To put it simply, Islam encourages unity and equality among all individuals, regardless of age, colour, gender or social status.
Take the annual pilgrimage of Hajj, for example; the ihram signifies quality in the eyes of our Lord and unites people in the process. Nobody is richer or poorer, popular or unpopular, educated or uneducated and so on in the eyes of Allah (SWT). Whether you are a widow or an orphan, a child or an adult – Allah (SWT) loves us all the same. Therefore, it is important for all of us to do our bit for humanity, be it by helping the homeless, sponsoring a child or volunteering our time.
“If either commits deeds of righteousness, be they male or female and have faith they will enter paradise and not the least injustice will be done to them.”
- The Holy Qur’an (4:124)
Many individuals are of the mindset that men are superior to women or even vice-versa – but this is simply not the case. Yes, women and men have been created differently, but our rights are the same – there is no hierarchy to speak of. Both women and men have the same obligations and both women and men have to account for their good and bad deeds. Justice is not based upon gender.
“Oh, mankind! We created you from a single (pair) male and female and made you into nations and communities that you may identify each other. Verily, the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah (SWT) is the most virtuous of you. And Allah (SWT) has full knowledge and is well acquainted with all things.”
- The Holy Qur’an (49:13)
Encouraging unity in Islam is a duty upon all Muslim’s - in fact, not only in Islam but the whole of humanity. We are taught to share from a very young age and should continue this by teaching our children to do the same as sharing with others and being generous is proven to increase self-happiness.
It is natural for any human being to feel compassion towards another human being in the face of adversity and would do whatever they can in their power to ease someone else’s suffering. However, many of us go by what we see right in front of us and fail to look at the bigger picture.
For example, if we were crossing the road and saw someone fall, we would rush to their side immediately to assist them or see if they are okay; on the other hand, thousands of miles away across the world, many millions of people suffer day in, day out, struggling to just survive… but because we do not physically see it is easy to forget that it exists. Sadly, it does exist regardless.
When we watch the news following a world disaster or conflict it often doesn’t feel real because it’s not happening to us or our families; poverty is something we are accustomed to seeing on the news throughout our entire lives, right? What makes us think it won’t happen to us? Many of us are just one missed paycheck away from losing everything. Can you imagine if it did? Imagine what all these people currently in difficulty are going through every day?
“The Rich Get Richer; the Poor Get Poorer”
So many of us live a sheltered life away from reality and, of course, when we are tested in life or we lose someone close to us it hurts; when times get tough we often find ourselves wondering how we can carry on - but can you imagine how it would feel to lose almost everyone in your life and then be faced with having nothing and nobody left? It’s pretty hard to imagine, isn’t it? Imagine losing your parents and being left to fend for yourself as an orphan? Worse still, imagine if that had happened to your own child?
These brothers and sisters who are suffering in developing or war-torn countries are also human beings who feel love and compassion towards their families and they too feel hunger and thirst just as we do. Being in the position that so many of us are in, it is our duty as fellow human beings to help the homeless and those in need of our support. Collectively, we have the power to change the world, so let’s make a start on it! So many of us indulge in materialistic things that we do not really need when there are people out there struggling to just exist – just imagine… that expensive handbag you carry or the flashy, designer watch you occasionally wear having the potential to feed an entire community for a year?
This is the exact reason why Allah (SWT) is testing us with wealth – to see exactly what we do with it. Everything we have is God-given and temporary in this world, we are not taking a single penny to our grave with us so let’s share what we are given with others because it is the very reason Allah (SWT) has blessed us with it in the first place. Besides, giving in charity does not decrease our wealth, but in fact, increases it, along with earning us a multitude of rewards for our Hereafter as a result. Ultimately, it is our charity that will be our saviour on the day of Judgement.
We should want for others what we wish for ourselves because every single living being on this earth is created by Allah (SWT) and is equally as loved by Allah (SWT). Every blessing we are rewarded with in the world is thanks to Him and every difficulty we face is for our own betterment. Helping others gives us more of a sense of happiness and selfless satisfaction than helping ourselves ever will.
Many Islamic acts are based around unity and equality; take the pilgrimage of Hajj, for example, the entire concept surrounds Muslims in congregation, wearing identical clothing. This just proves that in the eyes of Allah (SWT) we are all equal, regardless of our financial standing or what people see of us. We have all come from Allah (SWT) and to Him we shall return. Congregational Friday prayers at Mosque, along with Salaatul Eid (Eid prayer) and Salaatul Janaazah (funeral prayer) are based upon unity, too.
So, brothers and sisters who are reading this, let’s unite and attempt to liberate those who are suffering today – let’s all join forces in helping the homeless, the elderly, the orphans, the widows, those who have had to flee their homes, those who have lost their loved ones, those who have no water or food - sooner rather than later; let’s invest in the rewards for our Hereafter sooner rather than later; let’s educate our children on the importance of sharing and remaining humble… sooner rather than later.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)