RAMADAN, that heady month of spiritual activity, has come and gone. And now, the first six blessed days of Shawwal are passing us by. During the Holy Month we said farewell to friends and family with sadness, and we welcomed the new-born with joy.
In our age of mass communication, digitalisation, and globalisation, time seems to fly. Life, it seems, is so very fleeting. For us as Muslims life goes beyond life; it passes on as a continuum into Heaven or Hell.
The Prophetic message is that we have to have a balance – a balance between the material and the spiritual. This is reflected in the Prophet’s [saw] most famous du’ah: “Allahumma rabbana atina fiddunya hasana taw wa fil akhirati…”
In this prayer, the Prophet [saw] would ask Allah for the best of both worlds, and exhort his Companions to do as much good as possible – not only in the unique window of grace that is Ramadan – but throughout our short lives.
Indeed, Ramadan is a brief encounter, but its role in polishing the heart and its potential contribution to the relief of humanity is immense. The Prophet [saw] was said to be the most generous in Ramadan, but Allah – the Greatest – even more.
Shaikh Ahmad Hendricks of the Azzawia reports, via the authority of his Shuyukh in Makkah who report from Prophetic sources, that for each day of Ramadan – when the Shiyateen have been chained down and doors of Jahannum closed – Allah the most Merciful, releases 600,000 souls from the Fire.
But that is not all, on the night of Laylut ul-Qadr – the Night of Power – Allah releases the equivalent amount of all souls released for the whole month to date. And if that is not enough – on ‘Eid, Allah in His Supreme Generosity, liberates the equivalent of all the souls released during the whole month.
And even if anyone wishes to question the validity of this account (which they are free to do) we certainly should not lose sight of the kernel of its message – the fruits of Ramadan – via the 10-day phases of its Mercy, Forgiveness and Salvation, which are Divine promises.
But that is not all, the ordained charity of Fitrah or Fidya to validate the fast, the voluntary giving of Sadaqah and the payment of Zakah in Ramadan become the re-distributive elements of wealth and the agents of social relief.
SANZAF, which is a certified distributor of relief according to Shari’ah, was just one of the many agencies working at the coal face this past month. Witnessing its energies and outreach – 23, 600 fitrah parcels were delivered nation-wide – one can only feel proud that the SA Muslim community is compassionate and caring.
The organisation is shy to crunch numbers, but having the licence to do so myself, I have estimated that at least 100, 000 individuals would have directly benefited from SANZAF’s fitrah parcels alone. That is a lot of people, more than your average football stadium. Add in other organisations such as Gift of the Givers, Awqaf and Islamic Relief and the outreach gains even more momentum, the figure probably nudging up to 250, 000 at least.
In fact, having worked in the Muslim media for decades, this past Ramadan seems to have surpassed all the others in terms of giving. Why? To be honest, I don’t know. Perhaps our community has become more middle-class since 1994? Perhaps our hearts have been softened by events around us?
But let’s, for interest’s sake, crunch some more numbers.
Our Muslim population in South Africa, grossly underestimated by the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, is about 3-4 million of 55 million (not 2.5 million). It’s a long story how I come by these numbers, so let’s just use them as a marker, because it led me to thinking about them in terms of social upliftment.
If 2 million adult SA Muslims paid their fitrah – pegged at a minimum of R12 up to R40 – one begins to see the picture. If, for argument’s sake, each person paid R20 then there would have been an injection of R40 million into our economy. Again, that is a substantial number. Add in Zakah and other charities, and I estimate the figure to climb to about double that amount, to R80 million.
In terms of poverty relief, this is significant. Not enough to bridge the poor-rich divide nationally, but enough to show that Islamic charity has the capacity to make a difference, albeit a temporary one.
On a global scale, Muslims according to the Pew Report are 1.6 billion – 23% of the world’s population. If again, for argument’s sake, 1 billion adults were to pay 1 dollar in fitrah, a billion dollars would have immediately entered the world economy in terms of poverty relief.
Admittedly, I’m neither an economist nor an accountant, but even the simple, conservative maths shows the massive impact of charity and Zakah, which cleanses wealth due to it being ‘ibadah. Indeed, in the era of debt enslavement and gross interest excesses, we have a Prophetic model of social development right in front of us.
For that reason, I think it’s all the more important there is no duplication of effort (a curse in our community) and that our institutions – widely acknowledged for their effectiveness internationally – are further empowered by our continuous contributions. The difference is there for us to make; we can change the world.