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Charity is a worldwide activity. The causes are many, but everywhere people find a cause good enough to donate.
Though we continue to lament about deterioration of morality and social values, charitable donations have been increasing every year. The giving by nations is measured and reported internationally.
On the index of GCI (Good Countries Index), the countries are rated on the basis of how much they do for the common good of all the people living on the planet. It includes effort for environment and other such measures to make the world a better place to live. The top countries making to this list are 1. Netherlands, 2. Switzerland, 3. Denmark, 4. Finland, 5. Germany, 6. Sweden, 7. Ireland, 8. UK, 9. Austria and 10. Norway.
The other index is about giving to charity. Over a Trillion US$ are raised in charity worldwide. In terms of money raised, US tops the list with over 450 billion US$ raised last years. However, in terms of how many people donated money, and spent time to help others, Indonesia topped the list in 2018, followed by Australia, New Zealand, USA and Ireland.
Pakistan is counted among most charitable nations of the world for two reasons. One, money raised during 2018, according to Pakistan Center for Philanthropy, was 240 billion rupees (1.5 billion US$). The amount of money is small, but it is about 1% of GDP and that is what puts Pakistan among the most charitable nations.
Two, our sentiment for charity is seen in all tiers of society. From Highest Income to lowest income, everyone contributes to charity. Pakistan Center for Philanthropy says that 98% of Pakistanis donate money to charity.
The Idiom ‘Charity begins at home’ or its equivalent in Persian ‘Awwal Khvaish, Ba’ad Darvesh’ is not a man-made diction. Please see these quotes from Al-Qura’an.
“Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side, the traveler, and those whom your right hands possess. Indeed, Allah does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful”. (4:36)
“Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous”. (2:177)
The same subject has been repeated elsewhere also. The principle given is straightforward. Charity must start from the nearest point. If you have enough and can go further away, the circle may be expanded. If not, then the charity should remain close to home.
Our most favorite cause for charity is religious activities. We donate generously for such gatherings, rallies, occasions, decorations, speeches, and personalities etc. Next in the same series is for building of mosques, madrassahs, mazaars, etc.
Our next most favorite causes are donating for poor and needy. We donate hugely to Edhi, Seylani, Akhuwat, Shaukat Khanum, Sundas, Fatimid and hundreds of such outfits. In fact, public donations are the lifeline of most of these organizations. We also donate to thousands of small, local, one-off type causes.
Distributing food is a very busy activity at personal and group level. At home, at mazaars, on occasions, on anniversaries, on achievements and so on, we like to offer food to the poor and needy. Distribution of clothes is also favorite but at a lesser level, probably due to cost factor.
The usual motivations for doing charity are; either to earn Allah’s Blessings (Thawab), or for paying gratitude (shukrana), or atonement for some wrongdoing (kaffarah), or to ward off some impending evil (sadaqah), or to legitimize money accumulated through illegitimate means. These are all good reasons except the last one.
Within the context of charity and donations, following important points continuously appear to be missed.
Parents – Allah has ordained in clear and strict terms about Parents. “And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], “uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word. And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, “My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small.” (17:23,24).
There are numerous stories of bad treatment with parents. While the children live in luxury, the parents live in utter poverty. Even our charity does not extend to them.
Siblings – It is not uncommon to have serious disparity among brothers and sisters. While one brother may have achieved big, the other siblings may be lagging far behind. They should be considered next in the order of eligibility. Charity is highly desired but often missing.
Relatives – In every family, there are poor relatives which are neglected in favor of other ways of charity, though they should be considered next in the order of importance. There may be reasons of family disputes which should be left out in the name of Allah.
Neighbors – In many upscale neighborhoods, the neighbors are aliens. It may be acceptable because they may be more or less at the same level. However, in lower and middleclass communities, keeping the neighbor in care is highly desirable. There are real situations where the neighbors are barely surviving, but we do not know.
Employees – … and those whom your right hands possess. The term referred to slaves originally as they were ‘possession’. Employment is a form of modern-day slavery. It may be as bad as traditional slavery or even worse, but it is not called slavery because the employer refuses to own his employees. Employment in organizations is highly variable; from an extremely rewarding association to extremely frustrating labor. Most of the employers who treat their employees very poorly, do a lot of charity otherwise. They would distribute food and clothes, hold religious ceremonies, donate to charities and go for Hajj and Umrah frequently. They do all this and their own staff, those whom their right hands possess, is crying for subsistence. This is a stark example of distorted priorities.
Beggars – Public opinion is divided on whether to give money to street beggars, some of whom are so obviously fake, it is easy to recognize. Some say we should simply give in the name of Allah; no questions raised. Others strongly condemn the practice. Beggary is a social and economic issue which needs to be addressed at the governmental level.
Charity/Alms/Donations are what we discussed above. I wish to leave two questions here for all of us to ponder upon.
- When shall we correct our misplaced notions about the order of priority? It is clear that we are not doing it right. It is also clear that no one is talking about it, ostensibly because many kinds of vested interests are playing in and getting their undue share.
- Are we creating more beggars in our zeal to distribute food, clothes and money? More and more people seem to have shed hesitation about receiving charity, even when they appear to be reasonably well off. The increase in givers appear to be increasing the number of takers.