“O son of Adam; I asked you for food and you fed me not.” These will be the words of God Almighty to His creation on the Day of Resurrection. The person addressed will respond in utter confusion, “O Lord, how could I feed you when you are the Lord of the worlds?” The Almighty will reply, “Did you not know that My servant so-and-so asked you for food but you did not feed him? Did you not know that had you fed him, you would surely have found that reward with Me?”
This extract is from a longer hadith in Sahih Muslim which also speaks about the reward for visiting the sick and giving water to the thirsty. It sets the tone for our duty as human beings to be compassionate to the needy, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, colour or gender. God does not address Muslims or believers in this hadith, but addresses the sons of Adam. We are all the children of Adam. The fact that our skins are different colours, we speak varieties of languages and originate from diverse countries does not detract from the fact that we all originate from the first primordial man.
Compassion for those who are suffering is part of our innate human nature, but sadly we often succeed in suppressing this instinct. Compassion and mercy are not the exclusive forte of religious people but of human beings in general. The arrival of refugees from Syria to the shores of Europe is the biggest refugee crisis to hit Europe since the Second World War. But the fact that these refugees are mainly Muslim is the reason so many countries have been hesitant to act. As the Hungarian Prime Minister so honestly admitted, such a large-scale migration from the Arab world to Europe could dynamically alter the supposedly Christian culture of Europe. Viktor Orban wrote that it was important to secure his country’s borders from the refugees in order “to keep Europe Christian.”
“Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims,” Mr Orban wrote in a commentary for a German newspaper. “This is an important question, because Europe and European identity is rooted in Christianity.”
But I know from speaking to my Christian friends that Christianity is far from installing huge Christmas trees, buying lavish gifts in December and eating and drinking until one is sick. Jesus (peace be upon him) showed incredible compassion to the hungry, the sick, the lame and the poor. His heart swelled with grief for those who were suffering. He fed them, walked with them, healed the sick and shed tears with those crying. The refugees who have fled Syria did not do so light-heartedly. They knew the dangers that faced them in the oceans and on the lands. They fled because bombs were falling on their houses, because the roads had become caverns, because factories producing food had been reduced to rubble, and because they saw the dead bodies of their neighbours lying unburied on the roads. They fled because they had no choice.
Political parties such as UKIP are complaining that Britain has a shortage of housing, school places and medical services. Yes, the NHS is at breaking point. Yes, we have a shortage of housing and school places. But we are still a rich nation. And we have the greatest commodity of all: peace. We do not have a dictator running the country who sends war planes on his own subjects. We do not have un-manned drones obliterating individuals from the safety of the sky. Our children do not return crying and traumatised from school because they have seen the body parts of their friends flying through the air and their school reduced to ashes. Our women do not give birth on roads and rubber dinghies. We are a prosperous nation that has benefitted from the wealth of the commonwealth and enjoys peace and stability. We need to be very generous now, especially as so many problems in the Middle East are a direct consequence of our military meddling.
We all know that Islam is built on five pillars and that one of them is Charity. The Muslim community in Britain is famous for the generosity with which it gives to various aid agencies that operate throughout the world. Yes, it is incredibly important that this work continues so that many of the refugees can be made comfortable and secure in the lands nearest to their homes. But those people who have been forced by necessity to make the dreadful journey to European shores need to be helped with the same intensity as well. And it is not just cash that the refugees need. An acute housing shortage means that we need to be innovative in the ways we help. For example, Mosques and community centres can be used as temporary shelters. After all, charity does indeed begin at home.
We like to talk about the world becoming a global village due to the ease of travel and communication. This is indeed true. And our neighbours in this village are drowning before our very eyes. If the picture of little Aylan Kurdi lying face down on a Turkish beach does not move us to tears, then nothing will. We need to cling on to our humanity.
Note: The views expressed are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect that of ImamsOnline.