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The many colours of charity this Ramadan, by Saliu Mustapha

Ramadan is here. During this month, over 1.5 billion Muslims from all over the world are going to be fasting from sunrise to sunset.

But that is not the real deal. The real deal is that nearly half of this population may be performing this obligation on empty stomachs. Yet, Ramadan is meant to be a month of generosity. How then do we reconcile this antithesis?

To be clear, Ramadan, in all ramifications, is a symbolic month of Allah’s generosity. It is a month in which Allah (shubuhanahu wata’ala) showers His blessings and mercy upon Muslims in full throttle. It is a month in which Allah closes the doors of Hell and opens the doors of Paradise for Muslims. This would only mean one thing, that the generosity of Allah is at its peak during Ramadan, more than any other time of the year.

Ramadan, therefore, symbolizes everything generous, everything charitable and everything compassionate.

Charitable giving is as fundamental in Islam as is it in most other religions. Charity and compassion are timeless commandments of Allah to all human kinds – male or female, young or old, black or white, Chinese or Indian, African or Caucasian, etc.

In Ilorin, where I come from, the tradition of charitable giving exists strongly through Zakat, Sadakah or other everyday giving.

So, why do we still have hunger all around us? Why do we still have pervasive poverty in spite of the huge investment in charity?

The reasons are not far-fetched: charity has got to be a lot more strategic than presently practiced. In other words, monetary donations should no longer be the only form of charity. The scope has got to be expanded to allow for a more strategic and a more organised approach to charity giving.

It is about time charity became more strategic and more organised in such a way that it addresses the roots of the problems beyond conventional personal giving.

So, how can charity be more organised and more strategic? It is by simply expanding the frontiers of charity and compassion from merely cash or food handouts to the little but unspoken things that matter in the lives of our brothers and sisters who are less privileged.

Education is topmost on my list. It is charity when a child from a poor home is sponsored fully through school. It is even better charity when it is a girl child. In the same vein, impacting knowledge this time is charity, be it Islamic or Western, especially if it is freely given.

Healthcare is also a priority. For some, at this hour, medical, clothing and shelter are far more important in their lives than cash-handout. It is charity if they are so targeted and taken care of.

One NGO that I am aware concentrates on this is the MMGIVIT, an initiative of the incumbent Vice-Chancellor of the Kwara State University (KWASU), Prof. Mohammed Mustapha Akanbi. We should encourage more of such initiatives.

What about job opportunities? It is definitely charity if a jobless but employable youth secures a job placement. The multiplier effect of opportunities like this on the extended families of the beneficiaries cannot be overemphasised. This is also true of sustainable empowerment programme. The emphasis is on the sustainable.

The Saliu Mustapha Foundation’s various empowerment programmes are inarguably an example in sustainable empowerment. Currently, the Foundation is running a multi-million naira empowerment programme for its core members from across the state, wherein business grants ranging from a minimum of N500,000 to a maximum of N3,000,000 are awarded to lucky members who are selected via a fair, transparent and credible process.

The beneficiaries are currently undergoing an enterprise training programme with the D-Positive Image Consult led by Mallam Nasir Abdulqadir, a business management consultant based in Ilorin.

It is charity to also volunteer for community services. Whether you are helping to secure the community through various Security Committees of the Community Development Associations (CDA) or you are participating as a tutor during CDA extra-mural classes, you are indirectly giving charities in your own unique, however little ways.

A properly targeted Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is also charity. When a corporate organisation invests a fraction of its profit in social amenities or in developing local human resources, it is giving charity.

It is charity when a public official in position of trust utilises his position to better the lot of the people, instead of compounding their hardship by way of bad policies.

It is also charity if a leader caters for his followers; if a parent caters for his children; if a child caters for his aged parents and do not allow them suffer any inequity as a result of negligence.

It is charity when we all play our little part in any capacity we find ourselves. The list is just endless!

Our fast in Ramadan serves as a reminder of the hardships that millions of people living in poverty endure daily. While we may lack only for a few hours, they are lacking the most basic essentials on a long term basis, all day, every day.

We all have a stake in what happens to the person next door. No matter how big or small, every act of charity, of generosity properly channelled this month makes all the difference to our brethrens who for no fault of their own than the accident of their birth or upbringing are living in want and emergencies.

May almighty Allah ease their affairs. And may He accept and reward all our good deeds. Ameen.

Mallam Saliu Mustapha writes from Utako, FCT, Abuja

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