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Saturday, March 03, 2007

No 1 Step Towards the Desired Muslim Society : Freedom from Beggary

Investing to the Needy or the Poorest will improve the standard of
living for everyone

or

Enriching the People will result in greater flow of contribution of
the community to the common fund in the Masjid

Afternoon one clock of 15th February 2007, Thursday in the Central
Masjid of Koforidua, the Headquarter of Eastern Region of Ghana, the
most peaceful country in Africa. I am one of those waiting for the
Jamaat Salaat. Suddenly I noticed the donation box with `Fi
Sabillillah' written on it. I took out some money and went up to put
the money in the box. I was inspired by the seeming transparency of
the financial transactions as seen in the display on a board.
As I put in the money and turn around to be confronted by a number
of beggars present amidst those waiting for the Jamaat Salaat I felt
guilty of not giving something to them as well. But my personal
budget allocation for donation for the day has exhausted. I remain
confused as to whether I have done the right thing or not. As it is,
the money in the donation box or anything of any masjid fund I know
of does not go to the needy. But all of it goes either to the
construction or maintenance of the buildings, or the salary of the
Imaam, the Muezzin, the cleaner etc. However the giving to the
beggars has also led to the breeding of a class of beggars across
the Muslim world. Wherever I go whether in Asia or Africa I am
confronted with begging hands, chants and bowls inside and in front
of masjids. I have even heard or read many stories of gangs thriving
on beggary by amputating the parts of human bodies and placing them
at convenient spots and collecting the money from their victims at
the end of the day. So should I give to beggars or should I not? On
the one hand the Islamic teachings insist on giving to those who ask
for help and on the other hand it prohibits begging. What happens if
by not giving I anger my Lord Creator and the Master of my fate? Or
what happens if by giving I contribute to the crimes of those who
are thriving on beggary or simply encourages people to beg? A great
dilemma, is it not?

Why not we use some of the money with the masjid fund to help the
poor in the locality? If every masjid committee takes up the job,
most of the poor will be engaged in some enterprise or the other.
Thus beggary may disappear from the Muslim community anywhere around
the world. There can be federations of masjid-based communities at
various levels which can even take up other essential services of
the community like health, education, housing, livelihood, security.
We can have energized and enterprising community down to the most
remote and grassroot level. What a great scenario it will be! As the
neighbourhood masjid based communities gain confidence in their
group enterprise, more and more percentages of personal contribution
is likely to flow into the common coffer which will spur the group
to undertake bigger and more adventurous enterprises and projects.

May be in some parts of the world, already some such efforts are
already underway. If so, can you please share your experiences so
that we all can learn from each other.

In one of our experiments, three of us met every week and formed a
fund to help the needy. None of us were well to do. One was a
salaried employee, another a daily labour, while the third a
marginal farmer.. During the course of our 12 years of work we could
help at least 5-6 poorest families from time to time. We found them
to be either widows or physically incapable. In our village which is
in a very remote area in one of the Indian states bordering Myanmar
(formerly Burma) there are six masjids and 400 plus households.
Imagine the situation if all the households are involved in helping
their 5/6 poorest families. They can literally feed them out of
their hands or provide employment or still invest in them to run
micro-businesses. We discovered that it is not the lack of resources
but the lack of imagination and initiatives which keeps us away from
the desired life we all want live. Looking up to others or
foreigners to solve our problems is keeing us away from what we can
do ourselves, and which is immense.

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