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The Lone Apple – One of Many

A Reflection on the past tragedies in the Middle-east

By Volunteer Z. Shaikh 

Islamic Relief USA - Syria_ Anniversary Blog_2

History tells us the tale of the rise and fall of people. These stories we often label as tragedies become a part of our distant reality. How can we relate to something so far away from us in time and space? How can we feel the moral and highly metaphysical obligation we have to the tragedies faced by individuals? After all, tragedies occur in our own lives. This call to action is not to say, your own personal matters are not worthy of attention and care but rather the tragedies that seem so distant to us are ever so affecting our own lives and there is one such tragedy that has stretched a human population so unimaginably thin. However, like all Greek playwrights who have composed tragedies, let me set the stage. But keep in mind this is no play, and there is no script. This is reality… a very harsh and sad reality. 

There Lays A Green Apple 

The sun is glistening one morning. No clouds in the sky. The brightness brings hope. Another day filled with wishful thinking. There lays an apple in a market. A shiny apple in the middle of a busy market. But it hasn’t been sold. In fact, all the other apples around it just haven’t been sold. We often hear in the West that an apple a day keeps the doctor away – Well why aren’t the apples being sold? Why is such a staple in the American pantry being neglected in the East? The answer to that lies in one simple declaration. The brightness of the sun brings hope because dreams were shattered when fourteen million Syrians were displaced and became wage-less, homeless and alone. Doctors, engineers, and students were stripped of the normal and now live this new normal: unable to grab that apple in the market because it has seemingly become untouchable with its monetary value but at the same time, all the more desirable. And so there you have dozens of apples laying in the middle of a busy market surrounded by people hoping the rising sun of each coming day brings them out of a darkness far deeper than the darkness of the night. 

And cut. This is Syria. A life filled with poverty, health crises, loss of education and career aspirations. 

The scene has now been set but this is no movie, nor play. This is no Greek tragedy nor tale. This is life and that apple is not just a symbol of lost dreams and broken homes, that apple has become far more than a staple as it is enjoyed in the West – it has become a luxury for some battling this life. But we must understand that this is not normal, this is not uncontrollable – this must not and should not be the new normal. With proactiveness and care, we must do our part. It is our duty to remain hopeful for the cause of these suffering individuals because the fate of Syria is the fate of the world’s cultures. 

The Cradle of Civilization 

The East is known for a history of trade, agriculture and the development of disciplines like that of mathematics and astronomy. With the presence of stunning palaces and libraries, Ancient Syria was a sight to behold. The study of economics, religion and the practicing of law and order flourished

throughout this time and Syria became a home for all cultures – Arab and European, alike. As a result, arts and education had the immense opportunity to become ever so rich. And these rich traditions have created the spirit of Syria, a spirit of hope. It is a region that has seen the likes of great artists, writers and intellectuals.

From the Islamic Golden Age to much of the 20th century, Syria represented a hub of learning, and innovation. So much so that in an effort for preservation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) in New York City has a whole room dedicated to the amazing art that has come out of Damascus coined quite literally the Damascus Room. Filled with poems written in gold Arabic calligraphy displaying intricate woodwork and craftsmanship, this room is worth a visit. And there you have it, the culture of Syria is not so distant in connection to us. It is a part of our Western identity: it is in our cities, in our museums, in the homes of our neighbors.

But with this crisis, this history is in danger. Not only is the spirit of Syria at sake, the spirit of our world’s history is at sake. The people of Syria carry with them unspoken traditions which link us to our past whether Syrian or not. These traditions, stories, cultures and ways of living cannot be quantified but hold an importance to our very being as humans. 

Recent generations of Syrians have contributed greatly to fields of medicine, engineering and business as their ancestors once did. In fact, the al-Qānūn fī al-ibb or The Canon of Medicine; a seminal piece by Ibn Sina written about psychological and medicinal treatments during the Islamic Golden Age became a guidebook for curing diseases of the body throughout much of this ancient era. It is still recognized today as one of the most influential and accurate sources of scientific direction on disease prevention and care. Interestingly enough, Ibn Sina himself advised for the institution of a forty-day quarantine to eliminate the spread of contagious illnesses, sound familiar to our modern day practices surrounding COVID-19? Now, although Ibn Sina was not from Syria, the work of an intellectual, philosopher and medical practitioner like him sheds light on the talent stemming from this region in the East. He was a central figure in the Islamic Golden Age and many like him prospered in Syria – filled with grace and zeal. And, in our world today filled with pandemic hysteria, we all know how vital scientific advances are to the very existence of human beings. 

This inevitably makes the work and insights of Syrians valuable today, as they carry the collective consciousness of their ancient society. As a duty towards our fellow humans and the world’s cultures, we owe our charitable efforts to these individuals who have helped us form our collective identity as a larger society. We owe it to them today to help them rise up from the trenches of darkness into a life filled with opportunity. A life where an apple is not a luxury purchase – it’s simply a sweet treat for their morning commute. 

I deeply encourage you to take a step today. Donate. Every small amount matters – even if it’s enough to help that lone apple in the market reach the home of a yearning family. Remember trying is action so spreading awareness in any which way counts. Talk about Syria. Let the voices of the unheard be heard through you. We must do more because history is at sake but more importantly, human lives are. Do this for the love of Syria.

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