By Ustadh Wahaj Tarin – Dean of Students at the Australian Islamic College, President of Islamic Motivations, conductor of weekly Halaqas, and a prolific Khateeb
At a time when really difficult images are being associated with Islam, we have a long legacy of contribution to the world. This legacy should not be hijacked by rogue organizations. The world and the media should not do the injustice of associating the classics with the fake. What did this Muslim world look like from the inside? First, it was a civilization of kindness and empathy which supported other humans.
During the Great Famine in Ireland (1845 – 1852), a disease filled the potato plantations, which was the main food at the time especially amidst the poor. The harvest was severely affected that year; a lot of people died, and the Irish dubbed it as the Great Hunger. They say a million people died, and a million people fled from the famine. A million is a lot of people to die.
It isn’t that there wasn’t any food in Ireland; there was, but Ireland was subjugated by the English. A lot of property was owned by the English, so in order to pay for living on the land, the produce was sent back to England and the poor died in Ireland.
Eventually, news of this reached the Ottoman Caliph that Christian people were dying in Ireland out of poverty. Please help. This was the time when the Ottomans had some internal problems as well. However, the Caliph felt a huge sense of responsibility and out of his deep humanity, he promised: “I will send ten thousand silver pounds to Ireland.”
However, he was not a reckless ruler and recognized that Ireland was under the stewardship of Britain. He found out that the British queen Victoria was giving only two thousand silver pounds to help out Ireland. He had promised ten thousand. Recognizing that his contribution would make the queen’s one look very small, he reduced his number to one thousand. Do you see that the Muslim monarchs didn’t want any disruption of other lands and other systems?
He said: “I have made a promise of ten thousand; I have to take goods to them equivalent to that sum, although in money I will only give a thousand.” So he sent to them a thousand silver pounds, which comes to a million-something in our currency. And then he sent five ship loads of grains. There was no income to expect, no business; this was just a sincere help extended to his fellow human beings.
When it reached there, the people were very overwhelmed, and the nobles of Ireland wrote this letter of thanks and gratitude back to the Sultan. It read a little like this:
“We, the nobleman, gentleman, and inhabitants of Ireland, want to express our thanks and gratitude for the Ottoman Sultan’s munificent assistance. The Sultan’s assistance and response displays an example to the European states. Many were relieved and saved from perishing through this timely act. We express our gratitude on their behalf and hope that the Ottoman Sultan and his dominions will be saved from the afflictions, which have befallen us.”
In recognition of the timely act of this gracious Caliph, they adopted the symbol of the crescent and the star on some of their government buildings. Today their soccer team wears this proudly on their shirts in memory of what the Ottoman Caliph had done for them at a time when very few would come to their aid.
Apart from Istanbul, other parts of the Islamic Khilafah, Bombay, and other countries all sent goods to this land, so that they could save their fellow humans.
Transcribed for hiba by Sarah Saqib Teli