Reflections for Ramadan: Somali famine

Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during Ramadan in the Huffington Post:

It’s shocking to me how many people have no idea what is happening in Somalia right now. Famine, drought and conflict have put almost 3.6 million people at risk of starvation. In the last month alone, 29,000 children have died and according to U.N. Under Secretary General Valerie Amos, and it is projected that up to 600,000 children may die. The Food and Agriculture Organization, also part of the U.N., stated that the famine will probably last until the end of the year and spread across most of the Southern part of Somalia in the next month or so.

So how is it that the world has not noticed? And why is it so difficult for us to give?

It’s really hard to find people who are genuinely selfless these days. Our giving unfortunately becomes conditional. We find it hard to move beyond socially constructed differences. I can’t get over your skin color being different from mine, or our languages not being the same, or that we practice a different faith. How many of us give just for the sake of giving? How many of us give in a way that our goal isn’t to make ourselves feel good, but rather to make someone else feel good?

In the Islamic tradition, an instance comes about where a gift of a goat is sent to the house of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. He immediately begins to distribute the meat from the goat to men and women in his community who are in need. It’s not as if this man has lavish banquets and an abundance of food in his home. In some narrations, it is said that that days would go by without a fire being lit in his home because there was nothing to cook on the fire. He himself was someone that did not have that much, which makes it so much more amazing that he was willing to give it away before taking any for himself. He continues to give of this goat until his wife says to him that there is nothing left of it but it’s neck. His response to her? All of it is left except it’s neck.

He did not see the world in terms of what he was giving up but rather he saw it in terms of what others were gaining. We need to start seeing the world in this way.

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Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan, featured daily on HuffPost Religion. For a complete record of his previous posts, go to the Islamic Center at New York University or visit his author page.

To give aid to Somali and other places of famine go to Episcopal Relief and Development.

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