To mark the 10th anniversary of Charity Week, we’ll be sharing inspirational stories from across the years. These are the kind of hidden stories that go behind the numbers and the efforts. They are the kind of stories that open our eyes to the beautiful people who made this all possible.
One of the more interesting tasks during Charity Week is going around the whole of London gathering pictures and video clips to be used in the subsequent videos and promo materials. You get to meet young Muslims of all different types and backgrounds but see that diversity being used in a single direction and with one goal. From the fully veiled sisters collecting from politicians at Westminster underground station to young Muslim guys who try their best to look gangsta whilst collecting near market stalls – it was an experience to be remembered.
I had just finished speaking to one of the brothers collecting money at a busy intersection and was about to walk away when an impeccably dressed man in a pinstripe suit and carrying an expensive leather case walked by. The brother instinctively asked him if he would like to donate to help orphans and needy children. Instead of just ignoring him, the businessman (I’m assuming thats what he was) turned and delivered a blistering rant. “Donate to you? And have all that money end up being used for radical and violent extremism? Do you think I’m mad?” His face was a deep shade of red as he spat out offensive statement after statement. I could almost feel my blood pressure rising. I was about to respond with a verbal tongue lashing of my own when the brother with the collection bucket smiled.
“May I ask you a question?” he said in a manner that was so calm and warm that the businessman was caught off guard. What followed was 3 minutes of a measured discussion with the Charity Week volunteer initially asking the gentleman where he had received his information about Islam and Muslims from and then proceeding to tell him what Islam was about at its core – about tawheed, justice and mercy.
“And who is better in speech than he who invites to Allah and does righteous deeds and says: “I am one of the Muslims.””
[Surah Fussilat, Verse 33]
As the businessman became visibly less agitated, the volunteer reassured him that all the money raised was fully accounted for down to the last penny and used to help some of the worlds poorest children. When he finished speaking, he stuck out his hand to shake the hand of the man who had just insulted him.
To my amazement, the businessman not only shook it but then took out his wallet and dropped a £20 note in the bucket. When I asked the brother what the secret to his dawah technique was he replied that (in his opinion) often the theory of Islam was explained without the accompanying practice. With all the suspicion and (sometimes) outright hatred that Muslims are regarded with in the West, it is often easy to reply in kind. But even the most hardened Islamophobe can be won over as long as we remain patient, true to our principles and willing to get out there and engage them. Don’t believe me? £20 says I’m right.
If you are interested in becoming part of the Charity Week team or starting the project in your school, college, University or city – get in touch. firstname.lastname@example.org