It was in April 2013, while two Jamiatul Ulama KZN officials and many Ulama from South Africa were in Istanbul, Turkey for an academic conference, that they were informed of the hospitalization of some South African brothers (involved in humanitarian efforts) as a result of an accident. Among the injured was our colleague, Moulana AK Allie of the Muslim Judicial Council of South Africa. At the hospital Moulana Allie informed us of the pitiable condition of the Syrian refugees. He informed us of a little Syrian girl in the next ward whose leg was badly injured in a bomb blast. The Jamiat members visited the young girl in the ward and met her father, who reported to us about the terrible plight of the refugees. We also met Syrian refugees and humanitarian workers who informed us of the dire situation of the Syrian refugees in Turkey. There was an impassioned plea for help for them from the South African Muslims. It was at this juncture that Jamiatul Ulama KZN decided to respond to the cries of help by launching an urgent relief operation especially since Ramadaan was closely approaching.
The Jamiat Ulama KZN then arranged after much negotiations with Kimse Yokmu, a Turkish relief organization, to prepare urgently five thousand grocery hampers and blankets for distribution among the Syrian refugees. Alhamdulillah the Jamiat KZN team, comprising of 5 Ulama, a doctor, a businessman, an engineering student and a brother from Turkey, left for Istanbul on Fri 26 July 2013. We arrived in Istanbul at 3-30pm the next day after waiting for a few hours in Dubai. Our next flight was two and half hours later to Gaziantep, which is in the south-east of Turkey, approximately ninety kms from Allepo, Syria, where we met by members of Kimse Yokmu. This had been a long journey and we only made Iftaar here on Sat at 7-40pm. Taking into account the time difference in both Dubai and Istanbul, the team had been fasting about 18 hours in total. The next morning we were taken to Killis where we first went to the warehouse of Kimse Yokmu to collect the hampers and blankets.
We then visited the refugees who were staying in abandoned and derelict homes where we distributed the hampers and blankets. Many of them were widows and orphans whose husbands and fathers were either fighting in Syria or martyred. We also visited a municipal park in Killis where about 2500 people were camping in make-shift tents. Kimse Yokmu had set up a fully operational feeding centre opposite this park where they were feeding approximately four thousand people daily for Iftaar and Suhoor. Here the Jamiat team had an opportunity to serve the refugees their Iftaar meals. The refugees cued up with their containers in a very orderly manner and were served bread and gravy dish of chick peas.
Later we visited three homes which were turned into make-shift clinics for the war-wounded to recuperate and heal. Here young men, in the prime of their youth, lay critically injured-many paralysed. Several had lost their limbs either from bomb blasts or snipers bullets. We left some hampers for the injured after spending some time offering them consolation.
The following day we visited the run-down area of Nizip where the district manager took us door to door to visit the refugees and distribute the hampers and blankets. It was truly a heart-rending experience to see an average of three families staying in one house, many of whom were widows with many orphan children. They were living in very difficult conditions and were extremely grateful and pleased when the hampers, together with toys and sweets were distributed to them.
We also visited a school in Nizip were the Turkish government had arranged during the school vacation for Syrian teachers to teach the Syrian refugee children. They had also made arrangements for text books to be printed in Arabic for the students. Several students here that we met were so eager to meet with us and many even beautifully recited short surahs from the Quran Majeed.
Among these refugees we found a great need for milk powder for children as well as diapers. We went to a wholesaler where we purchased some of these items to assist the most urgent cases.
We were quite impressed at the logistic infrastructure of warehouse storage, transport and related equipment support that our host organization, Kimse Yokmu, had throughout the country. They facilitated the distribution of the hampers and blankets very efficiently due to being well organized. Kimse Yokmu is a humanitarian organization providing assistance across 80 countries and is funded largely by the Turkish Muslims. They even have state of the art search and rescue equipment (called ASYA)which they used to respond to the Japanese Tsunami within 16 hours of the crisis occurring. Indeed it was an honour for us to have partnered with such an esteemed and credible organization. The Jamiat Ulama KZN is now planning a second-phase relief operation where family-sized tents will be distributed. These tents are designed to be waterproof, fireproof and insect proof. These tents will be critical in the coming winter months where temperatures on the Syrian-Turkish border towns are extremely cold and go well below zero. The tents will cost about 350 Euros and so far 2100 families have been identified as recipients by Kimse Yokmu.
We then left for Mardin, about four hours by road, where we met more refugees. Here we also met the official Mufti in Mardin. Here we also had the opportunity to visit a family on a farm which is very close to the Syrian border. They had given over a new home to the Syrian refugees to stay. We were invited to have Iftaar on the flat roof of their house. Here seated on mats we broke our fast while in the distance of the Syrian border we could see black smoke rising, signs of a recent bomb blast. A dark morbid mood was caste over us with this stark reminder of the suffering of this senseless war.
May Allah Ta’ala accept the meagre efforts of the Jamiat delegation and remove the suffering of our brothers and sisters of Syria as well as in the rest of the world where humanity is suffering from conflicts and war. May Allah Ta’ala also guide us South Africans to realize His great favours and bounties and demonstrate our gratitude practically through obedience and service to His Glorious Deen.
See Below Speech delivered by a University of Kwa-Zulu Natal Engineering Student who joined the JamiatulUlama KZN’s relief team to Turkey entirely at his own expense.
Let me start of by saying, the Situation in Syria, is far worse than we all think and imagine it to be.
No matter how well we speak or how well we present the situation, our words here today can never do justice to the horrific situation experienced by our Syrian brothers and sisters.
In our comfort and luxury, we hear the stories, the rumours of children orphaned, woman widowed, families murdered. We hear the stories and think, Innalillahee wa inna elayhee Raajioon but it doesn’t go any further, and our hearts remain untouched.
Let me tell you, brothers and sisters. These are no rumours. These stories are fact.
I have witnessed along with the entire Jamiatul Ulama KZN’s relief delegation, those orphaned children, 20 in one family. Those widowed pregnant woman with infant children crying out for milk, bread, anything with which to feed their children. I have seen and met men that have lost their brothers and sons.
I ask you, stop for a minute, and picture the situation. Put yourself in their situation. Where one day you had a home, today you are homeless. One day you had food, the next day even water is hard to come by. One day you had a family, today they are all Shaheed.
Imagine the trauma, the psychological impact on the children of a land where every child knows what a bomb is and has more than likely witnessed or heard one explode, every child can name the names of the loved ones they have lost to Assad and his thugs.
These people were like you and I. Professionals, businessmen, sons and daughters of professionals and businessmen. Living well, eating well. Sleeping in comfortable homes with beds, blankets, toys and good food.
Today, these same people, the you and I of Syria, are houseless, homeless, without a family and even without clothes! As a relief group, we went to the borders, and witnessed them streaming in. Alhamdullillah the Turkish government and the Turkish people have opened their arms to the ‘Muhajireen’ from Syria, as they are fondly referred to. But go to the borders, and you will see them streaming across in 1’s and 2’s, with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Sometimes a packet or 2 of whatever they have managed to pack up and carry along. Not a Quraan, nor a tasbeeh among them. The joy on their faces when I offered them a miswaak…a miswaak my brothers and sisters, a miswaak. Like gold they jumped for miswaaks, the Sunnat of our Nabi Sallallahu alaihiwasallam. Here, you and I sit, where miswaaks are freely available, yet which one of us uses one on a regular basis?
As a society, we have become so hardened to the fate of our brothers and sisters across the globe, that their difficulties, their hardships do not even touch our hearts anymore. They are hungry,while we eat well and complain of too little salt in the food.They have no houses, our complaint…our houses don’t have big enough kitchens or big enough lounges.
This trip has been an eye opener for me.I was fortunate enough to join the Jamiat Ulama Kzn on this relief trip. I left South Africa, without the faintest of ideas of what the conditions would be like.
The conditions I witnessed make me ashamed to say I get to eat in comfort every day.
The first thing to be noticed is, despite the severity of the conditions and the dire situation, the Syrians are a smiling community. Always greeting with Salaam and a smile.
Let me share a story with you, the story of Ebrahim. Ebrahim is a youngster, 12 maybe 13 years of age. He lived a happy life, from the city of Haleb, Alleppo. He had food, water, clothing, a family and a house to live in.
Today, Ebrahim lives in a park. One of 2000 others, finding shelter in makeshift tents of blankets strung up between trees. Ebrahim owns nothing but a t-shirt and a pair of jeans, he survives on food given out morning and evening. Cold and the Sub-zero temperatures of the Turkish winter are fast approachingand I wonder how is Ebrahim to survive the winter? Yet Ebrahim has only one request. Smiling he asks, please make Dua.
While we sit here in South Africa, counting our Rands andcents. The Turkish winter approaches. My brothers and sisters, if nothing is done I could well be saying, this is Ebrahim’s death that approaches.
The story of AbdurRahmaan, also from Aleppo, 19 maybe 21 years of age. Like us, interested in clothes, shoes and cellphones. When the war started, AbdurRahmaan had a choice, stand up and fight, or flee the land of his parents and grandparents.
AbdurRahmaan chose to fight. I met him in a building converted into a makeshift hospital in a town called Kilis. AbdurRahmaan sits today, on a sagging bed with one small tattered blanket covering him. Considering the conditions of others, this can be considered a luxury. AbdurRahmaan isparalyzed from the legs down, shot by an Assad sniper. With a radiant smile on his face he tells me his story. As I am about to leave he calls me back to tell me: “I love you for the sake of Allah.” His request, Duas. Yesterday he could run and jump, today, paralyzed he smiles and requests Duas for the people of Syria. While you and I, brothers in Islam, fight amongst ourselves about this girl, that girl, this parking space, that business partnership, Abdur Rahmaan lies in bed, fervently requesting our Duas.
In the room next to AbdurRahmaan, bed followed by bed, the injured are spread out. The torture and torment our brothers and sisters in Syria are suffering is beyond comprehension. Paralyzed, with catheters, broken bones, diapers, frail bodies, these are common sites amongst the injured. My brothers, I promise you this is no exaggeration. I cried when I saw their condition. I cry still when I think about their condition.
I can go on all day. I can give you the details relayed to us by the father of his only son,a student like me travelling to campus every day. One day his journey comes to an untimely end. Why? Aland mine explodes his car. Today he has no right arm, and can’t speak. Whether he will ever speak again, only Allah Ta’ala knows.Six daughters and only 1 son! Fathers, you know the bond of a father and son. Imagine the bond between this father and his only son. What must be his agony?
In the streets of Nizip, an elderly woman approaches us. Her request, “Please, my daughter is a widow and she is pregnant. She has a young child. Some formula for this child is all that I ask. ” Mothers, when your child gets up crying at night, you have milk to feed it. This mother has to hear her child crying, night after night. Month after month. The knowledge that she has no milk for her child must certainly be a heavy burden on her shoulders.
I can tell you the story of Mustapha, of Ahmad, of AbdurRaheem, of Khalid and of so many others whose names elude me.Paralyzed, injured, orphaned, homeless and without a family!
The one common request. Please make Duas!
Brothers and sisters, I was indeed fortunate to have been giving this opportunity. To see and witness for myself the condition experienced by those suffering through this difficult and trying time.
Bear in mind, the people we have aided, those we have seen and interacted with is but a small portion of the population. They are, I could say,the ‘fortunate’ and I say fortunate in inverted commas. They are the fortunate few that have managed to make their way to the relative safety of Turkey. The question that plagues me constantly:“what must be the condition of those Syrians in Syria?”. If those in Turkey are in such need of food and medical aid, those besieged in Homs and other parts of Syria, how much more in need of food and medical aid must they be?
It is not my place to ask of you anything, you are my elders, but today I ask, I beg of you…please, make Dua for the people of Syria. Remember the people of Syria. Help the people of Syria. In whichever way you can assist the people of Syria.
I make Dua that Allah Ta’ala relieves the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Syria, and I make Dua that I be granted the opportunity to return to the land of Sham to lend my assistance to the people of Syria in whichever way possible,Insha-Allah.
Syria Relief Phase 2:The Jamiat is currently collecting funds for Phase 2 of its Syria Relief Project. Phase 2 is primarily aimed at providing shelter to homeless refugeesin addition to their other urgent needs. To this end we have identified high quality, fireproof tents(see pic) which are able to accommodate a family of at least 6. Cost per tent is 350 Euros, approximately 5000 Rand. Donate towards this project and play your part in securing the welfare of our suffering brethren of Syria. No amount is too small!
Nedbank, Argyle Road (131426)
Jamiatul Ulama (KZN) Relief Account
Account Number: 1355 154049
Reference: Syria Relief (Specify Lillah or Zakaat)
Surplus funds will be used for relief wherever and whenever the need arises.