Every year after Ramadan is finished, the very next day a holiday is celebrated by Muslims all over the world called Eid ul-Fitr. One of the things that people are required to do are give a specific charity leading up to Eid called Zakat ul-fitr. The charity goes to those in need and at the Islamic Center at New York University, we try to distribute it to people in our local community.
Last year, there was a young woman in our community that I ended up giving a large sum of zakat ul-fitr to. Amongst other things, her husband was negligent and abusive and her family was not supportive in any way. Rather, they told her they didn’t have room for her and couldn’t help. Knowing her personal situation and some of the things she had gone through, it was clear that she should be one of the people the zakat ul-fitr was given to. When I gave it to her, she took it from me and after a couple of minutes handed it back.
I was somewhat perplexed and asked her if she didn’t need it. She responded that she most certainly did, she just didn’t know what she was supposed to do with it. She had never paid a cell phone bill or credit card bill in her life. She never managed her own bank account or balanced her own budget. She needed more than just money. And we, unfortunately, were not providing it.
This woman, like so many others, needs a variety of services to help her get back on feet. Something that teaches her basic computer and life skills, how to write a resume, how to apply to a job, etc. In addition to her professional and personal development, she needs a place to live that is secure and safe from her abuser and counseling services to help her process everything she has gone through. How could she get all of that on her own? I felt foolish just handing her money.
Our issue is that when we think of our charitable giving, especially that which is religiously mandated, we think of it too much at times of the fulfillment of our obligation and not what the beneficiary class is really in need of. I can give to solely fulfill my obligation or I can give to fulfill my obligation and really help someone in need the way they need help. It wouldn’t really take that much for us to do the latter other than the time and patience necessary to strategize and become better organized, as I wrote about yesterday.