So just how does ICNA Relief utilize your zakat? We’d like to share a story from one of our beneficiaries, Zahra, age 14.  Her family struggled, even going without food for three days, before they learned of ICNA Relief. We’ve provided this family of four young children and two adults long term case management, rental assistance, food and more. Like so many refugees, they are driven to give back and have spent countless weekends volunteering at the ICNA Relief Refugee Resource Center in Chicago. Building Peaceful Bridges, a group of volunteers we trained serve as their mentors, and continue to work with the family even after they’ve relocated to Indiana. Thanks to your zakat, ICNA Relief Chicago delivered services worth $2.6 million, in 2017 alone, to families like hers.


Hello, my name is Zahra. I am 14. I go to Penn High in Indiana and was in Chicago attending Middle School before that. You can call this my life story, but it wasn’t directed by me. It’s my life story but I want you to take it as a lesson. Life is like a ocean, sometimes it’s calm and sometimes it’s stormy, but it still has its beauty. I hope, inshallah, God willing, none of you go through the stormy part, but I have never heard of an ocean that never had a storm. Which means that you will go through tough times, maybe not now, but you will. Anytime something bad happens or something doesn’t go as planned, just pause and think about this: Allah is testing you. Testing you to see how strong your heart is.


I was born on May,1, 2003. A month after the Iraqi government fell. My mom gave birth in a hospital, to a candle light, with explosions and gunshots outside. I was born in a storm. Imagine what the rest of my life would be like?


I grew up in a rich household. My family owned a 3-floor, 6-bedroom house, or a more appropriate word would be mansion. My dad worked as a civil engineer; my mom  was young and beautiful. She still is by the way. But every up has a down, and you should remember that, in reality there is no happily ever after.

But there’s one more thing about life. If Allah is in your favor then every down has an up.

(During the) civil war in Iraq, my dad lost his job, we lost the house, and we lost our happiness. We had to escape to Jordan. The next stop was America. Keep in mind I was about 11 years old,at this time. This is when I started to know the true meaning of life.


America was something I’d never seen before. It was something new.  Three weeks after we came here my dad was diagnosed with cancer. You might know how I felt. I had to help my family in anyway. They couldn’t help me anymore. I had to help them and myself. I had to learn English, really fast, so I could do good in school. And so I could read and translate every medical paper and bill there was.  The only person who was there to help me was myself. Those whole two years, I had to live helping myself. That’s how I grew up.

My dad beat cancer. I mean, he’s still here. He’s the most loving dad in the whole world. Every dad and mom are the best in the world, you should love them with all the love you have in the world.


So, moral of the story, whether you are 5 or 50, love your parents as much as you can.  There’s no guarantee that all of us will be here tomorrow, including your parents. Make everyday, every minute, every second that you’re with them count.


God willing, when you see your parents, I hope you tell them how much you love them. I hope that you will remember my story, and that Allah gives us tests but He also gives us courage. If I can fight every challenge in a new country, you can fight every challenge and beat it, too!

* This essay has been edited for length

Photo Caption: Zahra featured with her family.