With Compassion, Nihal
Notes From the Field with Baitulmaal
As-salaamu Alaikum / Greetings of Peace,
There in Islahiye, Türkiye I saw it for the first time in my life, a collapsed masjid.
A beautiful massive white dome nestled on a faded crimson bottom, sitting on the smashed structure beneath it.
I wondered how many hundreds of people could have been inside if the earthquake happened during jumu’a, God forbid.
Across the street was an evacuated apartment building which was ripped down as a safety measure in case it collapsed. You see, though many buildings looked fine after the earthquake, they become unlivable in a matter of forty seconds.
That is all it took, forty seconds, for someone’s entire life to be destroyed.
As the Baitulmaal team walked through the debris, I found a water faucet. The inhabitants of the building did not think that February 6, 2023 would be the last night in their home. A water faucet—something common in all of our houses—but now a privilege to have and use among the people of Islahiye.
Our team spent the day with the Turkish and Syrian people of Islahiye, one of the epicenters of the earthquake.
The lack of heating in their tents did not reduce the warmth of their hospitality.
As the sun disappeared into the horizon and the cold began to settle in, an older couple insisted on offering us tea. They pulled up the few chairs they had and urged that we sit and drink with them. From the Islamic ethos is to not reject an invitation once it is offered, as it is a means for the host to be honored and for the hearts of the people to connect.
As the sunlight dwindled, a Baitulmaal truck arrived with supplies. Heaters, coal, and wood that could warm the tents were a relief in this frigid cold. As our volunteers unloaded the eighteen wheeler, more and more people began to appear. We saw maybe 30-40 tents in our direct vicinity, but it seemed people were coming from all over. News spreads fast. As soon as everyone had received a heater, we moved to another part of the city to provide aid.
We came upon a more rural part of Islahiye, wherein there was maybe one or two houses, but dozens upon dozens of tents. People flocked to the truck on foot and motorcycle to collect heaters and fuel. As the cold was almost unbearable at this hour at night, a sweet Turkish woman began to offer us home cooked meals while we were distributing the supplies. We were brought to tears. Those with little have the largest hearts.
The hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) rang in my head, “Allah is in the aid of someone who is in the aid of his brother.” When we help others, Allah helps us.
The next day we went to the northern Syrian towns of R’as al-‘Ayn and Tell Abyad. Though not as severely affected by the earthquakes, this area has seen very little outside of famine and war over the last decade. Baitulmaal has sponsored schools in the area which are run by local Syrians for their children.
We went to a school which our organization was considering to remodel. Upon entering, I thought that because of its terrible conditions, no one can study here. But then, one of our team members mentioned how hundreds of children currently study there!
“Whoever seeks knowledge will even stay up at night to get it” was written on the walls. Even in the face of a war zone, education does not stop for these determined people.
After coming out of one of the schools in Ra’s al-‘Ayn, we gave out candy to the children that lived nearby.
My heart broke.
We approached a child who had a nail protruding out of his knee and was dragging himself on the ground. It was visibly infected. Next to him was his sister who was holding a baby, while their mother was cooking inside. His father had died. The nail was placed in an ad hoc manner by a doctor supposedly, as medical help was not easily accessible within this town. Eventually, our team called local officials in the area to help the young man get treatment for his knee.
When we gave him and other children in the area the candy, they did not understand why we were giving it. No one helps these children. This is Syria. Who remembers them? Allah remembers them, but who among the people remembers these children and is helping them? At least the Baitulmaal team was able to do something for this young child, but what about the thousands like him?
In the past I have given to many charities, but seldom have I seen in person the work that a charity has done.
Just for earthquake relief efforts, I saw the $5.35 million of aid which Baitulmaal is actively giving in the affected regions. There is a team of local and international aid workers distributing and coordinating this aid.
This Ramadan, I encourage you to give your sadaqa and zakat to Baitulmaal, so that they can continue to provide aid to the dozens of countries that they service all throughout the world.
Give generously for all the beautiful souls waiting for your help.
Imam Nihal Khan is completing a PhD in Islamic Studies at Ibn Haldun University in Istanbul, Türkiye. He is the founder of Maktab Academy and an instructor at Fawakih Institute. He received an ‘alimiyya degree from Nadwatul ‘Ulama in Lucknow, India, a MA in Religious Studies from the Hartford Seminary, studied at the Harvard Divinity School, and holds a BA in Psychology from Montclair State University. In addition to working with masjids, Imam Nihal has been a chaplain at hospitals and jails. He recently joined Baitulmaal on a humanitarian mission to help those impacted by the earthquakes in Turkiye/Syria. During Ramadan, he is hosting a daily live stream ” Ramadan Q & A with Nihal Khan” on Baitulmaal’s social platforms.