The grave news from Pakistan emerged last week with the devastating flooding. The death toll has now reached over 1,500. There are shortages of food, water, clothing, shelter, and supplies and, yet, the water continues to rise in the region. In Punjab, 15,000 homes have already been destroyed, leaving what is to be called “a mass exodus of people”. These are 15,000 families who no longer will have shelter for the month of Ramadan. This year they will be forced to fast because there is no food to eat, no water drink. They will be up all night in prayer because there is no shelter to keep them warm.
And the water continues to rush in the urban centers, already having threatened to destroy crops which are the breadbasket of the province. Water levels left only tree tops and some of the upper portions of homes visible. The washed-out bridges and roads and downed communication lines make the relief efforts even more difficult in delivering aid that the army has had to use boats and helicopters to rescue stranded villagers. The situation in the government, however, is so bleak that the United States had to send 6 military helicopters from Afghanistan to use for rescue efforts.
Al-Jazeera reports that Pakistani citizen Ejaz Khan is frustrated with the relief efforts of the government, citing his packed shelter with lack of food and medicine. His two-room house was destroyed in the flood, something he had paid for with his own hard-earned money. This scenery paints the question: Who will help these people?
The UN has warned of “serious food shortages following the loss of farm produce in the floods”. They have estimated that approximately 1.8 million people will need to be fed in the next month. And, yet, it was the Messenger of Allah who said, “The Muslims are like a body, if one part of the body hurts, the rest of the body will also suffer” [Hadith Muslim].
The irony of this is that the next month, in which these 1.8 million people will need food and shelter, is the month of Ramadan. It is the time when Muslims all over the world are required to pay Zakat (almsgivings), a 2.5% charity of their wealth to the poor. Furthermore, charity and generosity in general is urged during Ramadan. The deprivation of the fast allow us to sympathize with the suffering of the others, and make us desire to alleviate their pains.
Therefore, with a pressing disaster such as this, a disaster which affects a large portion of the Muslims and arriving at a time just days before Ramadan, it is only logical that we must respond.
One of the prominent responders to the relief efforts, Islamic Relief, has launched a global appeal of £2 million following what is called “the worst monsoon floods in living memory”. They have already begun distributing blankets and tents to the victims of this flood. But more aid from international donors is needed to prevent the death toll from escalating.
However none of this can be possible without each of our help.
Here is a breakdown of what can be bought with YOUR donated money:
£20 will buy a family hygiene kit
£40 will buy a food pack for a family
£150 will buy a family tent
Other organizations uniting to help in the relief efforts include
- The British Red Cross
- Catholic Relief Services
- Church World Service
- Direct Relief International
- Doctors Without Borders
- World Food Programme
- World Vision
Finally, we must remember that this disaster is truly a test from Allah (Glorified be He). It is a test not only for the victims of the disaster, but it is a test for the rest of the Muslims, testing our response to help our fellow Muslims during this month of Ramadan. Allah tells us in the Qur’an:
Do you think that you shall enter into Paradise without such trials as those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with poverty and disease and they were shaken such that the Messenger and those who believed that were with him cried out, ‘When will the Help of God come?’ Surely, the help of God is near. (Qur’an, 2:214)