For the first two years after fighting broke out in Syria, I could barely talk about it. When I did, I broke down in tears. Since then, I have been trying to turn my tears into something real for those who have far more reason to cry than myself. What Syria means to me as an individual is not what matters, because it means something to millions and millions of people. What matters is that there is still so much we can do to honor the living legacy of the people of Sham.
If you are like me, at times you have been so overwhelmed by the numbers. Hundreds of thousands of lives lost. Millions of internally displaced people and refugees. Billions needed for humanitarian assistance. Many more billions needed for reconstruction insha’Allah. Never in my life have I wished more fervently that I was a billionaire. But if you are like me, you are not a billionaire.
But that’s okay, because Allah does not ask us to do more than we are capable of doing. Allah loves consistent good deeds, even if they are small. Allah has not asked you to fix Syria – Allah has asked you to do what you can.
So this morning I decided to do something within my limited power, and I am going to share it with you. My hope is that it will make you feel like you can do something, even if it is small, and that there is no reason to be hopeless. Allah alone is the One who will meet the needs of the millions who are struggling, reaching them through a billion different means of the creation. You and I are only a small part of a bigger picture, but we can draw nearer to Allah by simply feeding one person while seeking the Countenance (wajh) of Allah.
I read in the New York Times that there is an influx of refugees into the Turkish border town of Kilis. The resources of the city are buckling under the weight of a refugee population which nearly equals the 90,000 local residents. While there are a few government-run refugee camps in the area, there is not enough room for everyone, and so many Syrians are forced to sleep on the streets at night. However, according to people I have communicated who have been there or know people who have been there, there is still an atmosphere of cooperation on the ground and people are sacrificing enormous amounts to try to meet everyone’s most pressing needs. Moustafa, a Yale medical student I know, went there in the fall, determined to help out on-the-ground, and is going back soon insha’Allah. You can read about his struggle to do some good in the face of enormous challenges.
It would be amazing if more of us followed Moustafa’s example and went there to let our brothers and sisters, both Turkish and Syrian, know that we are with them in their time of need. However, we all have our excuses. Mine is that my first child is due to be born any day now, and I need to remain in New York City with my wife for the foreseeable future. But just because we can’t drop everything we are doing doesn’t mean we can’t do something.
I am not a doctor, nor a humanitarian aid specialist. I speak neither Turkish nor Syrian ‘ammiya. But I truly believe that the app. 180,000 men, women and children who are living in Kilis right now have a right over me. First and foremost, I need to make du’a for them. A general du’a is needed, because I cannot know all the app. 180,000 souls. But in order to truly give them their rights, I should mention those names that I have learned from the stories I have read. From the New York Times article, there is:
- Abdulrahman Haboush, a young boy from Aleppo who is injured and currently being treated
- Mustafa Toameh, a 43 year old Syrian man recently arrived in Kilis with his extended family and with no where to go
- Dr. Mehmet Beyazit, a local physician at Kilis Hospital treating the many in need
- Fatima Abtini, whose 12 year old grandson is currently being treated for injuries
- Yasser Baz, a 32 year Syrian man with an infant daughter, who just lost his brother, sister-in-law, and two nephews (may Allah have mercy on all of them)
I may never meet these people, but they are as real as I am. And now that I know about them, I ask the Real (al-Ḥaqq) to be with them. Yā Razzāq, grant them provision! Yā Ḥafīdh, protect them from harm! Yā Salām, surround them with peace! Yā Rāfi‘, raise them up materially and spiritually! Yā Ghaffār, forgive their sins and mistakes! Yā Mu’min, strengthen their faith! Yā Raḥmān, shower them with mercy! You are their Lord and my Lord, so bless them and bless me, and bring to them blessings of untold sorts from directions they would never expect! Do this for them, and for all the thousands upon thousands of souls that You have gathered in Kilis on this day, yā arḥam al-rāḥimīn, āmīn!
There is more than enough in this world to meet the needs of the people of Kilis – we have only to realign our priorities, and emulate the spirit of the Anṣār. Moustafa is going back in a few weeks with some other Yale students to help with the medical situation, and I am going to support their effort. I want to be with them in spirit, for the sake of Allah, and so I am giving $1000 towards their overall goal of $20,000, and only mention it publicly to encourage you to give as well. Even if you give less than me, perhaps what you give will be greater in the sight of Allah. May Allah accept from all of us, ameen!
There may be so many other needs in Kilis in the coming months (food, housing, education, employment, spiritual and mental health needs, etc.), but we will not let Shayṭān overwhelm us and trick us into doing nothing. We can do something, and that is what matters. If you don’t know what du’a to make, then just make the same du’a that I wrote above! If you don’t know where to give, then give to the same totally-reliable and unambiguous cause that I highlighted! If some other city or project is taking up your attention, then I pray that you are blessed in that endeavor, and the people in need are supported by Allah through you. Please make du’a for me, the Yale group’s trip, and all your brothers in sisters in Kilis.
Jazakum Allah khayr!
Syrian Refugees seeking shelter in the Kilis bus station