Welcome to this week’s Grateful Heart Monday entry, where gratitude is always the main focus, which for today is for Kazi Mannan, owner of The Sakina Halal Grill in Washington, D.C., a place that truly makes a huge impact and a big difference with the homeless and the hungry.
At the Sakina Halal Grill, no one is EVER turned away for a meal, even if they don’t have any money, and no one is ever asked about their circumstances either when they can’t pay. There are never any judgments and no questions ever asked, period. Inspired by his mother, Sakina, whom he named his restaurant after, Kazi was raised with nine siblings in Pakistan without access to running water or electricity. Even though they were immensely poor, Kazi’s mother still consistently gave away abundant amounts of food to those in her village in need. Following one basic philosophy, her belief was that God would always make sure there was plenty left for her family and she was never wrong, as Kazi and his siblings never went hungry. When Kazi eventually came to America at 25 years old looking for greater opportunities with only five dollars in his pocket, he worked hard as a gas station attendant and a limo driver saving every penny he could, consistently praying that God would guide him to what he was meant to do with his life and his earnings. Almost twenty years later, that answer finally came.
Kazi had been frequently dining at an Indian restaurant downtown and eventually had become good friends with its owner. When that owner began to experience financial hardships and was complaining about the difficulties in continuing to run his restaurant, Kazi felt his spirit move and said he wanted to buy his friend’s restaurant. A week later, the place became his. After redecorating and naming the restaurant after his mother, he opened and immediately went to a local homeless shelter and invited everyone there to join him for a free meal. Many of the homeless didn’t believe him and figured there must be some catch. There wasn’t. After Kazi convinced them of that, they came and enjoyed a delicious authentic Pakistani-Indian meal, as they learned his mission was to never let anyone go hungry, NO MATTER WHAT. Word spread quickly after that, both to the homeless and to many soon-to-be paying customers.
The Sakina Halal Grill has now become exceptionally popular and extremely busy and has a four-star rating. The homeless and the paying often sit side by side, including many White House staffers and other noteworthy people from the nation’s capital. Kazi is often asked by his customers how he keeps his place open with serving so many free meals. His answer is always that his only responsibility is to do what he knows is right and to leave the rest to God, which thus far, he’s been quite successful, never having any financial issues, even during this Coronavirus pandemic. His doors remain open from 1pm to 9pm every day for takeout for both the homeless who can’t pay and for the customers who can.
Kazi has one wish for every anyone who comes to know him and that’s for each person to share a meal once a week with someone less fortunate. His belief is that if everyone did, the entire world would begin to align with the ultimate goal of achieving peace and understanding. Kazi’s latest venture is an even greater far-reaching project to achieve this goal. He’s created a foundation that’s going to partner with 50 restaurants across the country, all operating on Sakina’s model to feed the hungry and the homeless. Whenever asked for personal advice from those who become inspired by his philosophy, Kazi suggests each perform one simple act of kindness for 30 days straight outside their immediately family, even if it’s simply offering a compliment to a stranger, and keeping a daily kindness journal in the process. He says in doing so it will become a habit and make a big difference both in their life and in the world.
So, out of all the gratitude I’ve expressed thus far under this series of my blog, I honestly can’t think of a better person who deserves to be the focus of some gratitude, which is why I’m honoring Kazi Mannan and The Sakina Halal Grill for today’s Grateful Heart Monday.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson