Interview Corner: Reflections from the Refugee Camps

This week, we sat down with committee members from Manchester ISoc to hear what they had to say about their recent trip to Lebanon with Global Rahmah Foundation, where they delivered aid to those in need in refugee camps, using money raised from our charity week.

In a nutshell, how was the trip?

Abdurrahman: A few words would be eye opening, like you already know about the things beforehand but it just makes it a lot more personal. It really brought it home, the suffering that people had, you’re definitely able to empathise a lot more after the trip.

How were the donations used?

Zaidi: They were mainly used in the Winter Aid, so that was buying blankets, mattresses and food boxes for families in two refugee camps. Donations also went to an orphanage school, the Bee Academy, so that helped with orphan sponsorship and the upkeep of the school.

What is your most unforgettable memory from the trip?

Shamena: For me, it was when we went to the Palestinian slums. There was a woman there and she was with her daughter, her daughter was disabled. And she was speaking in Arabic and me and Alicya, we couldn’t understand what she was saying, but even though we couldn’t understand, we could feel her pain you know? When she started crying and when she was talking about her daughter you could just feel the emotion, you could just feel their struggle. That’s what was the most unforgettable part for me.

Alicya: Yeah being in the Palestinian refugee camp, that was the most memorable for me as well because there were just so many different experiences that happened on that day that it really hit you properly. It’s become like a slum now. It’s been established for so many years, I think since 1984 so that’s like their permanent home but obviously the facilities aren’t very good, there’s electricity wires hanging like everywhere, its really dangerous.

And I think one thing that hit me was that there’s a graveyard in the refugee camp and they were saying how they have no more space to bury the people that are dying. The government won’t let them bury them outside that particular graveyard, so they’re having to bury on top of each other.

And then there was this picture of a young guy, maybe our age, and they told us that he died while trying to fix the electricity wires because its not very safe, like they’re all exposed, he got electrocuted and passed away. So I think a lot of people die from that each year as well. So it’s just things like that, simple things that people are dying from, just because of the lack of infrastructure.

Zaidi: I think one thing that stuck out to me was on the first day at the Syrian refugee camp, there were loads of kids running around and at one point we brought out some toys and they all came running towards us and what hit me then was, they’re exactly the same as us.

There is no difference, like a few years ago they would’ve been living a normal life: going to school, having friends, toys, like all of that and its all been taken away from them and now they’re in subhuman conditions. Honestly like, the Syrian refugee camp was very similar to a farm with just some tents there and the thing is, the innocence of these kids was still protected, they were just running around, playing with you, they’d talk to you if you wanted to and they weren’t any different to family members that I have.

I think Dridi mentioned that one thing that hit us, was that we’ve been blessed to be born in a stable country, like our country has been stable throughout. They were born in a stable country, from what I understand, but then everything turned on its head in a couple of weeks and their whole lives have turned around since.

Abdurrahman: I’d say in a similar way to Zaidi I guess, but everyone takes from the experience something different. For me it was again in the Syrian refugee camp. There was someone I guess roughly our age. He wasn’t working and he had, I think, two children and he was married but he couldn’t actually provide for his family because his right arm was injured permanently during a bomb strike. His arm was fully injured and what hit me was just that simple one limb in that scenario is enough to, like there’s no chance.

Like in our society we’re lucky Alhamdulillah to be able to do work, even if you’re disabled you’ve got various other avenues, you can use your mind, your thinking because you’ve got so many different avenues. But in their situation, that’s really not available to them, they’re really limited to very specific physical labour and if you’re put in that situation, you really can’t do much, and just that he was our age you know?

For the rest of my life there’s going to be someone else in roughly the same situation, but unable to provide for himself and his family because of something that wasn’t down to him. That’s just something that really sticks with me.

Do you have any other stories from the trip that stand out that you’d like to share?

Zaidi: I think going back to the Palestinian refugee camp, this was something we witnessed. We were in Beirut city centre and everything was kind of modern and done up nicely and suddenly you enter these gates and it was like a third world country there. And we heard stories from people taking us around about how the gates were closed at one point. They had to eat dogs. They had to eat cats. They were literally starving in there. I think one thing we noticed was that inside they had like their own economy, they had goods that you couldn’t get outside, like they had to fend for themselves.

And just going back to what Alicya mentioned about the graveyard, one quote that hit me when they took us to the graveyard, was they said, we’re separated in life, and we’re separated in death. So like there’s nothing that unites the people, like usually, when death hits, usually like everything is forgotten, like the moment you hear, no matter what someone has done to you, the moment you hear that someone passed away in the family, or something’s afflicted them, like everything’s forgotten, you make amends for them but the fact that through death they continue to stay apart I think that just shows that they’re not treated like people should be treated.

Alicya: Yeah even their bodies, they’re outcasted, like they’re not allowed to be buried in proper graveyards, they have to keep building on top of those.

What did you learn from the trip?

Shamena: I think it was a very humbling experience, I think when I came back I realised that I spend my money on a lot of silly things, things like food, you really appreciate food after I think. Because you’ll go down to like Nando’s and spend like £15 without questioning it, but it can make such a difference to someone else’s life.

Alicya: I think it just sounds generic, but like you really feel grateful for everything that you have and you see how little things bring so much happiness to people and its really humbling and it makes you just think twice about things I think.

Abdurrahman: Yeah I think in terms of learning things, all of these are things that everyone’s heard a million times, but I think being able to actually experience it and see it for yourself, really brings it a lot closer to home, when you actually see it.

You’ve been there, you’ve spoken to the people, you’ve experienced the environment, you mentioned already, it makes you appreciate what you have, I mean personally that is the case, because you compare what you have, to what they have.

While we’re working, while we’re living we’re always trying to get more, accumulate more, and we always compare ourselves, at least with material wealth, to millionaires, billionaires, whatever. We say if we had what they had then we’d be so happy, we wouldn’t be spoiled [like them], if you look at their kids, you get jealous, we look at these rich people.

But then when you really compare yourself, what you have to what these people have, you realise that the situation is flipped completely, you’re now in that very luxurious position but you’re not as grateful as you thought you’d be or as happy as you thought you’d be, so it really brings it a lot closer to home, that we’ve really been given a lot a things.

Zaidi: I think for me personally, it’s quite motivating in the sense that, the first two days we were at refugee camps, they were very poor facilities, there were like seven families to a toilet, it was like bare minimum wasn’t even reached.

On the third day, we went to an orphanage, like a school, we mentioned before, the Bee Academy. And what motivated me particularity about that place, was that this school was built up probably better than any school I’ve been to. It had like 3D printers, it had proper laptops, it had like state of the art everything, and it was only for orphans. For me that kind of encapsulated the verse in Surah Al Fajr where it says “and honour the orphans”.

And I think for me, like usually when we think of giving clothes, we give clothes we don’t wear, we give money that we weren’t going to spend, like just spare change, we give food that we don’t eat, but in this place they took things that most people wouldn’t have had at home, the printers they wouldn’t have had at home, the computers they wouldn’t have had at home, things like that. But they went over and beyond for the orphans and inshaAllah that will give them like a good setting in life, so they can go on to achieve good things.

I think that’s the key at the end of the day. Like all this aid, it’s necessary in the sense that they need it to survive but to break that cycle of poverty, which we saw in the Palestinian refugee camp, you need to get out and you need to get jobs and education is the key to that, and for me Bee Academy just encapsulated that perfectly. It was honouring the orphans and it was trying to break the cycle.

This is only a snapshot into the lives of refugees at camps in Lebanon, whilst so many are displaced in different situations. 

If you would like to make a donation, follow the link below:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lebanonrefugeecamp?newPage=True

 

Introducing Al-Kitab Club

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu!

Manchester ISoc would like to present Al-Kitab Club.

We can often feel overwhelmed by all of the things we wish to read, learn and benefit from. We tell ourselves we don’t have the time, and we struggle with making the time, to read in our busy lives. We try to juggle our university work and assignments, with social commitments and extracurriculars, barely finding time for anything else. If only there were more than 24 hours in a day!

Finding effective motivation to encourage us to read more is tough, especially with all of the demands of our daily lives. Reading alongside Manchester ISoc with our monthly selections may be the solution to your problems.

What better motivation than reading alongside your peers and having the opportunity to review and discuss the book at the end of each month? Not to mention, the hard work of choosing what to read will be done for you – all you need to do is follow along.

We will be selecting a new book each month to read together, and at the end of the month we will be reviewing it online and holding a discussion in the comments. If you think you might be interested in joining, don’t hesitate! There is no better opportunity to motivate yourself to read more and increase in knowledge than this, trust me.

It only seems right that the first book we will be reading is a book about the most important person in every Muslim’s life: Muhammad, peace, and blessings be upon him. There are countless books about the Prophet (PBUH) by numerous writers, all detailing the life of this incredible man.

The book that seemed most highly regarded and well-reviewed was ‘Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources’ by Martin Lings.

This book is an award-winning biography of Muhammad (PBUH), with incredible historical accuracy and fascinating detail, and is considered to be very accessible and readable by many.

So, what are you waiting for? Find this book in your nearest library or bookshop, start reading, and we’ll see you all in a month insha’Allah for the discussion! 

Happy reading!

Favourite Ayahs challenge by Manchester ISoc

The Qur’an. 6236 ayahs. Each one perfectly beautiful in its own way. Each one full of answers, lessons and guidance. We wanted to hear from our readers, so we asked you to share your favourite Ayahs with us.

Here’s what you had to say:

  1.    “For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.” -Surah Ash-Sharh [94:6]

I feel like this ayah found me when I was in a really difficult place. And I just heard that one ayah and I felt like wow, whatever surah this is, I want to memorise it. So that I can recite it during prayers when I feel particularly down. So, I keep it close to my heart and only recite it when I feel like I truly need comforting.

 

  1.    “…the life of this world is nothing but a delusion” -Surah Al-Hadid [57:20]

For me this ayah really puts things into perspective and reminds me not to fall victim to the appeals of worldly things. It helps me remain grounded and remember my true purpose. It teaches me not to get attached to the temporary dunya, whether it be possessions or people, as heavy reliance on anything or anyone other than Allah will only lead to disappointment and heartbreak. Allah is sufficient for me.

 

3. “Blessed is He who placed in the skies great constellations” -Surah Al-Furqan [25:61]

I remember this verse got me through difficult times. I was mentally drowning, and spent 2 weeks in hospital, but throughout that time this verse never left my lips.

 

4. “And untie the knot from my tongue” -Surah Taha [20:27]

Musa (AS) asked Allah (SWT) this because he had difficulty in speech. This is one of my favourites because I have difficulty in speech, stuttering etc, so I find it encouraging that one of the prophets had something similar and made du’a for it, so I do the same.

I feel I can look at this ayah for hope.

Having difficulty in speech also becomes a kind of blessing for me because of this. I have yet another reminder of how dependent I am on Allah (SWT) and have more to ask of him in my du’as. And He likes it when we ask Him for things.

 

5.    ‘And when My servants ask you about Me, (tell them that) I am near. I answer the call of the caller when he calls on me. So let them answer Me, And have faith in me. That they may be rightly guided.’ Surah Al-Baqarah [2:186]

It gave me hope as I used to think that my prayers weren’t being answered and I always wondered why.

But every time I read this ayah I keep faith in Him as He knows best. It reminds me that He’s there and He answers.

 

6.    “Certainly, Allah loves those who put their trust in Him.” -Surah Ali ‘Imran [3:159]

It shows the magnitude of Allah (SWT)’s Mercy, who not only promises to ease our worries away with simple trust in Him, but also promises us His Love in return for that. A double beauty! How Merciful a Lord…

 

7.    “Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear” -Surah Al-Baqarah [2:286]

This ayah gives you a sense of hope with whatever struggles you might be going through in life.

 

8.    “So be patient with a beautiful patience,” – Surat Al-Ma`arij [70:5]

I really like this ayah but I can’t find a beautiful way of wording why I love it so much.

 

9.    “So which of the favours of your Lord would you deny?” -Surah Ar-Rahman [55:13]

I love listening to the recitation of Surah ar Rahman. It calms me, allows me to reflect on the abundant blessings I have in life, as well as leaving me in awe at the might of God. This above ayah is my favourite, and is repeated throughout the Surah, constantly reminding us of the favours we have been blessed with. This ayah does not only put life in to perspective for those who are living in hardship, who may feel low, to see the beauty in the little things, but those of us who have so much but forget the one behind our provision.

Its relevance hit me even more whilst visiting Syrian and Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon this week. Even though the refugees living in these camps are suffering, they are extremely grateful, still thank God for each and every little thing they have been blessed with, making abundant dua for those of us helping to relieve their hardship. The contrast in our lives and situations are so great, yet the people we met were just like us – shared the same smiles, laughter, hope, hospitality, sadness, and shed the same tears – something that will forever ground me, just like this ayah.

 

  1.  “And [there are] others who have acknowledged their sins. They had mixed a righteous deed with another that was bad. Perhaps Allah will turn to them in forgiveness. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” – Surah At-Tawbah [9:102]

The two previous ayahs talk about the sahabah and those who follow them in good deeds, and also about the munafiqun (hypocrites). And Allah talks about how he will reward each group justly (i.e. reward one greatly and punish the others).

This ayah tells us that there is a third group, those who do both good and bad deeds, and acknowledge their sins, and it tells us that “perhaps” Allah will forgive them.

When the exegetes interpreted the Qur’an, they said that whenever Allah says “perhaps” it means he definitely will do it. So this third group is guaranteed Allah’s forgiveness, and which one of us isn’t from this third group?

Some scholars consider this to be the most hopeful ayah in the Qur’an.

 

  1.  “And the dawn, as it breathes away the darkness.” -Surah At-Takwir [81:18]

We’re so caught up in our lives that we forget, sometimes, that Allah is out there. We forget and don’t realise it’s so easy to remember him.

All you have to do is look. Look at the magnificent trees swaying in the breeze. Hear the birds calling. See the bustle of life around you as everyone goes about their daily life.

And see the sky, above us all, not a single one of us able to conquer it. The great seventh heaven in all its vast glory – the tiny pinpricks of glowing stars, the multitude of cloud shapes, and the perpetual cycle of night into day, day into night.

We weren’t able to witness a lot of ayahs in the Qur’an – so make the most of the ones that we can see. Having faith is about believing in the unseen, but having a physical reminder every now and then is always helpful.

Take a breather and look up.

Find yourself caught in the magnificence of Allah’s creation, and reflect upon the creator himself. Make the use of these winter months – we have a great opportunity to be able to witness, in real time, the dawn as its breath steals the darkness away.

 

Leave your favourite Ayah in the comments below!

We’re back!

 

Assalamualaikum!

It’s fair to say that some long overdue blog posts are in order!

After dusting off the cobwebs and eagerly scribbling away at the drawing board, we have come up with a jam packed schedule for you this semester! From interviews and polls to reminders and moving stories, you can expect nothing but exciting reads to brighten up your week!

And just to get back into the swing of things, here’s a brilliant reminder that was submitted which is the perfect read for the start of this new semester!

Starting a new semester is a chance to turn over a new leaf.
It’s a chance to show that you are learning from your mistakes, a chance to build on current abilities and to continue improving.
And a chance to think positively about your goal.
A light of hope is opened up.
Allah (swt) always gives us chances. Each chance is a blessing.
In fact, every day is another chance to keep improving and proving to Allah (swt) how grateful we are for yet another chance, another day, another semester.

So let’s use the past as a lesson and the future as an opportunity and continue striving through life’s journey with the thought in mind that every breath we take is a gift and a reason to keep striving in the way of Allah (swt).

As university students who are still young and active, we have a responsibility as prescribed by the Prophet (pbuh) who said:

“Take benefit of five before five:
your youth before your old age,
your health before your sickness,
your wealth before your poverty,
your free-time before your preoccupation,
and your life before your death.” (Hakim).