Zeeshan Rasool Khan

Charity and publicity can’t co-exist

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Charity is giving of help mainly in the form of money to those who need it. The charity has both religious and social significance. All religions hold a positive standpoint about charity. People from all faiths take part in this practice according to their capabilities. However, it is strongly emphasized by Islam. Among the five fundamentals of Islam, ‘Zakah’ has the fourth number, which is the form of charity, obligatory for every Muslim. Besides it, the charity has various other forms in Islam like ‘Sadqah’, which comes under the category of voluntary charity, etc.

Generally, charity attracts much attention during any untoward situation. So, in present crises – Covid19 induced lockdown – some people have volunteered to reach out to the people who are facing worst of it. Around the world, social workers are briskly extending a compassionate hand to the needy people. Many social and religious organizations are seen actively involved in helping the have-nots. This is heartening. But, currently, the practice of charity has become a controversial point, thanks to social media that has dominated our life’s every facet.

Social media popularity has changed the world and our minds. The thing that would be personal to a person remains insignificant now if it does not appear on media. Let alone joining the college, news about solemnization of marriage and even childbirth is shared on media along with clicks. Where you have been throughout the day, what you did, which food you consumed, all information is highlighted on social sites irrespective of the fact whether people are interested in you or not. This is done not only by tech-savvy but also by others using a smartphone.

Social media has entrapped even our preachers as well in its web. Earlier, the disciple would follow a preacher, handling his bag of books and relevant material. Now, a book-bag has been replaced by a bag containing a camera, smartphone, and microphone. Preacher first arranges a camera operator, later he decides what to speak in the program. Unless preacher does not appear on social media while preaching, he assumes his discourse futile.

In such a scenario, a social worker will remain obscure is unexpected. After all, he/she is doing a job better than a preacher and other technophiles. Thus, we see a multitude of pictures uploaded by people and social welfare organizations on media platforms ‘showing off’ their philanthropy. Making matters worse is that the pictures of beneficiaries (poor) are also publicized, which amounts to adding insult to their injury.

This practice invokes not only public disaffection but it goes against the rules laid down by our religion. Many traditions are witness to the fact that Prophet (PBUH) opposed the showcasing of welfare services. According to a Hadith Prophet (PBUH) said, Allah will shade seven types of people on the day of resurrection … He went on to mention six of them and finally said, “a man who gives in charity and hides it, such that his left hand doesn’t know what his right hand gives in charity.” This very distinctly explains the value of giving alms secretly.

About Aisha Siddiqa (RA), wife of beloved Prophet (PBUH), many biographers have written that once Aisha called her nephew Urwa ibn Zubayr, gave him some money for a poor man and instructed him: “Do not express my greeting to him; do not ask him to supplicate for me. Do not hand it over to him, do keep the amount at the place he would be sitting. Just drop this amount there as I said.”

On return, Urwah asked Aisha, “O honorable woman, please familiarize me about the logic behind your directions”, and Aisha replied: “If I had conveyed my greeting and requested poor man for supplication, he would have responded with prayers – the act that amounts to getting the reward for my charity, reducing its significance to nothing. If you would have placed alms in his hand, naturally your hand will have been above and his below. It could have disheartened him – making him think how long he would be the recipient of alms, not donor.”

This candidly expounds the way of donating. Islam and a few other religions promote charity but not for flaunting and not at the cost of human dignity. In spite of this, some people support the idea of publicity. They claim that by publicizing the social work they do, they encourage others to imitate them. People operating NGOs believe that publicity garners them financial backing. Since they function on donations from people, they need to show donors how their donations are utilized, they claim.

Agreed, they want to mobilize and goad others for welfare activities. Their organizations cannot sustain without gathering public support, possible through publicity. But how could these two objectives be met by odious advertising and indirect humiliation of the poor?

No one likes this exercise. People with a live conscience are not inspired by these actions. Even donors dislike this approach. Therefore, there is a need for a volte-face.

It is fine to use the Internet to reach the masses, to make requests for donations, to get public assistance, but beating the drum about your work and shaming a poor by bringing them into the public scene via images, etc., is undesirable. It not only makes the religious and humanistic concept of charity meaningless but also downgrades the poor and adds to their misery.

It is better to adopt the ways that would be desirable in all aspects. Let us make our mind to contribute and work fervently and honestly to help poor only for the sake of Almighty Allah without craving for worldly acknowledgment.

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