AS a journalist I have to often deal with people complaining about the world – so much so that at the end of a day my head sometimes hurts. If I were to believe some of the complainers, the sky has already fallen in.
What characterises these proverbial moaners is that they are either couch-bound, or have their heads buried in conspiracy theory, social media and fake news (which they often believe is true).
Quick to comment, even quicker to condemn and shrouded with negativity, these energy vampires – as I call them – seem to think that by shouting at the world, and condemning everyone around them, they are going to solve its problems.
To be honest, I have very little time for these people – not only is life too short for this kind of nonsense, but there are better things to do. As my teacher and guide, the late Sayyid Muhammad al-Maliki, once said: “In spite of all the bad news, there is still khayr (goodness) in the world, so don’t forget that.”
Indeed, the Sayyid was the one who reminded us that the Prophet [saw] never surrounded himself with negativity, despite the challenges he had to encounter. Or as another learned elder once remarked, “Shafiq, are the angels smiling? Yes. Is the Prophet [saw] smiling? Yes.”
It is with a positive attitude, the Prophetic attitude, that the world becomes transformed. And I have often told these energy vampires that charity – Sadaqah, Fitrah, Sadaqat ul-Jariyyah and Zakah – are the first steps in transforming society. They are admittedly humble steps, but as I tell them, if everyone buys into it, the benefits multiply and become an avalanche.
To this end, we have to remind ourselves that at its height, the Islamic empire was run by various Awqaf that were supported by Zakah and other Islamic means. So successful was this system that the Caliphs only had to bank-roll their judiciary and the military.
Housing, water, energy, mosques, universities, feeding schemes, roads and dams were all governed by various Awqaf, that once seed-funded by Zakah, could sustain themselves on their own. The socialist in us might argue that this is “privatisation”, but we have to remember that Zakah is worship, and that a Waqf is established in the name of Allah in perpetuity and for public benefit.
The potential of what I have described is huge. As Muslims we have all the tools and regulatory vehicles for relevant social transformation; it is in a sense, as close to us as our jugular vein. It is as simple as reaching out – if not physically, then financially.
And what’s more, if we all contribute to an idea and a goal, it doesn’t have to be in large amounts. It then becomes a question of the building going up brick-by- brick, floor-by floor, building-by-building and street-by-street.
One person, who did not take notice of the energy vampires, and who remained firmly focused and positive in spite of jealousy and adversity – and even attempts on his life – was the Pakistani philanthropist, Abdul Sattar Edhi. Saying that suffering was his tutor, he started a charitable empire in 1947 from only 500 dollars.
He said his sense of charity had been inspired by his mother. Hailing from a poor family, she would give her son two paisas (a few cents) to take with him to school. One paisa he could spend on lunch, and the second he had to give to a beggar. When his mother suffered a stroke in 1939, he nursed her for eight years until her death.
When Pakistan became independent in 1947, he became aware of the suffering around him. He was especially touched by a mother of six committing suicide because she could no longer cope. This inspired him to set up his charity, relying solely on public donations.
By the time he passed on – aged 89 in July 2016 – he’d saved the lives of at least 50,000 babies; but not only that, he’d established hundreds of food kitchens, re-hab centres, homeless shelters and clinics; he’d adopted 20, 000 orphans, established an ambulance service (at 1,800 ambulances it is the biggest volunteer service in the world) and had trained over 40,000 nurses and had 28 rescue boats and two airplanes on hand for emergencies.
A humble man – who never took a salary, who had only two thawbs and who slept in a room next to his office – Edhi once said that “long praises and empty words” did not impress Allah. One showed their faith by action.
He did not suffer pettiness, and when criticised for picking up Christians and Hindus in his ambulances, retorted that the ambulances were more Muslim than their critics. He also provided aid in the Ethiopian famine of 1985 and sent 100, 000 dollars to help those stranded by Hurricane Katrina.
So to those energy vampires, with all due respect, please read this. Please become inspired by the example of Abdul Sattar Edhi. If one man can do all that, imagine the power of a whole society.