Who Deserves Your Charity?

Choose institutions that foster self-reliance, and do not encourage parasites.

By A Staff Writer

Ramadan is the most preferred month for taking out charity and disbursing it among the needy. One should carefully select the purpose, individuals and institutions that deserve our resources to see that it goes into establishing the society on strong foundations. It has to be understood that we the Muslims, live in a plural society of India which is in the throes of social and economic transformation. Muslims cannot wish away the urges of the time and the society. So the choice should take long term benefit in view. Here are a few tips:
Donate your charity to individuals within your family, relatives and neighbours who are indigent, destitute, sick, needy on a priority basis. Immediate needs should be fulfilled first. If we know that a family suffers from hunger or someone needs medical treatment, they need to be helped on a priority basis.

Fishing Net rather than Fish
Yet one should not lose sight of the long term impact. One should remember the old axiom: “Give the hungry a fish, he will eat and sleep. Give him a fishing net, he will earn his livelihood for a lifetime”.
Going by this, it is better to divide the charity for immediate needs of individuals or families and institutions that promote self-reliance. Let us be reminded of the Prophet’s example. A person came begging to the Prophet’s door. He was healthy and able-bodied. The Prophet asked him if he had anything which is of some value. He pointed out towards his begging bowl and the blanket. The Prophet fed him and asked him to o go to the market and sell off the two possessions. The man followed the instruction. He then asked the man to purchase an axe out of the money that the two items fetched. He did as directed. He told him to go to the nearby wilderness, cut firewood as much as he could do in the span of a day and sell it in the local market. The man began to do as he was told. A few days later he came to Prophet and said he was now able to meet his daily needs.

Self-reliance
The moral of the story is not to be missed. The Prophet wanted the needy man to be a self-reliant person. Enlarge this example today. What we need today is to train people in self-reliance. This can be achieved by creating systems and institutions whereby people could earn their own livelihood and become givers and supporters rather than takers and seekers. So the choice must be for those institutions that:
1 Promote modern education which is the key to empowerment in the current age.
2 Promote inclusiveness i.e., bringing the women, the downtrodden, the underdogs, the handicapped to the mainstream.
3 Remove disparities and promote equality.
4 Discourage chauvinism, narrow-mindedness, ritualism, conservatism, extremism and violence.
5 Reduce distance between Muslims and non-Muslims, promote communal harmony and stand for peace and love.
6 Create self-reliance.

Looked form this angle, your zakat, sadaqa and Fitra should be primarily given to institutions that:
1 Provide modern education like Board affiliated schools. Avoid schools that commercialise education. Instead help trusts, endowments and foundations that provide scholarships to poor, deserving students in schools, arrange food and stay for such students.
2 Avoid funding madrassas that refuse to modernize their curriculum; are not affiliated to any boards; are not open to certification of course; do not audit their accounts and above all, not transparent. If at all you choose to help some of these madrassas, visit them well ahead of Ramazan (Madrassas close for yearly vacation from mid-Shaban and open only after Eidul fitr) and ascertain the number of children, the audit status and other credentials. Go there unannounced. If the madrassas are outside the city where you live, ask for their bank accounts and deposit the amount directly into their accounts. Remember Safeers or collectors take away as much as 40% of the collection towards their commission.
3 Assist those institutions that train women in new skills, counsel the divorcees, widows, the victims of domestic violence, try to reconcile broken marriages, arrange widow remarriage, impart vocational skills to women who want to break out from dependence on others.
4 Donate for institutions like orphanages, hospitals, home for the disabled, the handicapped, those who restore people to health, ability to work and normality of mental status.
5-Help institutions that have a broader canvas of an inclusive India. Assist even needy non-Muslims, for Islam does not differentiate between the needy on the basis of religion. Do not seek the opinion of narrow minded scholars who want to reserve assistance for traditional madrassas.
6-Fund those research and publishing institutions that break new ground, digressing from the beaten path, bring new insights, gather data from the ground, employ trained and competent workforce, use modern idiom, reject obscurantism and orthodoxy.
7-Self-reliance fosters self-respect. Avoid helping any institution that creates parasites on the society and perpetuate misery and charity-seeking tendency. Given this yardstick, help entrepreneurs or institutions that promote entrepreneurship.
8-Never make the distribution of zakat (be it food or clothing) a public event, for it may attract even the non-needy. It may even create ruckus and a law and order problem.
9-Do not pay Zakat money to construction or maintenance of mosques. These are duties of the community and zakat money should not be spent on them.

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