American Muslims and the Haiti Earthquake


In the Name of God, the Subtle, the Loving

The pictures, sounds, and reports coming out of Haiti are utterly devastating. The scale of the disaster is only beginning to be comprehended. My heart goes out to the people of Haiti, and I pray that the Lord bring them comfort, shelter, healing, and strength. May He give them the power to weather this latest of storms to hit that country.

News reports of the myriad of aid agencies rushing to help the people of Haiti abound. Many of the reports I have seen have been about Christian organizations who have mobilized to help the people of Haiti. This is very good, and I know the people of Haiti will appreciate any help they can get. What has not been talked about, however, is the efforts of the American Muslim community to help the victims of the Haiti earthquake.

The Islamic Society of North America, the largest Muslim organization in America, has set up a Haiti Aid Fund and has encouraged American Muslims to contribute to that fund. American Muslim relief agency Islamic Relief, has also launched an appeal to help the victims of the earthquake in Haiti as well. Muslim leaders have called for Imams to discuss the crisis in Haiti during their Friday sermons this week. I also urge everyone to help out the effort as much as they can: either with their own efforts or by donating to one of the many aid organizations which are in Haiti providing emergency relief.

Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president of the ISNA said in a statement:

As Muslims, we believe that human suffering is not always explainable or understandable. We do know that innocent people suffer all the time, from sickness and natural disaster, and that in such cases, we are required to do two things: First, pray and remember, as the Qur’an says that “to God we belong and to Him we return.” Second, we must help those who are suffering.

The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, reported in a Sacred Hadith that if we want to be close to God, we should visit the sick and feed the needy. On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will say, “O son of Adam, I fell ill and you did not visit me.” The person will say, “O Lord, how could I visit you when You are the Lord of the worlds?” He will say, “Did you not know that So-and-so fell ill and you did not visit him? If you had visited him, you would have found Me with him [the hadith continues].”
We realize from this hadith that the path to closeness with God is, after worship, service to humanity. Perhaps the most needy collectivity of people in the world today are the Haitians after enduring this terrible earthquake. Helping the Haitians in this time of need is certainly a sign of religious sincerity. (Read the rest of her statement here.)

There is no way – unless you have no human heart whatsoever – to have no compassion for the suffering of the people of Haiti after this powerful earthquake. These are fellow human beings who have suffered a tremendous loss. You cannot help but feel their pain and heartache. No true religiosity; no true spirituality; no true God-consciousness will move you to look upon the suffering of other human beings – even if they have a different faith tradition – with cold-hearted indignance.

If any Muslim were to look at the suffering of the people of Haiti and say to himself or herself: “Who cares? They are kafara (non-believers). Muslims have suffered greatly, too”, then he or she must check their faith and sincerity. Indeed, Muslims have suffered greatly for many, many years. But, caring for fellow Muslims does not preclude having compassion for the suffering of others across the world. In fact, the demand of our faith to care for our brothers and sisters in Islam demands of us to care for our brothers and sisters in humanity. The two are never mutually exclusive.

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