After being viciously cornered on four separate occasions by random individuals known as musafir asking for money today, I sincerely feel that something is wrong with this whole idea of donating money to such people if at first glance,
a) there seem perfectly physically able to work (since they are so aggressive and industrious in their search for donations) and
b) that you can encounter so many of them in Geylang Serai or even at the comforts at your own home!
According to MUIS, musafir or ibnu sabil are stranded travelers on a permissible journey who are in need of money. Such individuals are immediately recognised by their white innocuous songkok haji donned on their heads, white long sleeved shirts and an open hand constantly gesturing for money. You can even add in a white moustache or beard for a more realisitic effect.
Once such people approach you, they will use the Muslim salutation of Assalamualaikum to greet you and speak Malay in a fake arabic accent, asking for donations, dropping Islamic references here and there and even quranic phrases to religiously compel you to donate. Because in doing so, when you refuse to donate, you are by implication going against the main tenets of Islam, proving to everyone how heartless and selfish you are.
But why is there a sudden deluge of kaum musafir roaming the streets of Geylang Serai and Kampung Glam during the month of Ramadhan? I would assume that they fall under this category because most are ethnically Indian. Is the state of poverty of those underprivileged that bad in Singapore? If so, why do they only make an appearance during Ramadhan? Doesn’t this mean that since they know people are generally more generous during Ramadhan that they take this opportunity to ask for money since they know on religious and moral grounds, they would have a higher chance of getting the money they want? Such individuals go to the extent of roaming your HDB flats, knocking from house to house trying to find a Muslim family and minta sedekah or beg for money. Isn’t there something very wrong in that when even at home you are not free from the constant inundation of people asking you for money? Isn’t there something even more wrong when my parents, brother and I were breaking fast on our car boot at the car park in Geylang Serai, that we were asked by not one or two but three different individuals asking for money while we were eating, when we are most vulnerable and busy? (There wasn’t space at the various eateries along Geylang Serai so we decided to head to the car)
I’m not saying that we should not help them. I believe that there are more sustainable ways of helping such people earn a living so that they can focus their energies on something that can help themselves. Asking people for money during Ramadhan is simply a short term measure, something that does not solve the real problem of poverty at hand. At the same time, I must remind all Muslims to pay their Zakat Fitrah during this month because the money collected will go towards helping those who really need them in a equitable manner. To know more about zakat read here.
Doesn’t anyone else find this a persistent perennial problem that occurs each Ramadhan? Am I wrong to say that I can exercise my right not to donate money to such people since I already paid my Zakat Fitrah and that maybe one is enough not four or five? Aren’t there checks and balances on such occurances so that people do not get conned into giving money each time they see such people which may be 5 or 6 each visit to Geylang Serai?