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A 1,400-year tradition: How a DFW community center donated to thousands during the pandemic

At the beginning of the pandemic, Sufi Master Professor Nader Angha told M.T.O. that it was their responsibility to alleviate the pain and suffering.
Credit: MTO Shahmaghsoudi

FRISCO, Texas — 4,500 baby hygiene products, 17,000 school supplies and toys. 97,000 PPE items. 

These are just some of the many donations delivered across the globe by one organization throughout the COVID pandemic.

But Dr. Hooman Sedighi wants to make one thing clear. For the M.T.O. Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism, which has a center in Frisco, these donations have been a priority since it formed hundreds of years ago.

"(Shahmaghsoudi is) a School of Islamic Sufism that dates back 1,400 years," said Dr. Sedighi. "It denotes the 42 masters of this school, from the time of the Prophet Muhammad - peace be upon him - to the present."

Dr. Sedighi says one of the main principles of Sufism is "Khidmat," which focuses on servicing humanity. It's been a priority since the very beginning for Maktab Tarighat Oveyssi (M.T.O.) Shamaghsoudi, but it became even more prominent during COVID.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Sufi Master Professor Nader Angha told M.T.O. that it was their responsibility to alleviate the pain and suffering that other people were facing. So organizers at the schools worldwide started looking for how they could help their communities. 

"We actually noticed that not only was it a pandemic regarding health issues that impacted first responders and the general human community. Nobody was spared," Dr. Sedighi said. "But it also was an economical pandemic. Everything shut down, people were out of jobs."

Under Professor Angha's direction, the M.T.O. Shahmaghsoudi, including their Frisco location, decided to approach their servicing plan in three ways. 

For Dr. Sedighi, their first project started close to home. The schools created personal protection equipment (PPE) to give to first responders, like the ones at the hospital he worked at.

"At the hospital, we were lacking PPE's. We did not have enough masks, we did not have enough gowns. The infection control was obviously a significant issue," he said.

Each school around the world made masks and gowns. In North Texas, the M.T.O. used 3-D printers to create face shields. They delivered them not only to local healthcare workers, but also to police, firefighters, postal workers and other that had to deal with multiple people while working during the pandemic.

The second service was to make care packages for low-income families or those that lost their jobs. They sent 18,000 packages worldwide with food, hygiene products and self-care items.

Lastly, they helped provide meditation exercises with volunteers from the M.T.O Sufi Psychology Association. The goal for the exercises was to help control anxiety from the pandemic hardships.

Recently, M.T.O. Dallas donated 1,600 books for kids in the Arlington Independent School District. Dr. Mahdi Dezham said the school was asked directly by mayor Jim Ross' office since the mayor was familiar with their charity events.

"In the past, we've had experience with school districts and they have expressed how summer reading was so important. And as the students come back that following year, they come back much more stronger," said Dr. Dezham.

The book donation happened while others from the center were donating the 4,500 baby products for families in Dallas. 

Both events were ways to celebrate onn the holiest days of the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Adha. Dr. Sedighi said the point of Eid al-Adha or "Feast of Sacrifice" is to find a sense of closeness to God through serving others.

"In essence, when you are able to gain proximity to the Lord, that is the way the Lord also gains proximity to you and touches your heart because that's where he resides," he said.

Many organizations known for serving the community have been facing a shortage of donations and/or volunteers during the pandemic, even as the demand for help continued to rise.

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But M.T.O. Dallas says they're continuing to show up and help where they can and as much as they can. Outside of service being a religious principle, organizers say it's an honor to give to those that need help.

"We have been so blessed with the opportunity of 'khidmat,'" said Dr. Dezham. "As we're giving, we're actually receiving. The love that we've received during all these different events that's happened since COVID, it's just been tremendous."

The M.T.O. Dallas Center are already working on several service events. Anyone that would like to help or ask for help can email them at angha.dfw.us@mto.org. 

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