Love, compassion, empathy and care are just a few of the noble traits nurtured during the blessed month of Ramadhan. The feeding of the less fortunate, namely the poor, orphan, homeless and destitute are among some of the most praiseworthy deeds advocated by the Prophet during this month.
In an authentic tradition narrated by At-Tirmidhi, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said;
“Save yourself from hellfire by giving even half a date-fruit in charity.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 498).
Charity is enjoined upon every decent human being, and Muslims are duty bound to extend a helping hand where it is needed. God allows that there should be among us in need of charity so that those who are able can give and increase their worth in the sight of God.
Allah says in the Quran, Surah Al Baqarah: 271;
“If you give charity in public, it is worthwhile (for it will persuade others), but if you hide and deliver it to the poor in secret that is (far) better for you. And Allah will remove from you some of your sins (due to this charity). And Allah is aware of all that you do.”
It is therefore highly inappropriate to say the least that in this holiest month of Ramadhan where Muslims are encouraged to engage in charity, the Federal Territories Minister has chosen to ban soup kitchens and fine both givers and takers of this charity.
Homelessness is symptomatic of malaise and inequity in society and the increase in their numbers reflect the widening social gaps. Urban poverty is a phenomenon that is well recognised in many of the big cities of the world including Paris, Tokyo and Washington. Urban poverty is worse than rural poverty for the urbanites have no plot of land to subsist on. In the urban areas it basically means “no money no eat”.
Thus the presence of soup kitchens in these cities to serve the homeless and destitute. These are made possible by many kind souls working individually or collectively with NGOs. They sacrifice their time, effort and money to feed and provide some modicum of relief to the downtrodden and destitute of KL.
The example of Umar Al Khattab, the second caliph of the Islamic empire, serves as a useful Ramadhan reflection for a caring and compassionate socio-political governance.
Umar was out one night with his assistant when he came upon an old woman sitting over a fire and stirring her pot. Her crying children were nearby. She did not recognise Umar and upon being asked informed him that her children were crying because they were hungry and all she had in her pot was water. She was pretending to cook, hoping her children would sleep out of exhaustion. Umar walked away immediately to the state godown and carried food provisions on his back, refusing his assistant’s help. When he returned, he helped the old woman prepare a meal and fed the children. Umar stayed watching till the children went to sleep happy. Only then could he sleep himself.
Food is one of our basic needs and no one relishes queuing and begging for it. The fact that there are some among us deprived of this basic need is a shame upon us. Banning the homeless and criminalising the soup kitchens is a sweep under the rug solution. It will not beautify our city for the stench comes from our failure in addressing a most basic need of our fellow beings – food and shelter.
Taking cognisance of this, the Muslim Professionals Forum urges the honourable minister to:
- Reflect on the implications of his ill advised decree
- Understand the problem of urban poverty holistically
- Engage the various stakeholders to strategise a comprehensive and long term solution
- Support and facilitate these soup kitchens instead of persecuting them.
Press release of MPF issued by:
The Board of Directors
Muslim Professionals Forum