I'm a very traditional person in every sense. I'm honest and I'm critical. I like things to be kept simple and try to act upon the Qur'an and Sunnah as much and as best as I can. It's how I was brought up. I think upbringing has a massive impact upon your life and character, and ultimately the person you are today. Our parents, friends, and society in general influence the way we think, our political ideologies, the way we perceive things and a whole host of our thoughts and ideas.
Something that really rattles my cage is that society today cannot seem to give something for nothing. People cannot seem to donate to a cause without getting something BACK for themselves. It's almost like they see the donation as an investment on Dragon's Den, and will only complete the deal if they're happy with the return they'll get.
The kind of things I'm talking about are (for example): wristbands for charity. Who remembers those? I know I bought them, they were all the rage to wear to school; yet did people really care about the cause behind those wristbands/bracelets, and did we really "make poverty history "? Plus what became of that Live 8 concert? Many charities now sell lots of other merchandise in order to raise money.
Another example is charity dinners. You'd pay over £10 and perhaps in excess of even £100 to attend a lavish dinner at a nice venue where a lot of the costs would go towards hiring the actual venue, the costs of the meal and catering staff, and the rest (hopefully) to charity. At these events, they'd usually host auctions of artwork for example, to raise more money. People will bid higher in order to get the item under the guise that "it's for charity".
Another example I can think of is the iPod red, where a percentage of the money you pay for the iPod is donate to RED- a charity for HIV/AIDS. Many people enter raffles and competitions that charities hold; because in this materialistic society, all we want to do is win, win, win.
Even charities themselves are spending thousands of pounds on advertising and marketing campaigns on billboards and TV ads to get us to part with our money. Why did they commercialise charity? If people want to give, they'll give! These ads aren't exactly free, and neither are the costs for printing their leaflets; who pays the price? I'm pretty sure they cut it from donations, so you can't be sure that 100% of your donation is even going to the cause you want. Call me cynical but nothing in this life is free; yes, charities do get reduced rates for TV ads, but everything still incurs a cost.
The people that knock on your door or pester you in your high street get paid £7 per hour plus commission when someone signs up to give regularly to a charity. Who pays for their wages? Ask yourself. I recently had a job interview at a marketing firm in the city centre who conduct lots of advertising for charities. The role I went for (although I didn't initially know this since I applied for SO many jobs in one go and got all muddled up) was for the door-to-door sales person who'd ask you to sign up to donate regularly via Direct Debit to a specific charity. I declined that job simply because I thought it'd be unethical of me to be earning wages that someone gave with the intention of donation to Africa or someone really needy. In the interview, he asked me "would you like to get paid for working on behalf of a charity and making a real difference to someone's life?" The way he posed this question just disgusted me.
I used to volunteer a lot for my local Oxfam shop, and have done a lot of voluntary work with a number of different charities. Us volunteers would work pretty hard at the project or task in hand, and not get paid a single penny. Yet it didn't matter because if you've ever volunteered you'll know that you get such a satisfying feeling that you're giving up your valuable time to be a part of something, and you do some wonderful things and meet some amazing people. If you have never volunteered I'd seriously recommend it, it gives you a spiritual high. Anyway, we were unpaid but the project co-ordinators and the managers for the Oxfam shop DO get paid. I know they do some incredible work, and I know the wage isn't enough for you to buy Harrod's, but they do get paid. Where does that money come from?
Last year, I volunteered for Muslim Aid as part of their street collections for the Pakistan floods. You can read the full story here, but, basically, a butcher said to us he'd rather not donate to us because he couldn't be sure 100% of the money would go to the cause, and that "our boss"- by that he meant managers etc- would take a cut of the donations we'd raised at the end of the day. We tried to reassure him but that got me thinking; maybe he was right.
Another thing I've noticed is that it's great how people can get their friends to donate if they're doing something like Race for Life on a Just Giving page- but I recently discovered that Just Giving take a % cut of the donations received for a charity, plus the charity has to PAY to be registered on just giving and have an account in the first place! As does Virgin Money. Why did they commercialise and capitalize upon charity?
Following on from that, it seems to be a trend to do something daring for charity. Kind of like you're playing truth or dare with your friends, and they sponsore you to do a dare like bungee jumping, abseiling, zorbing, rock climbing; the list is endless!
Has it become unfashionable for people to just give?
Just simply give?
For nothing in return, not to see your friend fall off a cliff and not to see your favorite singer in concert. Just something between you and God. Not something to boast about and tell everyone. In Islam, we are taught to give charity as if we were concealing it from ourselves. Charity is a very important concept to Muslims and is the fourth pillar of Islam (there being 5 in total), of Zakat. Charity in its true sense should eradicate poverty, and nor does it diminish our wealth. The very fact that we are fortunate enough to donate money; to own enough wealth to be able to help others means we should be ashamed that by giving charity we want something in return. The Prophet SAWS was a very poor man, yet he spent what little wealth he had on charity and helping others. Did he ask for anything in return?
Islam teaches that even a smile is a charity. A simple movement of muscles in your face that makes your features look so beautiful. And sometimes if you smile at someone (especially nowadays) they may not reciprocate it. They may give you a weird look and look over their shoulder thinking you smiled at someone behind them. And that's ok. Because you smiled at them. It's not just money that's charity:
“Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.” He was then asked: “From what do we give charity every day?” The Prophet SAWS answered: “The doors of goodness are many…enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.”
He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.”
Narrated ‘Aisha [prophet Mohammed's wife] -may Allah be pleased with her- : “I never saw the Prophet laughing to an extent that one could see his palate, but he always used to smile”.
I'd like to end this post by highly recommending a charity named Ummah Welfare Trust; who are committed to 100% donations policy since they don't waste money on marketing or advertising, as they do not send out letters etc, as they are a small charity based in the North. The money they use on administration is from donations they receive whereby the donater has specified they'd like their money to be spent on admin.