Well-intentioned people gathered at the Islamic Cultural Association this past Saturday for a benefit dinner to fundraise for Syrian refugees. The event was at the Islamic Cultural Institute in Farmington Hills on 12 Mile Road. The event was cosponsored by the Syrian Sunrise Foundation and the Syrian American Council. The keynote speaker was Sh. Sariya Al-Refaai. The event speakers spoke about and gathered money to support the victims of the horrible war that has plagued Syria for 3 ½ long years.
The evening was extremely well-organized, with excellent food and guests from around the world. It began with Qur`an recitation by Mr. Mohammad AlHalabi, a remarkably talented reciter. Then there were opening remarks which described the scale of the tragedy, with now 9 million refugees, and the work of Syrian organizations in Syria to try to provide aid to those suffering in Syria.
Shaykh Sariya Al-Refaai was the keynote speaker—he is famous in his own right and his father before him was a famous scholar, Abdul Karim Al-Refaai. Shaykh Sariya has been an open supporter of the revolution. He was until the uprising the shaykh of the Zayd ibn Thabit Mosque in Damascus.
Shaykh Al-Refaai explained several times that he saw this gathering as an informal one, and counted those present as his family. He said he was happy to be in this good country—and that he had come in part because many of his friends and family in Syria had insisted he come here to seek medical treatment. He discussed his visits to the State Department, White House, and Congress, and expressed his thanks to those who had facilitated his visit to the United States by helping him with a translator, and helping to bring also his wife.
“At the last point of life, we give advice. Brothers, Allah gave every person free will to choose—believe or disbelieve. Your will moves your hand as you order it, and whatever Allah wills—if He allows you to move it you can move it. If He does not allow you to move it you can’t. Humans are in a state of weakness.”
Shaykh Ar-Refaai spoke of some of the tragic consequences of the war, like a young man in the flower of his youth taken down by a bullet to the spine. He spoke of the bravery of the Syrian people, and of the terrible torture they endure.
“Our people are tortured,” he said—“we are not believers if we don’t speak out.”
Shaykh Ar-Refaai also mentioned at great length the strong relations between religious communities in Syria, where the majority are Sunni but where Christians and Jews and secular people and Muslims had lived in peace for centuries.
He emphasized that there had always been forgiveness for Christians—and that hurting Christians was tantamount to hurting Allah. “Syria was welcoming to all sects, and people ran away from oppression.” It was also, he said, open to refugees for decades, and spread lessons of forgiveness.
Then the shaykh spoke of the importance of generosity, emphasizing that people who give, Allah replenishes their sustenance.
The gathering, though somewhat fewer people came than had been expected, was very generous and gave a warm and affectionate welcome to the shaykh from Syria, and thousands of dollars were raised to help the Syrian refugees and other victims of this terrible war.