Thank you for your very important, timely question.
The destruction that Hurricane Harvey has caused throughout Texas and Louisiana, notably in the city of Houston, is heartbreaking.
The extent of the damage done is just massive (likely surpassing the damage done by Hurricane Katrina, more than $190 BILLION) and it’s going to take an enormous amount of time and effort to rebuild.
Besides the physical devastation, people have suffered from an immeasurable amount of trauma as their entire lives have been turned upside-down.
Of Course Not!
The statement by your sheikh is incorrect and, frankly, very disturbing.
There is absolutely nothing in the Qur’an, ahadith, or the sunnah (example) of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) that prohibit helping non-Muslims.
On the contrary, Muslims are encouraged to show kindness and justice to everyone.
Allah says in the Qur’an:
Allah does not forbid you from dealing kindly and equitably with those who did not fight you because of your faith and did not drive you out of your homes. God loves those who act justly. (Quran 60:8)
Conversely, Allah strongly warns against denying others kindness and compassion in Surah Ma’un:
Have you seen the one who denies the religion/the Day of Judgment? That is the one who drives away the orphan, and does not encourage the feeding of the needy. So woe to those who pray but are heedless of their prayers, those who show off but refuse small kindnesses/basic needs. (Quran 107:1-7)
Jarir narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,
He who is deprived of kindness is deprived of goodness. (Sahih Muslim)
We’re All Part of One Humanity
We are all humans and part of Allah’s creation, and as such we are all deserving of respect and compassion.
Just because someone isn’t Muslim doesn’t mean that we don’t all share common bonds of humanity.
A non-Muslim is just as much a part of Allah’s creation as a Muslim.
The people who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey, regardless of their religion, are in great need of help, and to ignore them would be going against the commands of Allah and the sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
Our Responsibility To Help Save Muslims
All Muslims share a close relationship as members of the ummah, and to help our sisters and brothers in faith is both necessary and extremely commendable.
However, because need knows no bounds, we shouldn’t be exclusive with our aid and sympathy.
For American Muslims, Hurricane Harvey happened right in our own backyards, and to ignore the cries for help from our neighbors just because they may not be Muslim shows a deep lack of compassion.
Besides this evidence presented from the Qur’an and sunnah, there are plenty of current examples of Muslims that have stepped up to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey, regardless of religion.
In Houston, numerous mosques have been serving as emergency shelters for anyone, including non-Muslims, displaced from their homes. Several international Islamic charities have pledged to deliver aid to these hurricane victims.
This is Islam in action.
It’s Not One or the Other
Alhamdulillah, humans have the ability to love and care for multiple causes at once; feeling compassion for and sending aid to Muslims suffering in Somalia, for example, does not prevent one from also feeling compassion for and sending aid to non-Muslims suffering in Texas.
The more we are able to feel and show mercy, the closer we get to emulating the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), and more importantly, the closer we get to Allah, the Source of all Mercy.
May Allah bless all the people in the world who are suffering in body, mind, and spirit.
May Allah relieve people’s sorrows, reward them for their suffering, and grant them peace and comfort.
May Allah help us to help others so that we may fulfill the role that Allah has given humankind as stewards of the earth.
May Allah grant us all the best in this life and the Hereafter, Ameen!