Did He not find thee an orphan and protect (thee) ?
Did He not find thee wandering and direct (thee) ?
Did He not find thee destitute and enrich (thee) ?
Therefor the orphan oppress not,
Therefor the beggar drive not away,
Therefor of the bounty of thy Lord be thy discourse.
93 Surah ad-Duha (The early hours)
One experience that almost everyone will encounter in Makkah, are beggars. They are there almost round the clock round the year. Some are the residents of the city, others are visitors who had come to perform their umrah or haj and had overstayed or had run out of funds to return home.
A Survey reveals alarming facts of life in Makkah as reported by Arab News.
According to the study conducted by Makkah Development Authority, the average monthly spending of a family in Makkah is SR3,000 and for an individual the average is SR700. Only 9.5 percent of the families spend an average SR6,000 a month, while 55 percent spend less than SR3,000 and 35.2 percent between SR3,000 and SR6,000.
“These are very negative results. If the average monthly spending of a family is SR3,000, it indicates that the income level of most people in Makkah is very low which affects their saving ability, their purchasing power and their demand for services which means they will not benefit from any economic resurgence,” said Dr. Yaseen Al-Jifri, dean of Prince Sultan College for Tourism and Administration.
But when faced with the beggar, does one just give and give and give?
One group of people who are obvious beggars are black women. I am not certain where they are from but they operate in groups. And they often work as a whole family. There could be some women carrying children on their back or front, crying Fisabillilah. Give one of them and suddenly you will find yourself up against five other women carrying their babies as well. And if their children were old enough to walk and beg, they too would be begging from you. One for every child.
I used to give to them, until I found out that these women and children are part of a syndicate. Rumour has it, the syndicate is run by a rich man who would drop off and pick up these women and children every morning and evening. And they would have to give a portion of their day’s earning to their “master.”
The same goes for a group of handicapped black men and women. Some have stumps for hands. Others have stumps for legs. They normally line themselves neatly in two neat rows, asking for money in a sing-song voice. They normally operate before or after prayer times. Thing is you must make sure if you give, that you have enough change for the whole row of them because you cannot just give to a few, because the rest would ask for more.
So I had to ask, if they are unable to walk or hold things, how did they get there as a group? Who sent them there? Who clothe them? Who bathe them?
One of the local students told me that they are run again as part of a syndicate. They are “owned” by a powerful and rich leader who takes a cut out of the money they managed to collect. Some of them were purposely maimed when they children, to be sent out to beg money from pilgrims.
Cruel? Of course, it is. To give or not to give? That is the question.
Is the professional beggar any different from a real beggar? And how can you tell a beggar is real or not? By his clothes? Loss of limbs? Handicap? His face? The way he asked money from you? So what if the main portion of your sedekah goes to a rich syndicate? A portion still goes to the beggars. Doesn't that count?
I have also been told of stories of how a man was crowded by a group of beggars. He took some money out to give them, only to find out after they were gone that he was robbed. His wallet or money pouched was cleverly taken away while he was busy giving alms to the beggars.
I also found that what you wear also determines whether or not the beggar will approach you. When my husband was wearing a thobe (jubah) and I, the abaya, not many people came to us to ask for alms. But when he wears his trousers and shirt, many more did. Could it be that the beggars know that we Asians are generous when it comes to give alms? One weird experience we had was after Haj. One man was shopping, asking for the price of Taqiyah (songkok Haji) and sajadah. My husband came and asked the price of something, and suddenly the same man who was previously shopping turned round and asked him for some money, Fisabillilah he said. But he was shopping!
It was difficult for us to tell if they guy was merely trying to take advantage of us or if he was really short of money. If he was short of money, why was he shopping? A hungry man would not be looking for buy souvenirs, would he?
We try our best not to repel the beggars, but sometimes it is really hard to judge if the person asking us for money is really asking for the sake of asking or if they are hungry and needed to eat. What is the definition of a beggar anyways? What if the person could find gainful work but just finds begging much easier? What if they are merely con artists? Preying on pilgrims intent on doing good deeds, only to find that they are tricked cleverly into parting with their hard earned money?
How we deal with this? We normally use our gut feeling. If we felt like giving, we will give some. If we don’t feel like doing so, we will refuse. Normally we set aside a some of money in small change in an accessible purse or pocket. And when that runs out, we will show them that we didn’t have anymore. And they would leave us alone.What does it take to be compassionate and generous? Even while trying my best, we are still tested in our keikhlasan or sincerity in giving alms.