The month of Ramadan is finally upon us. It is a time in which we can grow closer to our Creator, primarily through the noble acts of fasting and by occupying our time with the performance of beneficial acts of worship such as prayer, recitation and giving charity to organisations which aim to further the Islamic cause.
The drive for fundraising from Muslim charities is clearly visible during the blessed month. Prime time on all Muslim television stations will be dominated by charity appeals, the continuous barrage of emails and pamphlets through the door and not to forget the reminders on social media (and don’t forget to hit the ‘like’ button!). We see charities, both the well known as those whom we have never heard of before, telling us of all the fantastic work they are doing in the UK and abroad in helping needy Muslims. Frequently, the appeals touch our hearts, and it is from amongst the blessings of Allah that the Muslim community donates in an almost carefree fashion in the month of Ramadan.
Whilst our intention first and foremost should be to seek the pleasure of Allah through our sadaqah, perhaps it is important for us to question what happens to the money we have donated? Are charities really doing the work they claim to do? Whilst we certainly shouldn’t doubt an organisation for no apparent reason, I believe we should primarily aim to support those organisations which clearly have a track record in spending charitable funds in a wise manner and alongside this, have gone to the trouble of making their accounts crystal clear for the public to see.
All registered charities are regulated by the charity commission, and charities have a duty to provide their annual accounts to the commission. The accounts need to be audited by an independent firm which has no affiliation to the charity in question. The accounts are then made available on the charity commission website for the public to see how a charity spends its income (http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/). Not only do such procedures act as a deterrent to foul play within charities, they also give the public confidence to donate to those charities which have demonstrated clarity in their affairs.
Whilst it is very encouraging to see many well-known Muslim charities providing their accounts, a small number have submitted sparse amounts of information. One well known organisation has failed to provide any accounts for the last 4 years, whilst another has only been registered since the end of 2011, despite the fact that it has been fundraising for the last 4 years! Although this does not in any way imply that these charities have been partaking in foul play, such actions are highly unprofessional. In addition, failure to provide details of financials can be seen as disrespectful to those giving money to these charities. The least these charities can do is inform their donors what they have been doing with the money which has so generously been given to them through clear, independently verified accounts.
In light of this, I advise Muslims to do a bit of homework this Ramadan prior to donating their sadaqah and zakat by taking part in the following steps:
Find out if the charity has a proven track record in seeing through its projects. Did they really do what they claimed they would?
Ask other Muslims what they know of the charity in question. Word of mouth is a very powerful medium.
Check the charity on the charity commission website. See if they are registered, and check if they have provided their accounts for public viewing. Charities which have failed to provide up to date details shouldn’t receive public donations, unless of course they are able to explain in a satisfactory manner the reasons for not providing these details.
Those charities which have been clear in their finances and have built up a sound reputation for doing good work should receive generous donations. They should be encouraged to continue their excellent work, and perhaps we should donate even more to them than what we usually would.
If we collectively take such an approach to our sadaqah, it will encourage better standards amongst Muslim charities. Such a simple act of ‘self-regulation’ will make the collective body of Muslim charities much stronger, which will ultimately have benefits to the worthy causes in which they operate.
There has been a growing call in the United Kingdom to
legalise the act of ‘assisted suicide’, where the death of a terminally ill
patient is moved along with the assistance of another individual on grounds of
compassion. Earlier this month the Faulkner report concluded that there is a
strong case to allow assisted suicide for terminally ill patients in England
and Wales. This report was
funded by Sir Terry Pratchett who himself suffers with Alzheimer’s disease and
has been actively campaigning for a change in legislation since his
The findings of this commission have re-ignited the debate
on assisted suicide. There is a growing sentiment amongst the public to see a
change in legislation, highlighted by a number of polls on the subject which
regularly show that almost three quarters of the population want some form of
legislation to allow assisted suicide. Doctors, however, are more divided on
the issue which comes as no surprise since they’re trained with the mindset of
preserving life. Moreover, as the primary agents for healthcare delivery,
doctors are very well placed to identify causes for concern in changing the
legislation that the general public may be oblivious to, which may further
explain the disparity in poll results.
Summary of the Arguments
It is important to understand the difference between
euthanasia and assisted suicide. With euthanasia, a doctor initiates a causal
sequence of events resulting in the death of the patient. In the case of
assisted suicide, the doctor may either help or fail to prevent a patient
completing a course of action which results in their death. In the former case,
the doctor is in control whereas in the latter situation the patient remains
the agent, although this boundary may be somewhat blurred.
The argument for those who call for assisted suicide to be
legalised centres around the concepts of easing suffering and quality of life.
In chronic degenerative conditions such as motor neurone disease and
Alzheimer’s disease, patients experience a gradual loss of normal physiological
function which ultimately results in their quality of life being severely
impaired. For example, such patients may need to be fed artificially and may
not be able to go the toilet independently consequently soiling themselves, and
they may be completely bedbound to name but a few of the major factors lowering
their quality of life. These patients eventually require substantial packages
of care to keep them alive with intensive medical and nursing support. With so
much resource going into ‘prolonging’ the life of an individual with such an
apparently poor quality of life, proponents of assisted suicide argue that such
patients should have the right to terminate their life prematurely so that they
may die with ‘dignity’.
Those who are opposed to the notion of assisted suicide
raise legitimate concerns about the execution of such a practice and argue that
its legalisation may ultimately lead to more harm within society. The issue of
regulation is one which is frequently mentioned by anti-assisted suicide
groups; what steps will be taken to ensure that assisted suicide is properly
executed and how, if at all possible, will we be able to determine if foul play
has been involved at any stage? Moreover, is it really possible for a patient
to make a truly autonomous decision on their wish to opt for an assisted
suicide? In his article, Andrew Warnock argues that assisted suicide can never
be an autonomous decision, as once a loved one’s opinion is called into the
matter, so are their interests. This opens up the possibility of vulnerable
adults being coerced into making the decision to take their life for the gain
of others, leading the British Medical Association to conclude that the
opportunities for manipulation and abuse in such a situation would be
‘unacceptable’. In addition, the BMA argues that the legalisation of assisted
suicide may alter public perception of the weak, the chronically ill and the
mentally impaired and perhaps their worth may be devalued. This is a
potentially dangerous situation, especially when one takes into account that as
legislation currently stands there are frequent reports about the physical and
mental abuse vulnerable adults go through.
The Members of the Debate
The public debate on assisted usually suicide is yet
another battleground for the godless and the God-fearing. The Church of England
has recently maintained its stance of being against assisted suicide, by
condemning the findings of the Faulkner report. They accused the
commission of bias, highlighting that the commission was made up of self
appointed individuals and excluded people known to be against assisted suicide,
and they further reiterated the concerns surrounding the safeguarding of
vulnerable adults within the proposed change in legislation. Other religious
groups, including the UK Muslim community, are yet to officially comment on the
findings of this commission.
The central reason for atheists to strongly support
assisted suicide stems from one of the key arguments they use to prove the
non-existence of God. After all, how can a compassionate, merciful God allow
people to experience intense pain and suffering through chronic medical
conditions? They reason that if there really was an all merciful Creator, he
would never allow us to undergo such suffering.
Unfortunately when the devoutly religious argue against
assisted suicide, they tend to focus their argument on issues of regulation and
the potential for harm. Whilst these are important points, they fail to discuss
the crux of the issue that assisted suicide goes totally against the
commandments of God unto mankind. Perhaps they feel ashamed to make this
point in public, as the belief in a supreme creator continues to be heavily
caricaturised in the increasingly secular media. Thus, were they to base their
argument around this point, it would be portrayed as crass comedy as opposed to
being viewed as a legitimate response to proponents of assisted suicide.
The fact that theists feel they cannot focus their
argument on this central point illustrates the uphill task they have in
convincing the secular public on the arguments against assisted suicide. Rather
than discussing the legal intricacies of assisted suicide, faith groups need to
be bold in their response that assisted suicide goes against what God has
ordained for man. However, such an argument can only be effective if there is a
continual effort from theists to convince the general public in the existence
of an all powerful God.
The Muslim Stance
The concept of assisted suicide is something strictly
against the principles of Islam. This is illustrated through a number of texts:
Do not kill yourselves, for verily Allah has been to you
…take not life which Allah has made sacred”
There is also a Prophetic tradition referring to the grave
sin of hastening one’s death for medical reasons. It was narrated by Jundub
that Allah’s Apostle said,
“Amongst the nations before you there was a man who got a
wound, and growing impatient (with its pain), he took a knife and cut his hand
with it and the blood did not stop till he died. Allah said, ‘My Slave hurried
to bring death upon himself so I have forbidden him (to enter) Paradise”
Muslims believe that the reason God created life and death
was to test mankind and thus any hardships man faces are a means for God to
test his creation. Moreover, if someone patiently perseveres with a hardship
understanding that this is from God, the hardship can act as a means for
expiating previous sins and more importantly, this can raise the rank of the
person in the hereafter.
Who has created death and life, that He may test you which
of you is best in deed. And He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving.
Thus, because the hereafter is an everlasting realm, any
suffering in this life is deemed to be insignificant. There are a number of
texts reminding Muslims of the insignificance of this life and how and
suffering in this life will ultimately be forgotten in the hereafter.
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him) said: “The most affluent of the people in this world, of those who
will go to Hell, will be brought on the Day of Resurrection and dipped once in
the Fire. Then it will be said: O son of Adam did you ever see anything good?
Did you ever have any pleasure? He will say: No, by Allah, O Lord. Then the
most destitute of the people in this world, of those who will enter Paradise,
will be brought and dipped once in Paradise, and it will be said to him: O son
of Adam, did you ever see anything bad? Did you ever experience any hardship?
He will say: No, by Allah, O Lord. I never saw anything bad and I never
experienced any hardship.”
Taking these texts into consideration of the context of
the current discourse, one can deduce that Muslims believe in an Almighty
Creator who has forbidden people to take their own lives regardless of the
situation. Specifically in the case of assisted suicide, this cannot be
justified on grounds of compassion and ease of suffering, as doing so equates
to rejecting the test that God has placed upon a particular individual. As the
Muslim’s ultimate vision is to seek the best abode in the hereafter where any
worldly suffering will be forgotten, the encouragement is there to patiently
endure any illness which can ultimately act as a source of expiation, thus
raising the rank of the Muslim in the hereafter. Therefore, with the correct
mindset, any apparent suffering experienced in this life may ultimately be a
source of good for an individual.
The Need For Action
Despite the significant media attention surrounding the
issue of assisted suicide, Muslims in general have been remarkably quiet on the
issue. As Muslims, we must strive to call to that which is good and actively
warn against things which go against what God has commanded, for doing so will
ultimately harm humanity. For Muslims to sit back idly knowing that the
potential exists for assisted suicide to become legal in the UK is simply
We can perhaps learn a number of lessons from the
legalisation of abortion in the UK. Since the late 1960s abortion rates have
continued to rise and we haven’t seen a sizeable reduction in the abortion rate
since the mid 1970s. We must ask ourselves whether this really is a
satisfactory outcome. Whether one agrees or disagrees with abortion, both sides
of the debate should be united on the point that abortion rates must be kept to
an absolute minimum. We must ask if we as society have really done enough to
identify and effectively address the root causes of why people might end up
seeking abortions. Moreover, although abortion has become widely accepted
amongst the public, do people stop and ponder over the ethical and moral
implications of their actions?
If assisted suicide was to be legalised in the UK, it
would be worrying to observe a similar pattern of events as with the case of
abortion, where we would initially see a sharp rise in cases, with a gradually
increasing rate over the ensuing years. Would the people in the future really
think deeply as we are now about the ethical implications of prematurely ending
one’s life, or will it attain the status of ‘normality’ as abortion has?
Perhaps they will be even less concerned in the prospect of going against the
commandments of God either due to fewer people raising this point, or due to
religions succumbing to pressure and eventually moving towards accepting the
It is for these reasons we must start becoming more vocal
in this debate. Although there are a significant number of Muslim doctors in
the UK, many of whom would describe themselves as orthodox, silence on this
issue has been well and truly palpable. Muslim doctors must work in conjunction
with Muslim scholars and thinkers to construct a sound argument against
assisted suicide. In addition, they must collaborate with other groups who call
against the motion, to give the overall movement more strength.
 BBC, Assisted Suicide, Strong Case For Legislation http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16410118 Accessed 25/12/2012
 Simon Jenkins. Assisted Suicide, The Government must not visit indignity on the terminally ill.http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jan/05/assisted-dying-indignity-terminally-illAccessed 25/12/2012
Andrew Warnock. Assisted Suicide is Never an Autonomous Choice.http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/andrewbrown/2012/jan/05/assisted-suicide-autonomous-choice. Accessed 25/1/2012
 British Medical Association,http://www.bma.org.uk/images/Euthanasia%20%26%20PVS%20-%20ARM%20discussion%20paper_tcm41-146697.pdf Accessed 25/1/2012
 Martin Beckford. Church of England calls Assisted Suicide Plan Morally Unacceptable.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/8994338/Church-of-England-calls-assisted-suicide-plan-morally-unacceptable.html Accessed 25/1/2012