According to the records of the UN, there are about 50 million refugees all over the world. The great majority of these refugees are Muslims and this makes them our responsibility. Especially due to colonialist countries targeting the natural resources of Islamic lands in the last century, millions of Muslims are forced to flee from their homes and had to take shelter in neighboring countries. When we look at the current situation, we see that refugees are living in camps in very difficult conditions. The lands of those people who had to flee from war, violence and occupations, are given to other people. For example today Muslims of Myanmar are being forced to abandon their homes, almost 140,000 people still being displaced in Rakhine State. There are about 2 million Afghans, Kashmiri, Somalians, and Rohingyas in refugee camps.
There are more than 128,000 refugees living in temporary sites along the Thai-Myanmar border in very difficult conditions. 200,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees are in Pakistan, 500,000 Rohingya Muslims are in Saudi Arabia and 10,000 Rohingya Muslims are in Malaysia. There are about 300,000 unregistered Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Many of those refugees are not even given refugee status, so they have no rights, no help and no protection. It is known that about 100,000 Rohingyas are trying to survive unregistered in Bangladesh in the forest land.
Even those who remain in Myanmar are regarded as stateless and are thus excluded from protection and benefits of citizenship and experience discriminatory treatment. More than 800,000 people are estimated to be without citizenship in the northern part of Rakhine State of Myanmar which makes them refugees in their own lands. They are being displaced nationwide and are facing increased protection risks. They lack civil documentation, access to housing, property and land rights; they are subjected to forced labor, forced recruitment and restrictions on movement.
Actually many groups and many minorities had to flee from Myanmar since 1980. However unlike members of other minority groups in Myanmar, Muslim minority groups have not even been afforded ‘refugee’ status in many of the neighboring countries. Therefore these people are not even allowed humanitarian assistance and they lack protection by any international agency. These people are technically considered ‘stateless,’ a population living in a precarious legal limbo. Their lack of citizenship is a violation of their fundamental human right and thus prevents their accessing other rights anywhere else in the world.
And this is only a small part of the destitute Muslim refugees are subjected to all around the world as of today. However we, as Muslims, should feel responsible for these people because God deems us responsible for those who flee from persecution and take refuge in another country. In the Qur’an God tells us how to treat refugees in all details.
In the first years of Islam, when the tortures and persecution Muslims were subjected to became unbearable in Mecca, our Prophet (saas) and his Companions took refuge in Medina. Those Muslims who immigrated to Medina from Mecca were called “Muhajirun” meaning immigrants, refugees. The “Muhajirun” were welcomed by the Muslims of Medina. Those Muslims who welcomed Muhajirun and helped them in every possible way were called the “Ansar” meaning “the helpers”. In the Qur’an, God praises the attitudes of both of these Muslim communities as follows;
” Those who have faith and have made hijra and strive in the Way of God and those who have given refuge and help, they are the true Muslims. They will have forgiveness and generous provision.” (Qur’an, 8: 74)
The people of Medina, for whom our Prophet (saas) gave the name “Ansar- The Helpers”, were consisted of people of Yathrib who became Muslims when they came to Mecca in the previous pilgrimage seasons and secretly pledged their allegiance to our Prophet and of those who accepted Islam as a result of the preaching of those who pledge their allegiance back in Mecca. They have accepted Islam much later than the majority of the Muslims of Mecca but they were all very well behaved, sincere and self-sacrificing just like them. These precious people considered all those refugees (Muhajirun) as their brothers and sisters and wholeheartedly shared everything they had, their homes, their food with them and thus displayed a superior morality. God praises this beautiful morality Ansar showed in the Qur’an:
“Those who were already settled in the abode, and in faith, before they came, love those who have made hijra to them and do not find in their hearts any need for what they have been given and prefer them to themselves even if they themselves are needy. It is the people who are safe-guarded from the avarice of their own selves who are successful.” (Qur’an, 59: 9)
That beautiful attitude of the Helpers (Ansar) became instrumental in goodness and Islam spread not only to Medina but the whole world. God gives glad tidings to those refugees and their helpers, those well-mannered people who helped them as follows:
“Those who were already settled in the abode, and in faith, before they came, love those who have made hijra to them and do not find in their hearts any need for what they have been given and prefer them to themselves even if they themselves are needy. It is the people who are safe-guarded from the avarice of their own selves who are successful.” (Qur’an, 9: 100)
These beautiful manners of refugees and their helpers which are highly praised in the Qur’an should also be taken as a model for the way we treat refugees of our day. Just like the Ansar (The Helpers) did in the time of our Prophet (saas), treating refugees from Myanmar, from Syria and from any other country as our brothers and sisters is a necessity of Islam.
It is time for us all Muslims to realize that we should stand up and do the best we can do for those refugees and give them better conditions to live. Better yet it is time for us to realize that we should unite and do all we can to put an end to the persecutions executed on these Muslim brothers and sisters of ours which force them to become refugees.