From Syria to Bangladesh, and from Libya to The Gulf, Muslims are afflicted with internal strife and division. Even at a local level, many mosques witness conflicts amongst different sub-groups of Muslims, be they divisions of ethnicity, nationality, sect or mathab. Some have attributed this to the unfortunate reality that the Islamic civilisation has been on the decline for at least a century. Others argue that it is the failure of Muslims to formulate a successful path that blends Islam and the modern concept of the Nation State. Whatever the reason, Muslims and Muslim majority societies are suffering greatly due to pervasive disunity. The wars that have resulted in this have caused an enormous amount of suffering, and have incurred huge costs on the societies of Muslims; financial, social and psychological. Most Islamic charity initiatives attempt to address the fruit of disunity, in that they provide aid to the communities that need them the most. A different charity initiative has emerged over the last 18 years – yes, it raises millions of pounds for orphans and needy children- but it has something unique. Charity Week actively attempts to address the root cause of these ills–disunity.
Dr Wajid Akhtar was a medical student in the UK in 2000. At that time, he had an idea to begin a new initiative, one that raised money for charity purposes, but also put a central emphasis on unity. That’s why he got together with some friends and began fundraising at his university, St George’s University in London. Could those pioneers have envisioned the extent to which Charity Week would grow? Since that first week in 2000, the initiative has grown into an international effort, participated in by universities and schools in the UK, Canada, Qatar, Germany, the USA, Australia and this year’s newbies, South Africa. Last year’s worldwide Charity Weekers raised a staggering £1,157,859.44.
Speaking exclusively to Mvslim, Dr Wajid said, “Allah says that He will not change the situation of a people until they change themselves. Charity Week was started to help bring about this change at a grassroots level. It is the vision of a better world being possible that resonates with people far more than any fundraising campaign.”
Charity Week is student led, and a spirit of Islam and positivity is central to the endeavour. Activities range from the classic (student – staff football matches, public lectures and bake sales), to the daring (dunk your professor), the environmentally aware (tree planting), the downright adorable (dressing in superhero costumes and handing out gifts to children to hospitals), through to Charity Weeks’ famous Auctions. To get a sense of the spirit of charity that descends upon these, items of little value such as bananas have been known to auction off for hundreds of pounds, while last year seen €7,000 spent on a Lego minifigure at an auction in Germany.
The money raised is then spent across the world, from emergency response projects in Mynamar, to vital medical equipment on the Syria-Turkey border, to school enhancement projects in Malawi. The marriage of increasing unity amongst Muslims in the developed world, while raising funds for life saving projects for Muslims in parts of the world that are facing significant affliction, makes Charity Week a potent force for good in today’s world. With real unity, the need for emergency aid would decrease, and what was once the Islamic Civilisation might go back towards giving the world the sweetness of the fruits of faith.
Speaking on his vision, Dr Wajid told Mvslim, “We all have a choice. We can either continue as we are in our disunited, disenfranchised and disastrous state – lurching from one calamity to another OR we can decide that we have had enough. We can unite, we can become professional and we can work like our lives depend on it. Only when we unite can we begin to seriously face the many problems we have with any hope of overcoming them. Only when we unite our hearts and minds can we grow together.”
Keep an eye out for Charity Week initiatives coming to a university near you later this month, with Charity Week due to run from October the 22nd through to the 28th this year.