For the past 16 years the Lodi Muslim community has hosted a meal service on the first Sunday of every month at the Salvation Army on North Sacramento Street.
The effort had been led by Taj Khan, who serves as president of the Lodi California Islamic Center Mosque. He sought community volunteers to help take part in hosting a meal at the Salvation Army to change the perception of Muslims and to give back to the community.
“As members of this community it is our responsibility to help the people in our community, because we are all citizens of Lodi,” Khan said.
This past Sunday, Khan was joined by Naseem Khan, director of the Lodi California Islamic Center Mosque’s Janazah Committee, and Ehtesham Qamar, is friend of Taj Khan, at the Salvation Army at 2 p.m. to start cooking and preparing the food.
The men prepared a six-course meal featuring classic Pakistani flavors and paired it with traditional American side dishes. Among the offerings were curry chicken, which is stewed with lentils and chicken broth, basmati rice, a house salad, a bread roll and a slice of cake.
“We serve them a meal we like to eat, and one that I grew up eating,” Qamar said.
“The chicken that we get is halal,” Khan said. “It is cleaner and does not have any hormones or preservatives, and we purchase it from a locally owned grocery store, so we are helping support the community all around,” Khan said.
As guests grabbed a tray from the line, many expressed their gratitude to the volunteers, thanking them and letting them know how much they enjoyed the meal’s ethnic touch.
For Khan, he is adamant about keeping the tradition going and passing it on to the next generation of Muslim youths.
He has gotten his daughter Zeest, an anesthesiologist at Adventist Health Lodi Memorial, and his grandchildren, ages 5 and 7, involved with the effort. He hopes that by including his grandchildren he is helping connect them to their community and their faith.
“Charity is part of our faith, and that is what drives us to do this,” Khan said. “But there is no hidden agenda. We do this because we have to help the people around us. We are responsible for one another as human beings, regardless of our differences,” Khan said.
One of the pillars of Islam is zakat, which means charity. By volunteering, Taj Khan, Naseem Khan, and Qamar all believe that they are both upholding their faith and giving back to their community.