Story of Islamic Aid
The Story of Islamic Aid
by Mahmood Hassan, Founder and Chairman of Islamic Aid
I was born and brought up in some of the most deprived areas of Pakistan. During my childhood, I once lived with my grandparents in village 114/15-L, near Mianchannun. My village did not have a school. Each morning I set off on my journey to a neighbouring village so I could go to school. Aged only eight years I walked more than 7km every day so I could receive an education. There were no roads at all – just a dirt track. The landscape was baron – and not the green backdrop which is there today. My journey to and from school.
Not only was the journey hot and dusty, it was filled with fear. At such a young age I had no idea who – or what – I would encounter on the way to school, something, I believe, no child should encounter, something that has stayed with me 36 years on, something I do not want other children to encounter.
But I was one of the lucky ones; while not from a very rich family we were not steeped in poverty. I was able to do extremely well in my studies; always secured top positions and won Gold Medals, merit scholarships in almost all my exams.
This was in MBA from Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan that I secured first position throughout the university and won Gold Medal and Government of Pakistan merit scholarship for studies abroad, that enabled me to come to the UK for studies. I did my MBA from Imperial College, University of London. I initially worked as a lecturer in Marketing and Strategic Management at the same university and later in the commercial sector.
It was in 1993-94, during the Bosnian crisis, that I became interested in charities working for the cause at that time. This then led me to initially volunteer and later work in the sector for a few years.
Beginnings of Islamic Aid
When I started my own business in 1998 and felt settled, I knew I wanted to give something back to my community. I knew I didn’t want others to face the same hardships I had, not to face the same fears I did on my long journey to school – and on the way home. I started a school in my village to help provide children quality education, free of fear and on their door-step. It was here that the seeds of Islamic Aid were sown, a charity that has gone from strength to strength, helping tens of thousands of children in parts of Asia, Africa and Europe access quality education, health-care and the skills and means to their parents so they can earn a decent living. First school I established in my village.
I established Islamic Aid in 2000. I wanted to use my business expertise and experience of the charity sector to give something back to the community I had once belonged.
Yet during the charity’s infancy of its first year, the world watched in horror as we saw terrorist attacks in New York, where families were devastated as people lost their lives in the twin tower attacks.
Understandably, this was a difficult time for Muslim charities – both established and new – as the media and public began to question why they existed. Such charities were viewed with suspicion as people questioned what activities they may be funding.
For me personally, things did not end there. As the twin-towers collapsed so did one of my major business projects; that was set to be launched in November 2001 to offer Islamic banking in the UK and internationally. From the position of having a very robust business plan, very supportive business partnerships and venture capital in place and a forecast of more than £500 million under management in 4th year, I saw everything melted away in the tide of opinion against anything Islamic. While it was a big disaster for me and my business, for Islamic Aid it probably was a major turning point that I was able to give my increased attention to the charity.
While internationally it was very difficult time to run a charity with Islamic name, but it made me more determined to succeed and to show the importance of helping poor communities, many of whom had little idea of what the world may be thinking.
Today, alhamdullilah, I have my own successful business; Islamic Aid is growing very fast – already achieved an annual turnover of £3.3 million and recruited 67,000 donors; have established Islamic Aid in the US and we continue to expand our support to projects in parts of Africa, Asia and Europe. These successes also enabled me to support as a Trustee the cause of poverty alleviation through other charities like Practical Action, (www.practicalaction.org) and Pakistan Foundation. And, I want every child in the world to be successful.
Mahmood ul Hassan
Founder and Chairman, Islamic Aid