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Muslim Aid Blog

Boxing Day Tsunami 2004 Reflections

At 7:58 in the morning of December 26, 2004 the third largest and longest earthquake ever recorded, unleashed a force 1,500 times greater than the atomic bomb that levelled Hiroshima. Fifteen minutes later waves 30 metres high hit the capital of West Aceh Meulaboh and 30 minutes later they hit Banda Aceh destroying over 60% of its buildings killing 130,000 people. The waves caused deaths in the Nicobar and Andaman Islands, Burma, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Somalia. The world's people responded generously to this mega disaster -- putting governments to shame. 

Let us remember those who lost their lives and how the world came together to help. It was inspiring to see how men and women all over the world came to help with their donations. For many years I have been able to go back to Aceh and sit on the beach and reflect on the impact and meaning of this disaster and life and death. The lesson that I learnt from the Chief Imam of the Grand Mosque of Banda Aceh was that we should be grateful for all the blessings that God has given us and use them properly when we have the opportunity. God is really testing us when He gives rather than when what we have is taken away.

I imagine the thousands of Acehnese who went to their local mosque to pray that Sunday morning including two of my nephews and grand-nephews, not realising that they would not see that day out. They and the other Acehnese who perished could not have imagined that they would be devoured by the 30 metres of water that hit Aceh. Another nephew died three days later due to lack of medical assistance. Maybe another hundred of my wife's relatives on the cost of west Aceh also lost their lives.

Coming out of retirement, I was privileged to be part of the rebuilding and recovery effort with Muslim Aid which started off my second career in the humanitarian field. it was a wonderful experience to work with one of Indonesia's great public servants Kuntoro, the head of the BRR and witness the marvellous achievements of the reconstruction of Aceh. The hard work and perseverance of families and communities — combined with the commitment of the provincial and national governments and the generosity of the international community — have helped Aceh recover to a degree simply unimaginable in the months after the disaster. 

Muslim Aid started in Aceh (and Indonesia) with me, a vehicle and a driver after I had been volunteering for a while to support the response effort with some colleagues from Malaysia. The late Ibrahim Sa asked me to set up the Muslim Aid office and here was I, a university man now plunged into one of the greatest humanitarian responses in modern times.  I was greatly supported by Hamid Azad who was in charge of overseas programmes of Muslim. Aid. We started with a programme of speedy provision of emergency shelters with Muslim Aid being one of the NGOs which mobilised local talent to build the most temporary shelters in the shortest possible time.  At a meeting we were told that the people of Aceh did not have the skills to carry out the reconstruction but I found 600 local engineering graduates who we trained with the PWD and the ILO to become project staff in Aceh.  We also were one of the first NGOs to build permanent shelters for the community near the shores of the capital Banda Aceh, building homes based on traditional design with stilts which actually doubled the size of the home using local materials and local contractors.   We introduced toilets which were biodegradable and provided water for the garden and insulation in the roof to keep the homes cool. We were grateful to Jo deSilva of ARUP who provided pro bono design review of our traditional and brick housing designs to ensure that they met the standards required in an earthquake zone.  Visiting the district of Pidie where an earthquake occurred in 2016 I was very happy to see that all Muslim Aid constructed houses had withstood the earthquake.  Our success impressed the Asian Development Bank and we erected thousands of homes, many in difficult to reach and conflict-affected areas.  The granddaughter of Winston Churchill who was one of the Directors of the Glastonbury Festival raised funds for houses.  Muslim Aid became the first NGO in the world to have an an agreement signed by the President of the World Bank which was a multi-million dollar project for the drainage system of the central business district of Banda Aceh.  In a satisfaction survey conducted among the Aceh community, Muslim Aid constructed houses were judged by the recipients to be among the top five.    In the first anniversary of the tsunami Muslim Aid received the best publicity of all NGOs for its processes of accountability, transparency and consultation, even receiving praise from Transparency international.   We were happy to also be able to take part in a multi-million dollar livelihood project which helped thousands of Acehnese restore their livelihoods.   Muslim Aid constructed schools, kindergartens and hostels which had been destroyed by the tsunami. In recognition of Muslim Aid's role in the reconstruction effort in 2007 the Secretary General of the OIC Prof Dr. Ekmelnedidn Insanoglu declared open one of the kindergartens erected by Muslim Aid.  

Muslim Air rapidly expanded to other parts of Indonesia and were among the first NGOs responding to the Yogyakarta earthquake in 2006, floods in Jakarta and earthquakes in Bengkulu and West Sumatra and the Muslim Aid team even sent its team to respond to the Solomon Island tsunami getting headlines “Showing the smiling face of Islam”. In Yogyakarta the UN praised Muslim Aid’s temporary shelter design and its programme for providing shelters for the disabled. 

There is still work to be done in Aceh. Demand for action on jobs and the economy and protect the delicate environment under threat by the timber and oil palm mafia is still a challenge 14 years on. Purely from an economic perspective it has been proven that preserving Aceh's rain forest is more profitable than cutting it down for timber or oil palm -- recent floods and landslides have been a consequence of this dereliction of the Islamic principle of preserving the environment. Action is needed to deal with grass roots poverty and utilising Aceh's strategic position as the face of Indonesia on the Indian Ocean. Keeping Aceh's wealth in Aceh, and then directing it to where it's desperately needed still should be a priority

Boxing Day Tsunami 2004 Reflections
  • 7 Feb 2019 update Charity in Islam

    As one of the Five Pillars of Islam, charity plays a huge part in everyday life for Muslims around the world. Helping those less fortunate than ourselves by giving up free time is one way, but donating Zakat and ongoing charity (also known as Sadaqah Jariyah) are just some of the many ways that Islamic teachings prioritise charity in the wider world. 

    Zakat is an obligatory form of charity, based on an individual’s personal wealth, and must be donated to help those who are in need of a helping hand. Zakat is calculated based on what we have that is over and above our own basic needs and ensures that nobody goes without. By definition, Zakat means to purify your wealth in this world by giving to those less fortunate. 

    By contrast, Sadaqah Jariyah is a form of ongoing voluntary charity that helps recipients build a better future as well as providing them with relief in the present. Instead of simply donating food and water, to give Sadaqah Jariyah provides recipients with the opportunity to create an income for their families on a much longer-term basis. This ongoing charity rewards both donor and recipient not just in this world but also in the Hereafter.

    The Importance of Zakat

    Zakat is an obligation that almost all Muslims must meet, providing they meet specific requirements. Zakat is compulsory as instructed by the Holy Qur’an, and all able Muslim’s undertake this to deepen their connection with Allah (S.W.T) and betterment of themselves. 

    Charity giving is so important in Islam because there are so many people around the world that are without basic human needs. People are without food, clean water, shelter, clothing and education everywhere we look, whether nearby in our towns and cities or further afield in war-torn countries. By giving to those in need, a good deed is done for both parties, as the donor will also gain contentment from being able to help. 

    The Zakat Facts 

    To qualify for Zakat, one should be of good health both physically and mentally and meet the Nisab threshold. This is based on cash, gold, silver and other assets. Those eligible typically donate 2.5% of their profitable wealth as Zakat.

    Sadaqah Jariyah

    Sadaqah Jariyah is a voluntary form of ongoing charity that covers all aspects of giving. Whether this is something as small as giving advice or helping someone better themselves for the future, this kind of charity rewards all parties involved in the current day and long after their life has ended. Investing in the Hereafter as much as the things we have now is of great importance to all Muslims.

    How Sadaqah Can Work for You

    There are so many different ways to incorporate ceaseless charity in your life, and the rewards of which are immeasurable. Whether you choose to donate your time and energy or prefer to give monetary contributions towards a worthy cause, it could not be easier to get involved. 

    Education and Skills Development

    Teaching the importance of Islam to others and spreading the knowledge you have is a great way to educate those around you. Engaging in discussion, sharing facts and knowledge with the purpose of doing good and spreading the word of Islam, and you shall reap the rewards every single time this knowledge is passed on. 

    Donating Knowledge

    Similar to the above, donating religious materials (like the Holy Qur’an or books of Dua), brings huge benefits to both donor and recipient. In addition, any religious items such as prayer mats, hijabs etc. are widely accepted as a form of Sadaqah and the rewards for this are tenfold. Each and every time an item you donate is used; you too will receive reward and benefits. 

    Child Sponsorship

    There are far too many children in the world who, along with being deprived of their basic human needs, are being denied an education, too. Without education, they will struggle to better themselves and create a future that they deserve. 

    By sponsoring a child, you are contributing to not just their education, but their emotional development and tapping into their creativity, inspiring them to want more from this world. By sponsoring a child, you are helping them develop skills that can change their families lives forever, as well as their surrounding communities. 

    Help in the Community

    One of the greatest ways to give charity is to get involved in the construction of a Mosque or other significant building, such as a school or hospital. As with any other form of Sadaqah, you will receive just as much benefit from your generosity and the potential for reward is immense. Every prayer recited, every child learning, every sick or injured person treated is rewarded. 

    Giving Life Essentials

    Although food and water are often taken for granted, for many people around the world, these life essentials are in short supply. Not only do they provide sustenance and sanitation, but they can completely transform the lives of those in need. 

    Donating food and clean water is just one way to help, but donating to a cause that gives these communities a means of accessing clean water themselves and nurturing their crops is one of the greatest ways to help ceaselessly. This ongoing charity is hugely beneficial.

    Ongoing Charity

    Giving to charity is a way of restoring balance to the world, ensuring all communities are afforded the same rights and as instructed by the Holy Qur’an. Moreover, it is doing so discreetly and for the right reasons. Giving to purely receive praise will not be rewarded as this is not a selfless charitable act, but giving to help others and seeking fulfilment from their happiness along with the happiness of Allah (SWT) will only bring great reward in return. 

    By integrating ongoing charity into our everyday lives, it will soon become the norm. By adopting this way of thinking and accepting Sadaqah Jariyah as a way of life, Allah (SWT) will ensure that our good deeds are rewarded not just today, but in the Hereafter, too. 

    Charity giving is so rewarding, so why not get involved? Take a look at our ongoing projects such as Child Sponsorship and see the difference you can make.

  • 2 Jan 2019 update Spread the Warmth this Winter

    The winter season can be a joyous occasion for many, but sadly, this isn't the case for everyone. However, this year you can be the reason behind the happiness and smiles of all those disadvantaged children and adults around the world, simply by giving a little this winter. 

    Unfortunately, there are millions of adults, children and orphans in need; right on our very own doorstep and beyond – around the world. All of whom could benefit from a coat, an extra blanket, a hot meal, shelter or medication to cure their ill health during the cold months. 

    Helping the Homeless 

    Your donations will not only help through the winter months but all year round, too. The disadvantaged living in underdeveloped countries can gain relief from poverty, attain advancement in education, improvement of their environment and surroundings, improvement in health and even the saving of human lives. These are just a few of the ways your donations can benefit the neediest. 

    With charity forming one of the Five Pillars of Islam, not only are you benefiting others, but you are also benefiting yourself, in knowing that you have helped someone in desperate need.   

    Feel Happy 

    Giving can make you feel happy as it activates the regions in your brain associated with pleasure and social connection. It can also be good for your health and promote cooperation and social connection. Giving evokes gratitude and it is contagious as when you give, you are allowing others to see the greater reward of the art of giving. It truly is good for the soul! 

    Be Part of Our Vision 

    Here at Muslim Aid, we can see the benefit and reward that your generosity brings to the lives of others, first-hand. Our vision for a better world, coupled with the generous giving of others, has enabled us to implement projects across the world, with our focus being on health, water, education, capacity building and livelihood. 

    Your donation can help build better communities, stronger social connections and your actions may even kick-start a feeling of generosity in your community. Imagine all of that being down to you? As well as making the world a better place for others, you could be the one benefiting from a huge dose of happiness. 

    If you would like to be a part of our vision and our mission, then donate proudly today to our Warm Hearts Winter Campaign. Without your donations and generosity, Muslim Aid could not continue to help those in need. So, thank you and we look forward to helping the homeless with you and giving a little back this winter.

    Spread the Warmth this Winter
    • Spread the Warmth this Winter
  • 6 Sep 2018 update What Is Life Like For The Rohingya Left Behind In Myanmar?

    One year on from the Rohingya crisis, Kawsar Zaman visits Myanmar to witness life for the Rohingya children left behind. 

    This Saturday 25 August marks 1 year on from the start of the mass exodus of the Rohingya people who fled violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar, across the border to Bangladesh. The refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, now home to more than 900,000 people, have been constantly in the international news. However, there are still half a million Rohingya people remaining in camp-like situations in Kachin, Kayan, Shan and Rakhine states. So, what is life like for the Rohingya left behind? 

    Kawsar Zaman, a lawyer in the City of London and a Trustee for the charity Muslim Aid, has just returned from Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, Myanmar. Kawsar grew up in a council home, in the East End of London. As the youngest of seven siblings, he was the first in his family to go to university, ending up graduating from LSE, Oxford and Harvard Law School. Following his recent visit, Kawsar gives us an insight into life for Rohingya children still inside Myanmar.

    I have just returned from Myanmar on a visit to camps which are home to displaced Rohingya people in Rakhine State, Myanmar – a people described by the United Nations as “most persecuted minority in the world”. Since the outbreak of communal violence in 2012, over a million of the Rohingya community have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh with a 200,000 remaining in Rakhine State; confined to makeshift camps they have called home for six years.

    It was my first visit to the heart of a crisis and I walked along improvised streets beaten by the monsoon rain and lined with tents. For me, the most harrowing experience of all was the sight of children walking bare feet, without any clothes, looking for something to do. And yet, these are children who should be at school. This conflict was not the making or the result of their doing but they now suffer the fate of no access to education and in turn, the prospect of a life in a vicious circle of poverty. 

    I met Abdullah in a camp we visited. He was only 10 years old; but looked much older, perhaps brought on by the stresses and strain of living in the camp. His father had passed away and he was left alone with his younger sibling to support his mother. He had no education and was not in school. However, Abdullah told me he wanted to be a doctor when he grew up.  

    I grew up in disadvantage – in a council home, in the East End of London. As the youngest of seven siblings, I was the first in my family to go to university. I ended up graduating from LSE, Oxford and Harvard Law School. Today, as a lawyer practicing in the City of London, as a governor at a secondary state comprehensive school in Bethnal Green and a trustee of Toynbee Hall, I know the power of schooling to transform lives. Education is the greatest liberating force of our generation.  

    According to data published by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 263 million children and youth worldwide are missing out on the chance to go to school, with conflict being a major barrier to education.  Globally, 35% of all out-of-school children of primary age (22 million), 25% of all out-of-school adolescents of lower secondary age (15 million), and 18% of all out-of-school youth of upper secondary age live in conflict-affected areas (26 million).

    I became a trustee of Muslim Aid UK nine months ago. At 28, I believe I am the youngest trustee of any major British INGO. I live a fairly comfortable life as a lawyer so it was an opportunity I felt I had to take up -  to give back to others and share my own experiences having grown up in disadvantage. The power and opportunity to be part of a team operating in 30 countries across the world is incredible - but most importantly for me, driven by a strong sense of faith based giving, I’m proud to be part of Muslim Aid UK which supports all peoples irrespective of ones’ race, religion, colour, or creed.  

    Muslim Aid is one of only a handful of international aid agencies operating on the ground in Myanmar. It has built a hospital, provided shelter to 720 people, trained people in livelihood skills from helping them set up their own businesses – including masonry and handicraft – with a particular focus on helping vulnerable women. 

    A key focus for Muslim Aid Myanmar is on education with a vision to improve access and equality for both girls and boys in 300 learning centres and in seven temporary learning schools they have constructed, benefiting 3,250 children. Prior to these projects, most children were completely illiterate. Now many of them have school uniform, made by girls trained to sew at a Muslim Aid project, and access to toilets, showers and water when they go to school.   

    As I reflect on my visit, I cannot help but struggle with the thought of how our lives are such lotteries. Where we are born will dictate our lives and our life chances – irrespective of how hardworking or intelligent we may be. Born as a Rohingya child in Rakhine State, Myanmar in the centre of a conflict there is little prospect of you leaving a refugee camp let alone go to school. Born in London – and, you have the prospect of a good education and the opportunities to thrive at will. Globally, we have a duty to do more to eradicate child poverty and give every child the chance to go to school; for education is the greatest liberating force of our generation. It is quite frankly, the very least we can do.

    What Is Life Like For The Rohingya Left Behind In Myanmar?
    • What Is Life Like For The Rohingya Left Behind In Myanmar?
  • 31 Jul 2018 update The Importance of Qurbani

    As a parent, it is a lifelong duty to ensure your family is resilient and united. The leadership role that you play is important to teach and help children understand significant values of life.

    Qurbani is a very important time to educate your children about in order to raise their awareness of the act of giving. Sacrificing livestock has substantial meaning in Islam as the sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim is what marks the very reason we sacrifice during Qurbani.

    • muslim-qurbani
    • The Importance of Qurbani
  • 23 Jul 2018 update Important Hajj Dates 2018

    If you are embarking on the Hajj pilgrimage this year, it is likely you already have all your travel documents in order and know when you will be arriving in Mecca. However, we thought it would be a good idea to provide a list of important dates in order to give an insight into how the Hajj pilgrimage generally plays out over the months.

    For some people the Hajj pilgrimage starts months before it ‘technically' does. Since around 3 million pilgrims undertake this pilgrimage every year, there is a conscious need to moderate the flow of Haji's in and out of the country. For that the country adapts a ‘first come, first serve' principle. The first batch to arrive is also the first one to leave after Eid ul Adha. With that in mind, below is a dated outline of how Hajj will unfold this year. We'd like to mention that these dates have been provided by the Ministry of Hajj in Saudi Arabia.

    9th Dhul-Hijjah 1436 (approximately Sunday, August 19th 2018)