Archive for October, 2012

Muslims Who Broke My Heart

By Dr. Wajid Akhter

I don’t count myself as an overly emotional person. Indeed, as a doctor, you get used to observing intense suffering on a daily basis. You get accustomed to seeing an old lady struggling for breath as her heart fails or a young man being wheeled in with multiple fractures following a high-speed car crash. But even to a jaded person like me, there have been occasions when my heart was broken by Muslims in such a complete way that their pain is with me still… This is the story of just some of them.

The old man had barely enough rags to cover his body. The full force of the midday sun beat down on his uncovered head turning his white beard even whiter. He looked intensely frail and his ribs clearly showed through his skin. Yet, instead of resting somewhere being looked after by his family, beads of sweat poured from his face as he pedalled a cycle-rickshaw loaded with passengers. I was aghast. Why was he working? Where was his family? Then I heard his story. His only son had died leaving behind young children with no one to look after them. Living in a desperately poor society, the old man had no choice but to work and put food in the mouth of his orphaned grandchildren. As he pedalled away in the blazing heat, his bones visibly shuddering with each movement, I was shaken to the core.

It was a beautiful clear day when I went into the mosque to pray. The Jamma masjid (mosque) is one of the grandest buildings in a city full of grand buildings, towering over the ancient city of Delhi. After admiring the architecture and the historical artefacts, I walked out to a sight that stopped me in my tracks. The entire extended path to the steps of the mosque was covered with burqa-clad women sitting on the floor, each with children in their laps and hands outstretched. Again, I was aghast. Where were their families? Why were they here? My father explained, “These are young widows hoping that someone, anyone, will have mercy and give their children enough to eat so that they can live to beg another day.” There were dozens, their children too weak with hunger to stand and play. I could not see their faces, but the pain in their voice was palpable. The pain within me was more so.

The unmistakable sound of whimpering came to me as I read a notice near the grave of Muhammad Fatih, the conqueror of Constantinople. I walked until I saw a middle-aged man sitting with his back resting against a pillar. In his arms was an unwell child. You didn’t need to be a doctor to realise straight away that the child was extremely unwell. Pale, clammy and with a feeding tube still inserted into a nostril, the child was clearly dying. I asked the man what was the matter and why the child was not in hospital via a bilingual bystander. “I could not afford the payments to take care of him so I needed time to gather the money. Now I have taken him to the hospital but they said that there is nothing they can do. I have brought him here as I have no hope left other than from Allah… and I do not want his mother and sisters to see him dying at home.” As I left, the father tenderly stroked his son’s head with tears dripping down his face like a river that had no end.

These are just some of the Muslims that I passed by, but broke my heart. What could I do? Should I give them a little money? That would merely alleviate their situation temporarily. Should I sponsor one of them? That would mean ignoring the other millions who were suffering in equally dire situations. Should I take time out and work in a third world clinic? That would be useful until I needed to go back to my life and leave their suffering behind. How could I help as many people, for as long as possible and in the most comprehensive way?

We have enough wealth in the ummah (Muslim community) so that no child should go to sleep hungry, yet the artificial divisions that keep us apart mean that whilst Muslims were eating gold-leaf covered desserts at a 7-star hotel in Dubai, more than a thousand children were dying of starvation daily just over a thousand miles away in Somalia. How can we possibly rectify this situation? The only solution to this and all our other problems is to follow the advice of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (exalted is He) to us: He will not change the situation of a people until they change themselves. We need to be united once more upon Islam. If we are united as one nation then instead of handing out medicine or a free meal, we can build a health service or a self-sustaining agricultural sector. If we are united then we needn’t sponsor an orphan, we can provide security and protection to prevent the child being orphaned in the first instance.

From this simple idea was born Charity Week—one week each year in which Muslim youth united upon Islam work together to raise funds for orphans and needy children (both Muslim and non-Muslim) across the world. In the past 9 years, Charity Week has set up projects in dozens of countries, involved hundreds of institutions, motivated thousands of students, acted as dawah (call to Islam) to thousands of non-Muslims and raised over $3 Million. However, far more important than all that is that Charity Week has planted the importance of THE VISION—unity upon Islam—in the minds of Muslim youth. It is that vision that gives hope to the poor—far more than any amount of money can. It is clinging on to the hope of that vision that lets me sleep at night.

courtesy of

The Puppy

We had just finished dinner. A group of us American girls who were studying in Egypt had decided we would eat at a local restaurant and when we finished, we had twenty Egyptian pounds leftover from the pool of cash we had put together. Figuring out what to do with the money, one of the sisters suggested, “There’s that boy who sleeps outside that one grocery store! You know, he’s got that puppy! And whenever he’s with that puppy, he’s like the happiest kid in the world.”

I realized whom she was talking about. There was a teenage boy who slept on the grass across the street from the grocery store. There was no trace of family, money, or anything—just a boy and a stray puppy who kept him company. “Let’s give the money to him!” the sister exclaimed. With purpose, our group began to head over.

From the restaurant, it took us about twenty minutes to get to the location of the boy. But he was nowhere to be seen. His puppy, however, was there…and he was thirsty. The puppy had in his paws a closed water bottle that he unsuccessfully attempted to open. Imagine the torment of feeling intensely thirsty, staring at water in paw’s length, and not being able to access it despite immense struggles and efforts. Realizing his dilemma, we quickly opened the bottle of water we had and began to pour it out for the puppy. The puppy came immediately, drinking the water in huge gulps, and not stopping for some time. Finally, relieved, the puppy eventually ran off to play.

We did not find the boy that night. As we walked back to our apartments I began contemplating the situation. We had walked about twenty minutes in search of a specific boy. We could not find him, and instead we found a puppy in extreme thirst, making great efforts to access water. Allah, The All Wise, had written for us to have extra money, helped us remember the boy in that moment, given us the strength, ability and time to take the twenty minute walk to find the boy, and instead, guided us to a puppy who needed our help to drink water. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) had written for us, a group of foreigners from across the world, to have been in that place, in that moment of time, simply to help a puppy quench its thirst.

What about you, dear worshiper of God, who is struggling to please Him, stumbling upon blocks of heedlessness and difficulties? What about you who are trying to keep it together, find a job, get married, do well in school, deal with domestic issues at home or societal pressures all around? Dear believer who struggles to make your prayers, complete your fasts, lower your gaze and preserve your chastity—if that is the mercy that Allah, The Ever Merciful, has written for a small puppy, that He would subjugate human beings to simply help quench the thirst of a creature amongst His Creation…then what about the Mercy of Allah `azza wa jall on you, His struggling worshipper?

Courtesy of Maryam Amirbrehimi and