There is more that bugs me about the plight of beggars in general. When I walk in a downtown area and see the glory of all that is modern–big buildings, men dressed in suits and flashing billboards and signs, I think–wow this is great, this should be for everyone. But then I peer around and right next to the rich businessman I see the panhandler, to use a more modern term. I see the extremes brought forth in front of me and I see that there is no precise balance. And it makes me uncomfortable. So much so that I try to avoid the downtown district of any major city.
I have one more thing that distresses me. The scenario is you go out to buy some candy or whatever. And you bring it home only to see that when you open this bag and start eating, those around you are eying your food. They think that they hold more right to what you are eating than yourself. So they ask for some and may become greedy. You give regardless to be polite yet knowing that they do not ‘need’ this food, or you may not either for that matter. But their greed is so apparent and unwavering whenever this situation is encountered. Compare that to when you go out and see a beggar on the street and refuse to give him some food or money, thinking he is a ‘crook’ and can make a living himself. You are giving to the greedy and un-giving to the needy. What an irony of our era. Rasulullah SAAWS encountered something similar with the blind man encountered in Surah Abasa:
(The Prophet) frowned and turned away,
Because there came to him the blind man (interrupting).
And what would make you know that he would purify himself,
Or become reminded so that the reminder should profit him?
As for him who thinketh himself independent,
Unto him thou payest regard.
And no blame is on you if he would not purify himself
But as to him who came to thee striving earnestly,
And with fear (in his heart),
From him thou art distracted. (80:1-10)
Rasulullah SAAWS said that smiling is charity. How is it that we only smile to those who we know are rich because they appear healthy and attractive, but we do not smile to the beggars that come to us ugly and sick? Surely a poor man is more deserving of that simple smile of charity than those whom we liken ourselves too. We should at least smile to the poor man and try to brighten his day. If we cannot give him money than this at least is charity on our part.
I can’t refuse a beggar when he asks me for help. It isn’t in me. The only time that I actually do refuse a beggar is when I actually do not have anything on me to give. And that still makes me feel bad. There is a saying that I cling to:
“True generosity is giving not in times of comfort, but in times of difficulty”
People believe that they are to be generous only when they actually are comfortable themselves. But the fact is very few people, non-Muslims mainly but Muslims as well are actually ‘comfortable’, in the broadest sense of the word. Perhaps this is why they do not give when asked to give. But it reminds me of the ayah in Surah Yasin regarding the status of secular humanists who disbelieve in God but still do good. The fact is that these people are insecure, spiritually and otherwise. That is why they believe what they do and because of this the believer can never feel fully at comfort working with the deniers. It is similar to working with a mentally insane person on something that requires the greatest ability of mental sense.
The ayah in Surah Yasin says this:
And when it is said to them: Spend out of what Allah has given you, those who disbelieve say to those who believe: Shall we feed him whom, if Allah please, He could feed? You are in naught but clear error. (36:47)
And I write this all knowing full well there are criminals out there. Knowing that there are people who beg on the streets in the day and drive a Mercedes by night. Yes, such people do exist. But only Allah truly knows their condition and perhaps they are more in ‘true spiritual need’ than they are ‘physical need’ so we can at least use this as a means for Dawah.
Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdik ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk. Ameen!