Over the last few years, the heart-tormenting news regarding Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar (Burma) by boat and on foot reminds us the world’s most forgotten people’s wretched life.
The Rohingya people live in Burma, and they are indigenous to the state of Rakhine, bordering Bangladesh on the Bay of Bengal, while others claim that they migrated to Burma during the period of British rule of Burma. The Rohingya have settled in Arakan, Burma since the 15th century AD.
Amid Burma where the majority of the population is Buddhists, the Rohingya have been oppressed for years.
They have been considered as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, and their citizenship has been denied which leaves them stateless in their homeland.
In addition, the Burmese authorities have a clear policy against the Rohingya people who have been persecuted in every possible form – burned, raped, tortured and killed.
The Rohingya are not allowed to have education and register marriage. The worst part is that they suffer from the violence of Buddhist extremists.
Due to the above reasons, a number of Rohingya seek for refuges aboard. However, the story doesn’t end peacefully even if they are seeking a better life abroad. Many of them cannot live in their homeland and have to take a boat, another precarious risk at the hands of traffickers.
These traffickers demand a steep price for the Rohingya to get on the board. An extra extortion from these traffickers constantly happens. If these refugees fail to pay the extortions, they could be beaten to death or left to die by starvation.
The Rohingyas’ life tragedy has been ongoing for years. Many of them fled to ghettos in neighboring Bangladesh and to areas along the Thai-Burmese border. The news of the Rohingya being trapped in overcrowded boats must sadden many other Muslims around the world. This ought to make us conjure up the saying of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) on brotherhood:
“The believers are like one body in their love, mercy, and compassion for each other. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.”
(Sahih Bukhari 5665, Sahih Muslim 2586)
But besides feeling bad for our Rohingya brothers and sisters, is there anything else we as Muslims can do to help?
In another hadith, we are taught three ways to change or repel an evil and this is narrated by Abu Saeed al- Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him). The first act is considered to showcase the best of Iman (piety) among the three that is to change an evil with your hand: meaning to act on it. More specifically, if Muslims are witnessing an evil, then it is obligatory upon them to change it if they have the ability to do so.
The ones who have more power to remove the evil are the ones who are in positions of authority over others such as rulers and scholars. Compared with others, they are more able to enact laws and protect the weak.
It is sadly true that the authorities of nearby Muslim countries were not able to take in these refugees and let them be stranded at sea. The least they could do was to give them food, water and directions to other countries, which may be able to give an assistance.
Other Muslim communities in Indonesia and Bangladesh are trying their best to help these refugees by donating clothes and offering food by boats. Although this action is really minor, Inshaa’ Allah these refugees can at least release a little bit of anguish while being trapped in the middle of the sea or in self-made refugee camps.
If we are not able to act on the situation, we should change it by speaking the truth. “The tongue must be used to speak the truth if the hand cannot enforce it.
Many people may not be familiar with the terrible life situation of Rohingya refugees. As Muslims, we can do our best to explain and invite more people to pay heed to Rohingya refugees. Through speech, we strive to ward off an evil act. However, we should speak in a way that does not harm or make anyone feel ignorant or foolish. To reach this objective, it indeed tests Muslims’ wisdom and patience.
Let is be known that showing the weakest faith is to reject the evil in our hearts. We should really feel bad for the Rohingya, as they are our Muslim brothers and sisters. Seeing them suffer from torment indeed breaks our hearts. Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) knows the best what is inside our hearts. Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) knows who would change an evil if they were able to, and He knows who does and does not hate an evil in their hearts. In Surah al-Taubah: 71, it is said:
“The believers, men and women, are helpers and supporters of one another. They order what is good and forbid what is evil. They also establish the prayer, pay the zakat and obey Allah and His Messenger. These are those to whom Allah will show mercy. Allah is the Al-Mighty, All Wise.”
So, please you and I should help them, by donating to trustworthy appeals, raising awareness among our communities and above all, making sincere Duas to Allah to change their condition to bring ease.