I was never really exposed to a Muslim community while I was growing up. The only relatives we had in the country were our family friends. We weren’t heavily practicing Muslims. Also, I went to a posh private school that had only a handful of Muslims. The circles I attended were few and even the Muslims in the Islamic assembly, the alternative for the compulsory Christian assembly at school, didn’t care much for it.
The closest I had come to being a part of such a community was duringtaraweeh at the local masjid – Muslims of all different ages and races under one roof, standing next to each other, as equals, before their Lord. I would sit there gazing at the smiles, the greetings and the laughter, contemplating how it was nothing more than simply their religion that had unified them. But when Eidcame, I knew I would have to wait another year to witness this communal love again from the peripheries.
When I arrived at University, I came across the Muslim societies which presented me with the type of Muslim community I had only ever seen but never been a part of, and quickly, they became a family away from family. It was a new and exciting time for me as I was surrounded by people who I could really relate to and had a lot in common with as faith dictated and was an integral part to our lives, which alhumdullilah, helped me to become more practicing too. The atmosphere was like no other; I felt so comfortable spending time with the brothers doing what students do best – chilling, unlike at school where there was always an element of not fitting in once the focus shifted from video games to girls and alcohol after a certain age.
There were lots of different activities that the Muslim society was involved in, but there was one particular project that really got my attention. It was the Charity Week1. I had set up two charity projects at school previously, but they never materialized due to lack of support. However, at University, many of the Muslims were actively involved in what appeared to be a large scale push for collecting money for orphans and needy children. There were many different events from bake sales and football tournaments to dinners. Everyone was working together, sacrificing multiple hours from their busy schedule for a cause that was clearly very close to their hearts.
Charity Week – a Platform to Unite
In my first year of taking part in Charity Week, I was more of a bystander, but by second year I got fully sucked in and began organising events and before I realised, I was making my way up the ladder, taking on more and more responsibility. The reason I kept on taking it further, year after year, was more than just the desire to help the needy children, although a good enough reason in itself, it was the unity, as clichéd as that may sound.
But it wasn’t just any unity. It differed from the unity seen by sports fans cheering for their team, or the unity of those fighting for their nation. It was unity based on a deep spiritual connection and love for our Creator, which meant it didn’t matter who you were, where you had come from, what you did or how you had got there; we loved you. And that is what Charity Week is all about – uniting the Muslim Ummah upon the rope of Allah, using charity as the platform on which to bind us together and act for the sake of Allah. It doesn’t get purer and more beautiful than that.
Charity Week has given me and many others, the community which we not only have longed for, but also desperately need. It is greater and reaches far further than masjid or Isoc communities, which have their respective confinements. In today’s world Muslims spend more time trying to create divisions than finding common ground. We are so obsessed with getting one over our own brothers and sisters, that we fail to realize that it is only when we are together can we achieve success on all fronts.
It is now more than ever, that our religion is being attacked from the outside as well as the inside, and we need unity. That is why Charity Week has grown year after year with more volunteers and institutions taking part than ever before as it is a movement whose foundations lie on love for those who are suffering, harmony between us and obedience to our Lord.
As Charity Week enters its 16th year, having gone international and raised over £8 million to date, we not only look back proudly on how much we have achieved with the help of Allāh, but also look towards the future and know there is still a lot of work to be done.
Now, when I attend any masjid in my hometown for taraweeh, I see those who took part in CW years before, the younger kids who are about to get involved and the elders who have given us their blessings, and I know that this community is my home, our home. Won’t you join us?“The Believers are nothing else than brothers. So make peace and reconciliation between your brothers; and fear Allāh, that you may receive Mercy.” [Surah Al-Hujuraat, 10]
“The Believers are nothing else than brothers. So make peace and reconciliation between your brothers; and fear Allāh, that you may receive Mercy.”(49:10)