Imam Siraj Wahhaj’s Life-Altering Experience

Imam Siraj Wahhaj will always be known as a pioneer of the Islamic movement in the United States since the late 1970s. His humble demeanor, contagious smile, and no fuss attitude pull people of all ages and walks of life towards his story-time-style discussions. Imam Siraj is often noted for speaking fondly of his family, masjid, community, and lessons from the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). However, what he describes as a “life-altering” experience occurred during his week-long trip to Kenya with Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD).

As part of its Youth Empowerment Program, HHRD sends college-aged students from across the nation to participate in a week-long humanitarian trip serving those communities supported and sponsored by donors through a variety of its programs. In 2018, Imam Siraj Wahhaj joined HHRD’s Youth for Africa group to witness a behind-the-scenes look at HHRD Africa’s field teams’ service to communities in need. “I wish that we could take all the Muslims in America on the trips Helping Hand does. I want to give them a shout-out for having the wisdom in letting others see what’s really going on.”

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HHRD is registered as an International NGO (INGO) with offices and team members in Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, and Tanzania. They conduct several developmental programs and projects, including Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH), Healthcare, Orphan Support, Skills Development and Livelihood, and Seasonal programs. Imam Siraj Wahhaj served as a mentor for a group of 22 students who were able to visit HHRD sponsored orphans, build a new water well, distribute food to needy families and help with cataract eye operations.

When reflecting on his trip from the coastal town of Kilifi to the Eldere Village in Madogo and other stops in between, Imam Siraj remembers his interaction with a five or six-year-old sponsored orphaned girl who, till this day, holds a special place in his heart. When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she replied, “a doctor.” “That just touched me,” shared Imam Siraj. “Seeing these orphaned children playing with all these young Muslim sisters from America and laughing, Subhan’Allah! If people could just see the happiness on the face of not only the children but also these counselors.”

It goes without saying that the poverty and helplessness he witnessed stirred a desire to take charge and change these conditions. His message for Muslims all over the world: “What are we going to do when we learn that there are people who are suffering?”

This trip highlighted the dire and immediate need of the citizens of these African countries who struggle with ongoing droughts, malnutrition, blindness, and much more. HHRD’s Africa Relief Fund focuses on providing free eye exams and cataract surgeries, as it is responsible for 51% of world blindness. For $150, donors can give proper medication, surgeries, and recovery workshops to ensure successful treatments. Moreover, water trucking to drought-affected areas brings clean water and provides safety and security for women and young girls who walk miles searching for water. HHRD water and water sanitation projects in the region are lifesaving initiatives for families who are dying to live. 

Children are the future, and creating a future for a child whose circumstance entails unsurmountable hurdles serves as a continuous act of charity. “Do everything with a good heart, expecting no reward except from Allah,” Imam Siraj reminds us. HHRD programs in Africa such as Education and Orphan Support, Water for Life, and Skills Development and Livelihood equip beneficiaries with essential knowledge and opportunities that open doors to success. The beautiful reminder by Imam Siraj to seek one’s reward from Allah through serving others is truly a key to our own success. 

But the Imam remains hopeful as he reminisced about this trip, “When people see, many times they do better when they know better.” With 16 years of service, HHRD has become one of the most trusted humanitarian relief charities in the USA. Ranked among the top 3% of 9,000 NGOs, HHRD has received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator over the past nine years. HHRD’s track record has shown complete transparency and accountability in their project and programs worldwide. HHRD is a member of Inter-Action and an accredited charity by the Better Business Bureau with an A+ rating. With an overall score of 98.23 out of 100, HHRD has earned the trust of US donors. 

Never to end a discussion without a deep thought or takeaway, Imam Siraj presents a spin-off of a famous Martin Luther King quote about life’s most important question. In his version of the quote, he adds, “Life’s most persistent question is what are you doing for yourself by serving others?” Allah reminds us whatever good you do and spend is for yourself.”

For information on HHRD” s Africa Relief efforts, visit their Africa Relief or Ramadan pages. 

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post

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