a safe, moral and inspiring environment with the highest-quality.
We wanted Jamal and Tabassum to develop an Islamic worldview while having a confident American identity. We also wanted them to have the social company of peers whose parents shared the concern we had for our children. As our work continued, we saw a natural need for our own physical and spiritual needs to grow with our children, so we began an initiative called Sanad Body and Soul. Thinking about the needs of our elders first hand, we offered services to the elders through the Guardians initiative, a social club for seniors. These efforts together, under one roof, show us how much positive influence this surrounding circle of parents, grandparents, friends and family has on shaping the mind and heart of children. We also observed a positive residual impact on the grandparents (the elders) through their volunteer work and involvement with the Foundation, especially programs that offered inter-generational opportunities for engagement. With the child at the center being the inspiration and the drive, an invisible shield began to emerge through the services of Sanad Trust, providing all those connected to it with spiritual, emotional and intellectual nourishment and protection.
Being a witness to and in service of this work, I have experienced awe and wonder of God’s grace and magnanimity. Despite the lofty dreams my husband and I may share and the challenge of maintaining high aspirations, standing alongside each other and serving this cause has really impacted me deeply; in fact, it has strengthened my commitment to the Foundation’s mission and the South Florida community. It may take our lifetime but if we can contribute towards shaping a framework for the American Muslim Community inspired by prophetic guidance, while being sensitive to the needs of our current times, we would have done a great service. This sentiment is captured in the second tagline of Sanad Trust, Building Hearts to Build Communities.
Whether we fail or succeed is not in our control.; striving towards this noble goal however, is. It would be a great Sanad (an unbroken chain of transmission that connects us to the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him and his way) to leave this world with, and stand before Allah to at least be able to say, we tried.