Islamic Relief’s Seda Suleymanova reflects on the value of compassion in healing hearts and transforming lives in the Chechen Republic this Ramadan and beyond.

Seda Suleymanova works for Islamic Relief in Chechnya.

Every Ramadan is special because each time it is like being granted something very special from our Creator: another chance to improve, become wiser, kinder, and stronger. Qualities which we need more than ever during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Here in Chechnya we all struggled through the isolation of last Ramadan, with no one able to socialise in person, even at Eid. Praise be to Allah, due to the improving situation this year the Covid-19 prevention restrictions have been eased, and we are all hopeful to finally returning to the lives we had before the pandemic.

This Ramadan is also uplifting because it will be the first I spend with the wonderful Islamic Relief family, which is united by common goals and aspirations. I am supporting the Ramadan food distribution as we put Islamic Relief’s core values into action to support vulnerable people.

Compassion underpins humanitarian action

It has got me thinking about compassion, Rahma, and what that means to us at Islamic Relief. We believe the protection and well-being of every life is of paramount importance and we act as one in responding to suffering brought on by disasters, poverty and injustice.

Compassion towards people who are poor, oppressed and suffering is at the basis of all humanitarian action. As our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Kindness – is the mark of faith, and whoever is not kind has no faith” (Muslim).

May the Almighty protect our hearts from being unmerciful and unjust. Seeing other people in need and helping them is just as important as meeting our own needs.

I have learned this firsthand.

In 1995 my family and I fled our home in Grozny, seeking safety in central Russia. I met many kind, understanding people, who offered their help and support. Alhamdulillah, we had somewhere to live and food to eat, but their kind words healed our broken hearts. Their compassion helped us to overcome the trauma.

Compassion transformed into action is powerful

I returned to Grozny in 2002, and later began working for a humanitarian organisation. It was then that I understood how little I had gone through compared to others who stayed in Chechnya during the conflict.

Many families became homeless, many people lost their relatives – and still don’t know anything about their fate. Many children and adults were injured and traumatised by mines. May the Almighty Creator grant all who suffer a fair reward.

Through my work, I see how compassion transforms into action that brings comfort and relief to people in need. And this Ramadan I feel that is especially important since many families here will have little food on their tables. The unemployment rate is high, poverty widespread, and Covid-19 is making it harder than ever for people to earn a living.

So Islamic Relief’s work with vulnerable families, in which we support them to escape the poverty trap and improve their living conditions, is for many a light in the darkness.

Among them are Said and Zarema, who were unable to afford to repair their dilapidated house. We installed heating, windows and a front door, so they and their 5 children have a warm, safe home at last.

Zarema at home with three of her children.

The people we serve inspire me

The Ramadan distribution is challenging, and lots of hard work. But seeing the happiness of families like these, and knowing that we made a difference to their lives, makes it all worthwhile. The people we serve inspire me to keep going, and I also keep in my heart Prophet’s (PBUH) example:

‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Amr (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Those who are merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heaven will be merciful to you.” (At-Tirmidhi)

The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us all how fragile life is, and how unexpectedly it can change. As we continue to face one of the greatest pandemics in human history, let us value every single minute of our lives and spend them showing compassion.

This year, let’s show our brothers and sisters that We Are One. Donate to our Ramadan appeal today.