The Refugee Crisis – A Crisis of Conscience and the Role of Faith Leadership

Abu Hurairah (ra) narrates that the Prophet (saw) said:

“A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim. He neither oppresses him nor abandons him nor looks down upon him. The piety is here, (and while saying so, he pointed towards his chest thrice.) It is a serious evil for a Muslim that he should look down upon his Muslim brother. The whole of a Muslim for another Muslim is inviolable: his life, his property and his honour”.

[Sahih Muslim] 

The Syrian refugee crisis has become the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. The number of displaced, desperate refugees fleeing a country ravaged by war and conflict has risen well into the millions. The heartbreaking image of a washed up child has reignited the issue in the public consciousness and its impact is being felt both here at home in the UK and well across the rest of Europe and the World. It has sparked a crisis of conscience for both citizens and governments as we see an outpouring of relief work, pro-refugee demonstrations and the welcoming of thousands of refugees by countries such as Germany, Austria and Sweden. With Europe’s historical experience with refugees, namely their own citizens that were displaced post World War and the havens they were offered, questions have been raised as to why it has taken the image of Aylan Kurdi to increase the efforts over a conflict that has been ongoing for over five years. Irrespective of this though, what our focus on here is the role and responsibility of faith leadership in alleviating the struggles of those in need.

The role of faith leaders in the protection and rehabilitation of refugees is crucial. As we have seen, the Pope has made the position of the Catholic Church very clear when he implored every parish across Europe to take in at least on family of refugees. It is paramount that Imams and Islamic leaders echo this sentiment to their community. Imams should be at the forefront in helping those displaced. Imams and Islamic leaders need to ready themselves and their communities to help those seeking assistance. They need to ensure that they actively facilitate the adoption of Syrian families, that they open the doors of the Mosques as refuge hubs and that they upgrade and enhance their counselling and conflict resolution skills and services to answer questions around faith and address feelings of helplessness. The Prophet (saw) at one point was a refugee himself and was welcomed with open arms by the Ansar of Madinah. The Prophet (saw) who was escaping tyranny and persecution in his homeland was received by the people of Madinah who rushed to provide him with food, water and a place to rest. This should give Muslims cause to think and Imams should be at the forefront of leading efforts to provide for refugees.

It is unrealistic to say that this refugee crisis will be solved overnight. The extent of damage suffered to land, health and wealth will require the sacrifice of a generation before we see any sort of permanent change emerge. Politically, the refugee crisis will not be resolved until and unless there is a permanent settlement over conflicts in the Middle East and those taking shape in Africa. However, on a personal level, as Muslims and as leaders of a community who follow the teachings of the one who was delivered as a mercy to all mankind, we cannot sit idly by and be content with others making the difference. In the wait for a safe return to their homeland, let us be the ones to take the initiative and host the refugees as our guests so that they may come to know us as friends and helpers in a time of despair. By extending our hand, let us truly imbibe the spirit of Islam and show ourselves to be the standard bearers of change.

Shaukat Warraich
Editor in Chief

To see an example of excellence in this field of leadership, click on the picture to read about Imam Adam Kelwick’s visit to the refugees in ‘the jungle’ of Calais.

Adam Kelwick Calais

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