When people think of Thanksgiving, they think of how much food they will eat, the outfits they’ll wear, football, and of course, Black Friday. Despite its more superficial modern associations, the essence of Thanksgiving is universal, and has spiritual significance that reflects values of people from all faiths.

As a devout Muslim I was raised with Islamic values. Giving thanks to Allah for everything He has provided and doing good in the world around me are central to those beliefs. Giving back to the community, whether contributing food to a food drive or donating personal time and money, people are able to humbly come together and appreciate one another’s kindness. I practice gratitude not only as a Muslim but as an American. Thanksgiving is a celebration of those values.

The time to be thankful and give back has no color, creed or language. No matter their background, families across the nation come together in the name of Thanksgiving. In Chicago, as they have done for 13 years, Sabeel Food Pantry and American Muslims for Activism and Learning (AMAL) have teamed up to provide turkeys for families in need. Through kindness, community service, and programs like these, hundreds of families are able to have turkeys this week.

Thanksgiving Day is not a holiday based on religion, but rather a celebration of togetherness, giving back, and recognizing the things that make us grateful. It embraces a noble spirit that encourages Americans from diverse origins to do inspiring things. As an American Muslim living in a largely Judeo-Christian culture, Thanksgiving holds special meaning. While many holidays may seem exclusive, this week is an occasion for all faiths. It embodies, not the America that so often is, but the America that our founding fathers intended; one where everyone is welcome at the table.

From my family to yours, I wish you a blessed thanksgiving, and always, from the bottom of my heart, Alhamdulillah for all you have given.