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Service to the Community

by Shannon Thomason


Muhammad Saleem, Birmingham Islamic Society treasurer, helps unload boxes of halal chicken. Photography: Andrea Mabry
Muhammad Saleem, Birmingham Islamic Society treasurer, helps unload boxes of halal chicken.
Photography: Andrea Mabry

Thanks to the Birmingham Islamic Society, shoppers who keep halal now have access to fresh protein that fits their dietary needs at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s on-campus food pantry, Blazer Kitchen.

Muslim shoppers, including students, were going without protein rather than break their halal religious requirement. UAB Benevolent Fund manager Lisa Higginbotham reached out to the community for help. 

The Birmingham Islamic Society answered the call with a commitment to donate 800 pounds of halal chicken every month, made possible by donations from its members at a cost of $1,500-$2,000 each month. The chicken is delivered by Magic City Harvest to Blazer Kitchen, where volunteers unpack the boxes and distribute the pieces into meal-size bags, which are kept in a refrigerator reserved exclusively for that use.

Halal means “permissible” in Arabic, and it refers to food that is permissible according to Islamic law. Halal food means any food that follows the guidelines and observance of Islamic law. To be considered halal, animals must be slaughtered by a Muslim or a person of the book — meaning Christian and Jewish — who says a blessing. The animal must also be killed by hand, not machine, while also draining the animal’s blood completely — Muslims who eat halal do not consume the fresh blood of animals.

“One of the things we noticed is we had a lot of shoppers who were not able to access the food, especially protein, that they wanted, because of their faith beliefs,” Higginbotham said. “And we were just blown away by the Birmingham Islamic Society’s contribution and their commitment to working with us, to make sure that UAB students have access to halal food.”

Ashfaq Taufique, president emeritus at the Birmingham Islamic Society, handles outreach to the community at large. When the request came to provide protein meeting the Islamic requirement of halal, they jumped on the opportunity. They are also working to get volunteers to help with the packing and distribution of the chicken.  

Kitchen staff preparing foods
Photography: Andrea Mabry

 “This was an opportunity that we could not let go, and thank God for the generosity of some of our community members,” Taufique said. “We have been blessed to be more fortunate, and therefore it is incumbent upon us — it is our faith that requires us — to be generous toward our community and our community members who may not be as fortunate as we are.”

Nasim Uddin, Ph.D., professor and Graduate Program director in the UAB School of Engineering’s Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, is president of the Birmingham Islamic Society.

“The Birmingham Islamic Society has a mission of serving the underserved in particular and also any community that needs help,” Uddin said. “We have been very active for the last 30 years on every front to help the people in need, so we are really excited to have this kind of program and we would like to continue.”