Friday, June 30, 2006

Bill and Warren

Even the jaded observer was jolted by a series of announcements made by the sage of Seattle and the oracle of Omaha as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are known.Bill recently declared that he would gradually withdraw from the daily administration of Microsoft to concentrate on the Melinda Gates Foundation while Buffett announced that he would donate more than 30 billion dollars to the same organisation.Between the both of them,more than 60 billion dollars or more than 80% of their wealth has been pledged to charity!In this day and age, when crass consumerism and ostentatious spending(sadly a weakness that many Muslims have fallen a prey to)reign supreme,it is truly a noble gesture on their part.

But what is the moral of the story for Muslims here?I believe that though not Muslim, both these individuals have unleashed the power of Zakah.One may not agree with all their aims or support every receipient of their aid, but the fact is that in one stroke of the pen, they have laid down the gauntlet.Are we, as Muslims, and more importantly as a community that loves the Sunnah, rise to the challenge?Where is the Muslim version of Bill Gates? Which one of us will have the magnanimity to donate the bulk of his wealth? And by God, if there ever was a community in need of help, it is our Ummah.Palestine,Somalia, Kashmir,the list is endless.Do we need to be shamed into action by these two men?

Do not get me wrong;there are men and women in our Ummah who spend in the way of Allah.But there are on the other hand, Muslims who hesitate or downright refuse to help,while having no qualms about spending money on worthless baubles.Ask me how difficult it is to get funds to construct a medical clinic, or to clothe the inmates of a madarsa, or to build a mosque and I will talk till the cows come home.Why should it be so torturous to get people to spend on the Deen? The only favor they are doing is to their own souls.Islam has never been against making money, and lots of it, in a manner that is halal.But spend wisely and in accordance with the Quran and the Sunnah and Inshallah get rewarded on the day of Judgement.A simple trade off but one that many of us barely grasp.After all, we are being asked to donate only 2.5% of our wealth,not 80%!

Bill and Warren have joined the likes of Rockfeller and Carnegie in taking the concept of philantrophy to a new level.It is time our community produced people who will make the whole Ummah proud.I long for the day when those who build 600 room palaces will get the Hidayah to construct a 600 room hospital instead.Or when those who spend millions on racing horses at Ascot will utilise that kind of wealth to provide drinking water to thirsty Africans.And to paraphrase MLK I have a dream that one day my Ummah will stand tall and proud in the comity of nations based on its deeds and nothing else.Ameen.


Blogger Yusuf Smith said...

As-Salaamu 'alaikum,

Before we compare the charity giving of the average Muslim with the "money dumping" of Gates and Buffett, we might consider how much Muslims do actually give to charity, starting with how much money the Muslim charities deal with on a yearly basis (not because Muslims only give to these organisations, but because most of their money comes from Muslims). In the UK several of these charities exist and have done for years, so we can't say that Muslims are stingy with their money, but most are not oil barons and have not been able to push sub-standard software for most of their adult lives due to others' failures. I'm not saying Gates' and Buffet's actions are insincere or are publicity stunts, but I'm sure that many of those who spend their money on recreation and race horses at Ascot also give to charity, and that Gates, Buffet et al spent more on recreation than most Muslims ever make.

4:29 AM  
Blogger yellowmellow said...

Salam compadres,

The lack of charity in Muslims arise from their "love" deficit. The giving of charity should not arise from mere regard to the apparent (zahir) obligations of the faith. 1% or even 100% of your wealth, why would you give it all away? Surely, there is nothing stronger than your love for the Prophet and your love for your brothers and sisters in need? Islam is said to be the natural religion of the world, and the simple conclusion is that, if Muslims find it hard even to contribute the miniscule amount required of zakat, then, they are not in sync with the world. And the fact that they do not actively participate in the service of the sick, the poor, the oppressed and the orphaned is simply because they fail to understand the Prophet-servant. We talk so well of following the sunnah of the Prophet, but his sunnah of charity, love, tolerance, understanding and forgiveness for humanity somehow just becomes a soundbite. Umati, Umati, Umati, as he said in his last moments. A heartless tradition, never did he leave behind.

7:36 PM  
Blogger abhishek said...

Aslaam aalekum,

Another point to note is the reason why Warren Buffet is joining with Gates to spend his money. Gates has revolutionized the art of philanthropy and made it a science. He is funding results-based projects that can be shown to have a direct sustainable impact on people's lives. I always remember the saying, "Give a man a fish. Feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish. Feed him for a lifetime." What is missing most in the Middle East when it comes to the poorest of the poor is disenfrachisement, lack of access to technology, and the outer world via internet, good roads, electricity, basic healthcare. For once, I want to see people spend money on these basic needs rather than send money to remote madrassas that focus exclusively on Islamic education and armies to defend the borders. Religious education is good, but by itself, it cannot feed a man. And how can a man love his brothers and sisters if he cannot feed, clothe and shelter himself? No, the first point of any charity must be to ensure that people have a livelihood so that they can stand on their own feet and judge right for wrong by themselves. When you have bettered the condition of the individual, you can go about improving society. This is the difference that Gates makes and that is why he is so keen that he can make a change. I believe that if more people can be convinced that their charity can actually drive results and make change for the poorest of the poor, then they will give more. There is no point in sitting around complaining that Muslims are basically stingy, because that is not true. But the mode of charity spending in most Muslim countries have been till now very limited in that it does not seek any real change in their condition. Instead, it keeps people alive by a thread, so that the elites in those countries can keep exploiting them. Take a look at any democratic country and tell me if there isn't a sizeable middle class. But look at the Middle East and all you find are rich elites and an incredibly large poor underclass. The reason is that there is no social mobility or opportunities to improve oneself.

6:08 PM  
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