Sunday, 16 June 2024 / 9 Dhu-al-Hijja 1445 H *

Sunday, 16 June 2024 / 9 Dhu-al-Hijja 1445 H *

National Projects

Part 1: Reflections From Iraq: In the footsteps of the Imam

30Apr 2016
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Part 1: Reflections From Iraq: In the footsteps of the Imam

I recently returned home after having been away for ten days. The taxi from the airport hastily brought me home. I walked up the driveway dragging my dusty suitcase and rang the doorbell nervously. He came running to the door at the sound. I realised then that I had missed the patter of his small footsteps. He gazed at me through the foggy glass panes separating us. A look of awe filled his pearly little eyes, he was transfixed.  He then frowned with a look of complaint, as though asking me ‘where have you been?’ and within an instant beamed at me radiantly, forgiving and forgetting all. His smile melted away the stresses and fears of my travels. He held out his hands and called out to me, wanting to be picked up. I gently picked him up. He grabbed my travel ridden and unkempt facial hair and embraced me. In that embrace was an unconditional acceptance and warmth, a testament to the innocence of children. It brought home all those incredible moments, and mercies that I had encountered on the journey and sealed them all.

The journey had taken me with a group of the IUS Aid volunteers to the troubled yet recovering land of Iraq. We wanted to be a source of support and joy to the impoverished orphans, widows and displaced people of Iraq long marred and ravaged with decades of violence and terror. If estimates are correct, there are over 3 million orphans in Iraq at the very least, and with the onslaught by Daesh (ISIS) this number is increasing exponentially. We wanted to offer the little we could within our limited and humble capacities, in the hope that Allah might accept it from us. In our trip we wanted to meet some of them and bring a little happiness in their troubled lives.

When I first set out to plan my journey, I wanted my experience to be beyond the transactional; I wanted it to transform my life. Although I recognised the importance of visitation in Iraq and the blessings it brought, as well as the importance of supplicating and seeking, I did not want to be a mere empty-handed visitor. I did not simply want to take, take and take more from my generous hosts. I was all too aware and had been brought up knowing of their generous nature.  I wanted to give something back. I wanted to take back a humble gift in the hope that it might find their acceptance. That they might proudly call out and say “yes he is from among us.” 

  • The entire IUS Aid team had espoused the same philosophy in trying to combine the experience of ziyarah (visitation) with helping out the destitute and orphans in the very streets ofابو الايتام والفقراء ; Imam Ali, the Father of Orphans and the needy. Doing the very work that was much loved and performed by him (AS), and emphasised greatly within the teachings of the Holy Quran and our Great Prophet (saww). In the back of our minds and guiding our work, was the famous Prophetic saying:
  • أنا وكافل اليتيم في الجنة هكذا” وأشار بالسبَّابة والوسطى”
    The Prophet (saw) said, “I and the person who looks after an Orphan and provides for him, will be in paradise like this,” and he held his two fingers together to illustrate. [1]
  • The entire team worked hard to fundraise over £24,000, carefully select and pack kilos of gifts and much needed winter clothes, socks, jumpers, scarves, as well as toys and sweets. All things that we here, in the comfort of our homes, take for granted, but are much needed in Iraq. IUS Aid had arranged for us to meet 120 orphans in Najaf, Hilla, Karbala and Baghdad. The local charities and organisers had gone to great pains and lengths to organise these meetings so that we could listen and talk to the orphans.
  • Although the local organisers had briefed us on how to interact with the orphans, to make things comfortable for them, to make them laugh and smile, to stroke their hair as a display of affection that a parent might show, I believe no amount of instruction could have prepared us for the intensity of the actual meeting. Meeting these kids in the very land in which the children of Imam Hussain had been orphaned, then mistreated and imprisoned by his killers was extremely emotional. These kids were aged ranging from 6 month-old babies to young teenagers. They had all lost their fathers, and some their mothers, to the terrorism that had afflicted Iraq.
  • For our visit in Karbala we shared lunch with the children at Kookh Dajjaj restaurant (the Iraqi equivalent of Chicken Cottage). The kids munched through their lunch, simple chicken and chips and meat pizzas. It seemed as if they hadn’t eaten meat in many months. Each of us was paired with a kid to talk to and get to know them a little. The kid I was paired up with was called Jawad. He was 8 years old, in Year 3 at school. His father had been martyred a few months earlier. He wanted to play games (Angry Birds) on my mobile phone, unfortunately I didn’t have any! Meeting Jawad left me heartbroken. I couldn’t do much more for him apart from making him momentarily happy, to stroke his hair as his father might have. I could never fathom or reach out into the depth of his grief.
  • All these kids had been left bereft of any male father figures, role models or friends. Their grief was written on their faces and painted in their eyes, impacting on their upbringing. There was no one to guide them through the tough trials of life, no one to look out for their welfare, to mentor them. It gave us all immense satisfaction that there was someone in Karbala who had found our company comforting. We all felt wanted and needed. It gave our visitation real meaning and purpose. The Orphans of Iraq had been extremely generous. We had enjoyed the privilege of their time, shared in their precious moments of happiness; saw their smiles and aspirations of a brighter future twinkling in their eyes. We couldn’t do them justice. God gave us the gift of meeting them. That was our greatest reward.

When I had reached the threshold of my home and picked up my one year old who had been eagerly awaiting my return, when I stroked the curls of his hair, when I smelled his innocent baby fragrance, when he held me in his embrace, it was perhaps in that moment that I truly glimpsed the immensity of the loss the 8 year old Jawad was left with. What awaited him was a life full for struggle. He had been deprived of love, left with a yearning for affection. Although Jawad could be materially helped through the kindness of strangers, no one could bring back and replace his father for him. His sense of loss, inflicted so early in his life, would stay with him forever. It would shape his future, his way of thinking, and his outlook on life. I could only try to make his experience easier.

Written by Abu Hassan 


[1] Source: Sahih Bukhari 5659

Prayer Time Table Sunday 16 Jun 2024

Newsletter Signup


About Us

The Islamic Unity Society is a registered UK charity.
Registration number: 1066910

Islamic Unity Society
Unit 132,
6 Wilmslow Road,
M14 5TP


Please note that IUS does not necessarily agree with what is discussed and presented by the speakers, co-organisations and any umbrella organisations it is associated with.

Privacy Policy

Wallplanner London 2022

Wallplanner Manchester 2022