Comic Relief is a leading fundraising event held in Britain every year. The highlight of Comic Relief’s appeal is Red Nose Day, a biennial telethon held in March.
The charity states that its aim is to “bring about positive and lasting change in the lives of poor and disadvantaged people, which we believe requires investing in work that addresses people’s immediate needs as well as tackling the root causes of poverty and injustice”.
In the current climate, when violence is associated to Islam and Muslims are labelled as terrorists, it may sound strange to many that Islam’s core values include giving, sharing and caring for others. The Glorious Qur’an re-defines the concept of “virtue”:
“Virtue is not that you turn your faces towards the East and the West [searching for God], but righteous is the one who believes in Allah, and the Last Day, and the angels and the Book and the prophets, and gives away wealth out of love for Him to the relatives and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask and to set slaves free and keeps up prayer and pays the Zakah (poor-rate)” [Qur’an 2: 177].
A number of sayings of the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) emphasise the benefits of giving charity, commonly known as “sadaqah”. It is considered a duty of every Muslim to give whatever he or she can: “sadaqah is due on every joint of a person, every day the sun rises.” [Bukhari]. In other words, “sadaqah” is a social action to bring about happiness in the lives of others. Benefits of Sadaqah, mentioned in Islamic teachings, are money back, profit, good health, barakah (blessings) in our wealth, shade on the Day of Judgement, sadaqah is definitely the best investment for this world and the next.
Polls have shown that British Muslim are more generous than other communities, and many millions are raised and donated each year. JustGiving, an online charity platform, has reported an increase in digital giving by British Muslims, particularly during Ramadan, over the last few years. The charity noted that “Muslims also gave large amounts of Zakat to non-religious charities such as Macmillan, British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK.”
Much of the raised funds are spent on relief aid in developing countries. However, an increasingly growing proportion is also being raised for a wide variety of causes and concerns at home, which is extremely encouraging and something that Imams have been campaigning for a few years.
There are many financial challenges faced by Britain today. For instance, 2,500+people are sleeping rough across England on any given night. Benefit sanctions can plunge families into financial crisis, hunger, and dependency on food banks for up to half a year. Nearly 100,000 of the poorest children in the UK went hungry last year because their parents’ benefits were stopped or cut, according to a report by a coalition of churches.
These financially challenging times require Muslims to raise and spend their wealth at home – “charity begins at home” – as the saying goes. A true believer must always prepared, after meeting the needs of his family, to assist other people in need of his help. British Muslims, therefore, are actively involved throughout the country, in giving, sharing and taking care of others.
In our hometown, many charitable initiatives are organised by Muslims. The ‘Give a Gift’ scheme in Leeds, has seen hundreds of Muslims donating toys and gifts for youngsters being treated in hospitals.
‘Leeds With the Homeless’ is another Muslim volunteered based project with the ethos of people helping each other. Every last Friday of the month, there is a gathering outside Leeds Town Hall or inside Trinity church where young Muslim volunteers bring food/clothes/charitable items and help the needy, the homeless.
‘I’m a Muslim & I give blood’ and many other such like campaigns are run by Muslims in Leeds and across the country to urge people to donate blood.
Like previous years, Muslims of Leeds will raise funds for Comic Relief this year too. British Muslims are encouraged to continue to participate in the Comic Relief’s appeal and bring about positive and lasting change in the lives of poor and disadvantaged people in this country and abroad – something which is at the core of our faith.
By Qari Muhammad Asim MBE
Senior Imam – Makkah Masjid, Leeds