| Reflections on the Cageprisoners Fundraiser: Another Ramadan 2008
Another Ramadan 2008, Sunday 7th September 2008, Wandsworth Civic Suite, London
When we arrived it was pandemonium: the queues for registration were snaking out of the door, the audio equipment wasn't working and we had just finished the seating plans an hour before doors opened – but was it a success on the night?
From the overwhelming feedback we received it certainly was. Of course, there were niggles and minor gripes and there is always room for improvement but it certainly exceeded our wildest expectations, and at the same time was extremely humbling to see the support our work had where is mattered – the grassroots of the community.
To be just, the only reason the evening went as smoothly it did was because of the barakah of the nature of the event and everyone's du'as – this was the first fundraiser Cageprisoners had ever organised of this magnitude and it certainly overwhelmed us, both in response and the amount of organisation required.
Whoever is not grateful to the people is not grateful to Allah and we cannot fail to acknowledge all the tireless efforts of our volunteers – and we really appreciate all the hard work and dedication they put into making the event a success - from the registration staff, the stewards and even the brothers setting up the PA system for prayers.
The evening was full of hairy moments; more people turned up than had booked swamping our registration system, and we had miscalculated the space required for salah, resulting in a scene reminiscent of the Haram in Makkah at Hajj time with people praying on the stairs – but alhamdulillah our audience was extremely understanding and understood that this was a small volunteer organisation doing our best and working our hardest, and for this we are grateful.
A big draw was our live lecture from Imam Anwar Awlaki. We had pre-recorded a backup a few days previously in case the live lecture failed, but fortunately it didn't, and our audience were treated to a live lecture from Yemen by Imam Anwar, an exclusive event for the UK, and something everyone was looking forward to.
The quality was not crystal clear but considering it was coming from a mobile phone in Yemen to a mobile phone in London and being played to a hall of 500 people, it was clear and audible.
There was pin drop silence as Imam Anwar reminded us of the favours Allah had bestowed on the prisoners and their position with Allah and the power of du'a for the prisoners.
After a heartfelt reminder by Imam Mustafidh Gani on the importance of Sadaqah in Ramadhan (who also led Isha), we started the fundraising. Imam Mustafidh certainly had a big impact as we were totally overwhelmed by the tremendous reaction of the audience.
We are still counting the donations, contacting people about their pledges, and cashing the cheques but insha'Allah hope to have an accurate figure to report for money raised after Ramadhan, but a few anecdotes from the fundraising I hope will enlighten us and inspire us all.
One sister was so moved that she emptied her pockets, and still wanted to give more. So she removed her gold bangles from her wrists and the gold ring from her finger and put them in an envelope to donate.
I don't know who that sister is – though I certainly envy her eagerness to race for good deeds. I can only imagine her sincerity of her gift – as the first we knew of this was when they toppled out of a sealed donation envelope. Judging from the bangles, they must have been her wedding dowry – may Allah make this a shield for her on the Day of Judgement.
Three of the former detainees from Guantanamo gave us standing orders for monthly donations to Cage. The very people we were founded to help are the ones who, when released, are so happy with our work that they wish to help us financially. This was a truly humbling recognition of our work – moreso as I know their own modest situations.
Allah tells the believers to give from that that they love, and our audience certainly did this.
I saw those who donated, and I knew many of the jobs they did and that the amounts they gave were breathtaking.
However much we finally raise, we know that this money has flowed from our community – they are the ones who have believed in our work that we have done and continue to strive to do.
The impact of our work was always hard to gauge, as the nature of this work is that it is hard grind – we push and we campaign and we raise awareness and we may see a small change, or all of a sudden a paradigm shift we scramble to respond to.
Our work is not glamorous, prisoners really are the forgotten – a voiceless, marginalised group of people, raising awareness about them is hard, gaining information on their cases is hard, changing people's views on their rights is hard.
Motivation sometimes dwindles as results are hard to actualise. Then, when you are near your darkest ebb and demotivation starts to set in, you remember Allah and He remembers you.
Attending the fundraiser really brought home the realisation that the community is behind us. That Allah has blessed the meagre work started by a handful of volunteers, and we know that none of the successes of Cageprisoners are from our efforts, but only because of the Will of Allah and His decision to use us in this way.
Allah put the love for our work into the hearts of the believers – they showed this love to us on this night and it was incredibly moving. As it is not only the donations that will help us – it is the faith that the donors have in us that strengthens our resolve and commitment to this work.
We work for the benefit of the prisoners, seeking the pleasure of Allah. Some of our workers sleep 3-4 hours a day because they spend their lives dedicated to this work - I know as I spend my time worried that they will collapse!
Now we carry on our work redoubled knowing that our community stands with us and our hearts gladdened by this news.
At the same time, the fundraising is an enormous burden. Every penny and pound donated is a trust. We have taken donations as a trust to fulfil, from our supporters to use their donation to the best of our ability to help the prisoners.
In the back of our mind - any time we expend any money or fund any research, any time our motivation starts to dwindle and frustration starts to grow - will always remain for me the picture of that sister taking off her wedding jewellery to donate to Cageprisoners for our work; her belief in us, her du'a for us will help to drive us forward, insha'Allah.
She put her faith in us to help to free the prisoners – now it is our turn to fulfil that trust.
As for the question, was 50 Quid too much for dinner? Our audience certainly didn't think so – and the privilege of being led in Tarawih by Hafidh Moussa Zemmouri, being in the same rows praying besides those who Allah had favoured alone, was worth more than this.
Next time, we hope to need a bigger venue – as we hope that the number of freed detainees that will be our guest will fill the entire 500 person capacity of our banqueting suite.
We are told to feed the hungry, visit the sick, and free the prisoner – help us to rise to this challenge. Remember the prisoners in your du'a during Ramadan, and help us with your wealth and your du'a to work to release the prisoners.