Zeeshan Rasool Khan
Islam, without any doubt, provides a unique way of living life, emphasizing on its every aspect , be it social, religious, economic, cultural, or behavioral. Apart from preaching religious harmony, goodwill, it respects humanity without categorizing it because of caste, creed, color, and living standards and wants economic parity in society. This religion wants the masses to elevate their life standard(s) from lower to higher so that the poor-rich categorization would be stamped out. For those people who fail to transform with regard to economic conditions, Islam introduced the concept of “Zakat” and “Sadaqah.” The former (zakat) is obligatory for those who meet the necessary criteria of wealth to give a specific amount it to those who are eligible to receive Zakat and latter (Sadqah) is also charity, but is not obligatory on any kind of wealth, rather it is what a person can give, without any specific limits or guidelines. Both zakat and sadqah are meant for downtrodden and economically weaker sections of society.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims go through divine changes with increased enthusiasm for praying, sympathy, compassion, and doing good deeds. In this blessed month, people exhibit an extraordinary passion for helping others and engage themselves in philanthropy. Even those who hold money by a tooth can be seen donating this month. With this change, the poor, destitute, drown trodden, orphans and people from marginalized sections expect a lot. For them, this month holds great significance as they manage to get help largely to fulfill their needs. Thus, in this month, markets, public places, and streets leading to mosques are seen jam-packed with the people, who beg out of dire need.
However, unfortunately, the generosity shown by people drives more and more people to beg. Taking advantage of this generosity, some people disguise themselves to be helpless. Young and healthy, who can meet the two ends at ease prefer begging over working as they consider it the easiest way to make money. Women also join this profession and through their pretentious behavior take benefit of the gullibility of the public. Some families with a good source of the economy have put all its members into the job. Without caring about the education of their wards, they field them to beg. Once I saw policemen abusing a child with an injured hand that irritated me, I went there to confirm the matter. The policeman replied, “days ago we took him to the hospital for treatment, but his parents do not let his wound to heal, to pose him maimed before the masses for the collection of donation!”. Same case I witnessed in a train where two females were pretending to be sufferers. During my school days, I used to see an elderly woman begging in buses claiming her husband, admitted to the hospital was suffering from a deadly disease. Years are on; her husband has not recovered yet which urged one of the passengers to ask her, “Can I visit your husband”? This made her vacate the place. Not only that, some are utilizing technology to embezzle benevolent people. Years ago, a woman who used to show a picture of a child claiming her own son to be a cancer patient made people fool through social media. She was doing all this for a long time and many people were donating unaware that they are helping a thief.
This new profession is flourishing in our streets with every passing day. Some people indulge in begging in the very dignified way. They have found different ways to beg which do not affect their honor. We can see people collecting alms with receipts of orphanages, madrasas and so on which, in reality, do not exist. Some people claiming to be village heads wander into remote areas in the name of patients in their village who exist only by name but these so-called “respectable beggars” plunder people with dignity by posturing as volunteers and social activists. The begging has become a social menace that is prevalent in the entire world and in Kashmir as well. Adding to this menace, professional beggars emigrate from major cities of India to Kashmir with the advent of Ramadan that then outnumbers native beggars. Wherever you will go, you will encounter them.No place, no street, no bus could be seen without them engaged in faking the public.
However, most of the donors hold the opinion that it does not matter whom we help, what matters are our intentions to help for the sake of Allah to seek his closeness. They need to reconsider their opinion because seeking the mercy of Allah is not the only objective of donating, but it aims at improving economic conditions of needy. Donating blindly, helping thieves and pretentious people masquerading as hapless is not good deed rather it is equivalent to crime as we help them to flourish and deter them from working.
Now the question is what to do? Firstly, it is compulsory to pay Zakat with regularity according to rules set by the Shariah. And , the best way to utilize it is to create local “Bait ul Maals” in respective areas, through which we can consume collected amount (Zakat as well as other forms of Alms (sadaqah and so on) in a proper way by distributing it among needy families as we know better, the condition of families in our locality. Besides satisfying their needs, it would also prevent these families to beg. This is the best way of curbing this menace. Additionally, whenever any person approaches you, don’t give away your money unless you are sure they go to the right person. Before donating to orphanages and other institutes, confirm their validity and credibility, if they really exist, what role are they playing?
Moreover, there are some credible institutes operational in the valley which no doubt are playing a pivotal role in the welfare of people on different fronts and levels, it is better to donate to these charity houses. Thus, before donating, we need to think so that our donation would finda better utility it is meant for; else donation loses its actual purpose.
—The author writes on current socio-political issues and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org