YEAR-ROUND NEEDS: Don't just treat the underprivileged during RamadanWE were having tea at a Bangsar kedai kopi one afternoon before the start of the fasting month when we were approached by a young Indian man begging for money. Most people would have pushed him away but my friend asked the man to sit at a table and order any food and drink on the menu. He paid for the man's meal and sent him off with some money in hand.
On several occasions when we met at night in Bangsar, this same friend would buy roses from an old man who would go from table to table. I see him doing it without hesitation every time.
Some of the diners there would think he was a sucker to be taken in by these people, including the blind who go around day and night begging for money but in the guise of selling packets of tissues.
Orphans breaking fast at a function in Shah Alam. In Islam, whoever gives the fasting person food
to break his fast would have the same reward as the fasting person.
I know he was sincere when he did it. The benefits are bountiful when we do things, in whatever capacity but more so on a voluntary basis, with sincerity; more so in this holy month of Ramadan. In Islam, we are taught the virtue of giving the fasting person food to break his fast; whoever does so would have the same reward as the fasting person. And that the reward for giving voluntary alms in secret is 70 times that of giving it publicly.
In many places, you'll find that iftar is served in mosques, with the food donated by individuals to share. At the mosque, our individual titles serve no purpose. In a congregation, we are "brothers" and "sisters", irrespective of colour and creed. This contact between the various levels of society helps to create a real bond of brotherhood in the Muslim community.
We also find individuals and companies rushing to host iftar. Orphans, single mothers and the poor are much sought after. They break fast at posh restaurants, hotels, convention centres and golf clubs, with the media in tow. They also participate in "Amal Ramadan" programmes put together by some non-governmental organisations, giving aid to poor households in rural areas throughout the country.
We also read newspaper reports of companies taking orphans out shopping for their Raya clothes and shoes, in line with the spirit of giving during the fasting month.
I even know of a group of young professionals who do this, treating the orphans to buka puasa and giving them duit raya from their own pockets.
It is unfortunate, however, that some individuals and companies treat this as their annual personal or corporate social responsibility.
What long-term benefit would this be to the orphans, single mothers and the poor, if it is nothing more than a yearly affair? They are lucky if they get picked again in the coming years.
Friends have complained to me about how difficult it was for them to seek donations, in cash or kind, from individuals and companies for orphanages and old folks' homes outside the fasting month. Letters and emails sent remained unanswered. Verbal commitments remained just that.
More often than not, these friends had to seek the help of their own family members, groups and friends for donations.
Yes, charity begins at home but these orphanages and old folks' homes need more than just what family members and friends can give to sustain their operations. Depending on the government's support alone is not enough.
We need to be reminded that Ramadan comes only once a year but when giving to charity, there is no need for us to check the calendar.