As of late, I’ve been getting more and more familiar with the concept of: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” I feel we need to re-evaluate what we think of when we discuss “charity” & “poverty”; what do those terms even mean to us and are the connotations more harmful than we think? What do we aim to achieve when we think of “giving charity”? Are we contributing time and effort into building sustainable projects in which those that are disadvantaged are actively contributing and developing their independence (see: Mia Birdsong) or are we simply donating our bit here and there (whether it be money, clothes or food) and then being done with it?
Now, that’s not to say that those contributions are ineffective or invalid in any way: there is a definite need for them, but they are often short-term endeavours. The ideal is that there no longer exists a need for projects such as these due to their replacement by sustainable initiatives that are long-term and supported, not only by people passionate about helping others, but by the people that are struggling themselves.
The Islamic tradition is explicit when it dictates that the disadvantaged in society have a right over us. It is a duty that we must fulfil, one of the obligations of our faith being that of Zakat (meaning purification: in which we must donate 2.5% of our wealth to those in need) – but we as a community need to think about how we go about purifying that wealth and contributing.
An article found on the Virtual Mosque by Louiza Chekhar discusses just this. Titled “Dignity, not Charity”, this insightful piece serves as a reminder that there should be more to aiding someone in need; giving somebody what they need in that moment is helpful, but supplying someone with the tools and ability to provide for themselves and their family in the long run gives them so much more. Chekhar delves into the concept of affording someone their rightful dignity and honour when they are struggling by exploring the ‘Prophetic model of charity’.
You can read the full article here.
Until next time,
Salaams from the Halal Food Bank – Perth Team 🙂