A small 17th-century mosque in a populous Istanbul district is providing free showers, clothing, and food to the homeless thanks to the efforts of its philanthropist imam, Daily Sabah reported.
“This is the only mosque across the country where at least 50 homeless people are able to take a free bath on a daily basis,” imam Osman Gökrem, 52, who has been working at the mosque for 17 years, told Anadolu Agency (AA) in an exclusive interview.
The project in Selime Hatun Mosque in the Beyoğlu district began in 2017 when a bathwater heater was installed inside the mosque.
“At first, three or five people were coming and taking a shower here. Now we get at least 50 people a day. There are also some homeless individuals who come from different parts of the city to take a bath,” he said.
“I was always wondering where they can take a bath, where they can eat, how they buy what they need because nobody wants them.
“When a homeless person goes to a barbershop, the barber doesn’t let them in. Not because they have no money, but because they’re dirty and smell bad. Hamams [Turkish public baths] do the same, they don’t want to let them in,” Gökrem said.
Supported by donations, the imam also delivers free food every Saturday at the mosque, which is open 24/7. He also delivers clothing donated by people.
He also shaves and gives rough sleepers free haircuts in order to boost their chances of reintegrating into society.
“I helped some 15-20 homeless people shave or with a haircut this Saturday. If we think that it’s not our business to shave them or give them haircuts, then we’ll lose them,” he said, stressing the importance of helping the needy.
The imam urged people to take action and help the homeless, each in his community.
“Come here and hand out the supplies yourself,” he urged.
“Do something personally. I do not accept donations made through a bank account. The rich need to look into the poor’s eyes and invite them into their homes in order to understand their situation.”
The imam concluded the interview with a verse from the Quran: “Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”
As one of the five pillars of Islam, Zakat or ritual charity is a religious obligation for all Muslims who meet the necessary criteria of wealth. It’s a mandatory charitable contribution, the right of the poor to find relief from the rich, and is considered to be tax or obligatory alms.
Islamic Shari’ah also has another type of optional donation called Sadaqah. This term is used in the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah for both Zakat and charity.
Last February, the oldest mosque in Canada opened its doors to shelter the needy and homeless of all faiths between 6 pm and 10 am as temperatures were expected to reach a chilling low of -43°C overnight
In the UK, a Birmingham mosque opened its doors this week to help homeless and rough sleepers during freezing winter temperatures.
Another Seattle Muslim group also bought rooms for the homeless last weekend to escape snow and freezing weather.