Muslim Council in drive to get more of their community to donate blood

Koran verses being used to encourage donations

In the Koran, Muslims are told in verse 5.32 that “if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole humanity”, while elsewhere, those who make “a contribution in Allah’s way” are told that a gift will be returned 700-fold.

Today, Muslim organisations in Britain are using such messages to encourage more blood donations from the community, one that has consistently counted few blood donors among its number.

The low numbers have consequences for the supply of stocks to the Blood Transfusion Service, which needs 7,000 pints of all blood types each and every day.

However, the situation is complicated because the distribution of blood groups varies significantly among different ethnic groups. One- quarter of all south Asians living in Britain are blood group B, compared with just nine in every 100 white British, for example.


Supplies of the less common B+ and AB+, particularly, need constantly replenished. The most common blood type in Britain is O. Meanwhile, type O- is always needed for use in emergencies.

The low number of donors from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India creates particular problems for doctors treating patients with sickle cell anaemia, Conservative MP Dr Matthew Offord told the House of Commons last year after visiting one blood bank centre.

"Worrying" lack of donors
Describing the lack of donors as "worrying", the Muslim Council of Britain says: "With every blood donation, three adult lives can be saved. With one donation, seven children's lives can be saved. There is so little to lose by taking part and so much to gain."

For some Muslims, blood donation is unacceptable because it interferes with the belief that the human body is a sacred trust from God, while others believe it breaks wudu – the cleansing of the body in preparation for prayers.

For others, the issue is timing. Fridays, for example, can be difficult because of the need for religious observance; while the month of Ramadan – when Muslims fast from dawn until dusk – can make donations difficult or, perhaps, even dangerous. Sometimes the lack of translators at donor centres can put off older Muslims.

The campaign to encourage Muslims was started in 2006 by volunteers from the Islamic Unity Society . They had noticed the lack of Muslim donors at their local blood donation centre in Manchester, where just two in every hundred donors were from their community.

Using the slogan “Give back, Give blood”, the society began a campaign, which now runs in over a dozen cities throughout Britain during the Islamic month of Muharram, when Muslims remember the martyr- dom of Imam Husayn, grandson of Prophet Muhammad.

“Despite its recommendation by Muslim scholars, there seems to be a lack of understan- ding of its Islamic approval,” the society says. “This campaign has set out to break down such misconceptions and in turn replace with increased knowledge, awareness, and enthusiasm towards this gracious, altruistic and hospitable act.”

Progress has been hard won. In the campaign’s first year, 23 Muslim Mancunians came forward. A year later, the campaign was extended to London, Glasgow and Birmingham, resulting in 50 blood donations.

Two years ago, the numbers rose to 268 donations. Last year, they went over the 300- mark for the first time, helped by efforts in Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford, Leicester, Edinburgh and Surrey.

The Islamic conditions sanctioning donations require donors to be “mature and sane” and to be a volunteer, while there should also be no apparent risk to life or health, no reasonable alternative and “not for the sake of beatification or any other additional benefit”.

Fighting against Islam
Equally, donations to non- Muslims are permitted, although the society points out that this does not cover those who are fighting against Islam – which may pose issues for some Muslims unhappy about the British army's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"A fighter of Islam would be defined as one who fights Mus- lims with weapons, or finances such fighting with his wealth, or helps such fighting. If one is not able to know for sure, then it suffices to act according to ghalabat ul-zann [one's best estimate or what is most likely and probable]."

Extra testing is carried out if the donor has recently returned from a country where malaria is endemic – something which can exclude some from south Asia or those with family connections there if they have travelled recently.

In the past, some have complained about the manner in which staff rejected them if it emerged that they had frequen- tly travelled to such countries – although usually such incidents were usually down to cultural misunderstandings or language difficulties.

The hunt for more donations from the Muslim community will go on. It has to, since the existing store of 7,000 pints a day will not be enough for Britain, on the back of an ageing population and ever more complicated surgery.