One needs to be poor to experience what the poor go through. It is not easy to observe fasting for a whole month. Yet, a Muslim who does not merely profess Islam will fast it come what may; except those who are exempted by the Law Giver (Allah). I do not intend to discuss those who are exempted. What is unambiguous is that poverty is no reason for not fasting. In fact, for some reasons, the poor celebrate the month of Ramadan because it is the month of hope. They are more hopeful in Ramadan because it is the month of abundance.
In this noble month, the rich who were hitherto unwilling to spend suddenly become generous with their wealth. Selfish traders exploitatively skyrocket prices of what is mostly needed (foods and fruits) in this month of mercy because the rich are willing to pay to earn Allah’s blessings for their wealth—be it ill-gotten or lawfully acquired. It is safe to say that despite the prohibitive price of most needed items in this month due to the exploitation of wicked traders, the poor are still hopeful in the month of Ramadan than in any other month of the year.
May Allah reward all those who spend to alleviate hardships for the poor as we inch towards the end of Ramadan. The month will depart us soon; but the rich can do a lot not to depart the month. To achieve that, they should continue to spend their wealth as they do in this blessed month. To be generous in a month out of twelve months is like scoring one out of twelve in examination. Conventionally speaking, and by any standard, that is failure.
There is one common practice whereby people delay (or hasten to give out) their zakat till in the month of Ramadan to maximize rewards. Though this might not be the ideal thing in all cases, nevertheless, the poor must pray for zakat givers. Zakat is a fraction of excess wealth acquired or possessed by a Muslim which must be given out to the poor once in a year. Many choose Ramadan for its dispensation. Even if the intention is to maximize reward, there is suspicion of miserliness in so doing (except those whose actual time for paying zakat is in the month of Ramadan). Why not give zakat in any other month (the actual time it is due) and still spend generously in the month of Ramadan? This is a better way to maximize rewards. Irrespective of when a Muslim gives out their zakat, they deserve our prayers.
There is this ridiculous manner of giving out zakat which should be roundly condemned. It is not enough to obey Allah’s injunction. It is also important to work towards achieving the objective(s) of that injunction. For instance, it is not enough to pray five times daily. The objective of five daily prayers—which is to prevent a Muslim from the commission of great sins of every kind and acts of injustice—must be achieved. Five daily prayers that cannot achieve this basic objective is useless or semi-useless if we give verse 45 of Qur’an 29 any serious thought.
The rich, at times, perhaps unknowingly, make mockery of Allah’s injunction on zakat. Zakat is meant to pull out the poor from the slough of poverty such that they become rich to also give. But many give out zakat to perpetuate the cycle of poverty of its beneficiaries. How? Someone gives out, say, one million naira as zakat. This can be given to a single person or divided equally among, say, two people. We can see, this enriches—if well managed and blessed by Allah.
Characteristic of our rich men and women, especially in Nigeria, one million naira will rather be distributed among two thousand beggars such that each beggar gets 500 naira. This can only keep them impoverished till eternity. Apparently, the act of zakat is done but the objective is defeated. Will such zakat be accepted by Allah? I can only make an informed logical analysis, it is left for the scholars to respond or we make Allah the Judge.
Most Nigerians are actually poor. The rich are undoubtedly few. It is a few of these few that are generous with their wealth. Yet, it is sad to note that while the rich try to help the poor in this month of Ramadan, they, inadvertently, send some of these poor to their graves in an unfortunate circumstance. How? Hungry people are angry and desperate people; thus, it is difficult to coordinate them. In the beginning of Ramadan last month, two middle-aged women died in a stampede over Ramadan gifts at a mosque. A pregnant woman also reportedly went into forced labour and delivered a set of twins in the process. Giving birth to twins in this hard time? Though Allah is the Provider, not the parents. Knowing this, I will be glad to have twins too despite this biting financial crisis.
Ordinarily, one will think this happened in Zamfara or Katsina State due to activities of bandits which have rendered many residents chronically poor. No. One might also think it happened in one of the northern states traditionally plagued with poverty (or should I say alleged poverty?). No. It happened in Lagos State. This is not to say there isn’t poverty in Lagos or any states in the South, it is to emphasize how dangerous is multi-dimensional poverty—one of the most treasured legacies that this current regime bequeathed to Nigerians.
Ensuring orderliness when distributing Ramadan gifts to the poor in this hard time is very important to prevent fatal accident. We (the poor) are like mob when it comes to food. We are always hopeful of getting food—courtesy of Ramadan. What will be our fate after Ramadan? Hopelessness? It has always been so because the rich are not as generous as they are in Ramadan. But that ugly reality can be reversed if the wealthy among us understand the failure logic—one out of twelve—explained above.
Also for the poor, we are generally predisposed to engaging in bodily acts of worship in the month of Ramadan. This, we do, in most cases, more than the wealthy among us who prefer spending. To succeed and pass, using the same logic, recitation of the Qur’an, tahajjud (night prayer), determination to stay away from abominable acts and idle assemblies should not end with Ramadan. We should continue to be righteous maybe in Ramadan or outside Ramadan. With this, we shall hopefully remain hopeful even after Ramadan. May Allah grant us success.
As we (the poor) keep our eyes on Zakatul Fitr, the rich should go out of their ways to give generously more than required. While no one should go beyond Allah’s limit when it comes to acts of worship like offering three units in fajr prayer (early morning prayer) instead of two, zakat is an exemption. Doing more than required, in this specific case, is exactly what pleases Allah the more. Zakatul Fitr is a measure of food given to the poor at the end of Ramadan before Sallah (festival) so that they can also be in celebrating mood. For instance, if a bag of rice is what covers for all members of your family, giving out two bags as zakat will be highly rewarded by Allah.
While I ask Allah to grant both the rich and poor among us success, every Muslim should not forget me in their righteous supplications. Asharuwa lafiya (I wish I can translate it).