Aysha Syed, Operations Lead for Islamic Relief Canada, writes about the importance of standing in solidarity and humility in order to fully understand poverty.


At the heart of our charity work lays the conviction that we must stand in solidarity with the poor. This conviction stems from the prophetic belief that “the similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches.” This narration defines our relationship towards each other as one that relies on mutual support.

At Islamic Relief Canada, we are guided by five values: sincerity, mercy, excellence, social justice, and custodianship. Together, these values instil in us a collective responsibility to serve our communities; moving beyond sentiments of compassion and generosity towards the poor, we must truly understand the structural causes of poverty in order to bring meaningful and lasting change. Part and parcel of this work is taking direction from the communities we serve and listening to what their needs are and how we can best fulfill those needs. The goal of international development is not just to deliver aid, but to build and strengthen relationships with one another and work together for a brighter future in the world we share.

Solidarity requires us all to interrogate ourselves on a much more intimate level, to question and reflect on our lifestyles and consumer choices, and to acknowledge and recognize our own complicity in global structures of inequality. Solidarity is about challenging our perception of human beings as commodities or instruments to advance our own interests – and to, instead, see each other as neighbours, friends, and allies. Solidarity is expecting ourselves to hold those in positions of power accountable for their decisions, decisions that ultimately impact marginalized communities everywhere.

Once we start to ask ourselves and our communities these tough questions, once we hold both ourselves and our societies to account, we can then begin to mobilize and truly strive towards a more just world. In order to shift from a top-down relationship with the poor, one in which we view the poor as simply passive recipients of our aid, to one that is horizontal, in which all human beings deserve dignity, we need to stand in solidarity and in humility with one another.