Image: Tayeeb Foods Inc.
Charlie Neibergall  /  AP
Unlike hundreds of other small Iowa businessmen affected by last month's flooding, owner Nazar Osman can't accept low-interest loans to restock his business, Tayeeb Foods Inc.  As a Muslim, he takes a strict interpretation of the Quran and believes he must reject any loan that is repaid with interest.
updated 7/13/2008 2:03:48 PM ET 2008-07-13T18:03:48

Tayeeb Foods Inc. always enjoyed a modest profit, but Nazar Osman said running his six-year-old Sudanese grocery was never about the money.

Now the survival of his store in Coralville depends on finding money, but unlike hundreds of other small Iowa businesses affected by last month's flooding Osman can't accept low-interest loans from the federal Small Business Administration.

Like many Muslims, he takes a strict interpretation of the Quran's prohibition against paying interest.

Osman, 41, was among the thousands of Iowans pushed out of their homes and businesses by flooding last month.

Prepared for flooding, but not eight feet deep
He had prepared for the likelihood that about a foot of water would hit his business, hurriedly raising his freezers, refrigerators and everything else a foot off the ground.

However, the Iowa River eventually filled his store with water 8 feet deep, soaking everything for days.

Image: Nazar Osman
Charlie Neibergall  /  AP
Tayeeb Foods Inc. owner Nazar Osman stands next to his car in a light rain shower.
The grocery played a large role in the community.

"I was serving 400 to 500 people from Sudan and other parts of Africa," Osman said. "It was a small store, but it was important to that community. For the last six years this was the only store surviving in this area for these people."

Osman's landlord is Brian Ho, who says he will rebuild the complex that held his Chinese restaurant and Osman's grocery.

Osman said that gives him hope, but even with a repaired building he figures he must find about $18,000 to reopen and restock — money he said would be difficult to find without paying interest.

Doesn't want to declare bankruptcy
His lawyer has told him the best course may be to declare his businesses bankrupt, but Osman views that as akin to declaring defeat.

"We survived the last six years with little profits," he said. "This is not about profits."

Osman has begun to look into alternative loan programs, run by Muslim banks, and said he will also consider dipping into personal savings if it is feasible.

But in the meantime he tries to keep everything in perspective.

"With all of our losses here, even the loss of a six year effort, I still feel that we were blessed," he said. "I thank God that I have a home that was safe and a job. I can't imagine my wife and five kids if I lost my home."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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