By S. M. Hali
In verse 183 of Qurànic Surah Al-Imran, Allah ordains “Ramazan is the (month) in which the Quràn was sent down, as a guide to mankind and a clear guidance and judgment (so that mankind will distinguish from right and wrong).” Unfortunately we tend to ignore this clear command. Traders and retailers overcharge customers; people indulge in lethargy, indolence and torpor, negating the very spirit of the holy month, which should be attending to their mundane duties coupled with fasting, praying and indulging in acts of virtue and seeking Allah’s forgiveness for sins.
With the advent of Ramazan, a whole army of beggars descends upon cities and populated areas, swarming like ants at every public place, marketing centers and bus stops and traffic signals. This unchecked onslaught of beggars demands alms and supplicating for generous handouts from ordinary citizens, making a nuisance of themselves like pests.
This mass of beggars appears to be fully trained in the art of begging and imploring upon the sense of virtue of their targets. The deplorable phenomenon of begging, like organized crime, plans and executes its attack on unsuspecting people, overwhelming them with their insistent pleas to dole out alms. The beggars are fully cognizant of the sensitivity of the holy month of Ramazan, when people are prone to be charitable and generous. Exploiting the weakness of the people who, driven by their Islamic values, religious sentimentalities and compassion, the beggars extort the maximum, by pretending to be deformed, handicapped or appearing to be needy.
Despite the fact that a large section of society tends to be oblivious to its religious obligations, yet indulges in munificence, if only to seek greater benevolence from the Almighty. People tend to make noble and generous donations and loosen their purse strings to the beggars during the holy month of Ramazan.
Operating like the mafia, the beggars attack with whole families, including emaciated and malnourished toddlers, the beggars beseech their prey, appealing to their target’s sense of bounteousness. Like organized crime they allocate territories and areas of operation, where they artfully fleece the people. Some of the common ploys and guises used by the beggars are tales of woe, misery or physical or mental deformity to appeal to the prey for distortion. The beggars usually resort to emotional exploitation of innocent people. Public generally misperceive that poverty is the main cause of begging whereas beggars use religion as a ruse or excuse to beg. Many beggars become fake pious persons with tall claims of spiritual strength and ability to ensure spiritual healings against psychological or physical abnormality. Others simply extend their begging hands before every passerby depicting their poverty ridden remorse and distress.
Nelson Mandela once stated that “Poverty is not by accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is manmade and can be removed by the actions of human beings.”
The messenger of Allah, our Holy Prophet (SAW) loathed the culture of begging and introduced the system of Zakat to help the needy, while maintaining their self-respect and honour. The Holy Prophet (SAW) also said that on the Day of Judgment the beggar (professional) will not have flesh on his face. This clearly demonstrates the extent of Prophet (SAW)’s abhorrence for begging.
The beggars are controlled by their handlers effectively, extorting the maximum from unsuspecting citizens. Unfortunately, the profession of begging is mushrooming in Pakistan. A section of the media reports that there are terrorists and miscreants, who adopt the guise of beggars to launch their heinous attacks on humanity. Fingers have been pointed towards the Tarnol (Rawalpindi) suicide attack targeting atomic energy commission personnel, which was undertaken by a person disguised as a beggar. The attack resulted in eliminating two senior Army officers of the rank of Colonel.
Whereas beggary needs to be controlled as a social menace, it must also be curbed for it is providing an opportunity to terrorists in striking with impunity, in the garb of beggars.
The government, especially the Ministry of Interior must take the necessary steps to eradicate beggary. People indulging in this abhorrent act must be taken into custody and examined whether they are genuinely physically or mentally challenged. Such cases should be housed in special homes, where their needs may be met out of Zakat and Bait-ul-Maal. Those who are physically and mentally fit but resort to begging because of being impoverished, should be taught skills so that they can earn their livelihood with dignity.
The upsurge of beggars during Ramazan or Eid festivals implies that there are gang leaders, who operate them. These Mafioso must be identified and taken to task for exploiting the beggars and launching them on society to earn their share of the bounties collected. Severe punishment including fines and incarceration of the gang leaders will deter them from sponsoring the bane of beggary.