By Tanveer Jafri,
Either it is the holy Kaaba in Saudi Arabia or Najaf & Karbala in Iraq, either the Golden Temple in North India or Tirupati in the South, different religions have their own pilgrimages where the devotees donate infinite amount of gold and silver. And this trend is continuing. Recently, a devotee presented a chariot weighing quintals in the Sai Baba Temple in Shirdi, in India. No doubt, it can be the individual faith of a devotee. But the people who know about the deeds and sacrifices of Lord Ram & Krishna or the people who have read about Sai, Nanak, Hussein, Ali or Prophet, must also be knowing that had these great men be with us today, would they have accepted such gold, silver or cash presents? Can the above people who taught truth, non violence, sacrifice expect the gold and silver from their devotees? Perhaps never.
Then what is the truth behind this tradition in the name of religion? In what way is our society benefitted by such traditions of donating gold or silver? Is donating in the pilgrimages according to one’s level of income the best way to follow the religion? In this article, I would like to mention incidents relating to two great men so that today’s responsible people can understand what the religion is?
There are many incidents related to Maharaja Agrasen of Vaish community which teach us to follow the path of religion. But here I would like to mention only one incident. He started such a scheme for immigrants of his Agroha province situated in India, so that they could easily arrange their food, clothes and housing. He ordered all the people of his province to donate a rupee and a brick to every immigrant. Under this scheme every immigrant used to build his house by bricks and start his occupation by the money received. Maharaja Agrasen also directed the people to cooperate with the business of that person and buy things from him so that he soon became self dependent.
Now have a look at an incident related to Hazrat Ali of Islam. Once Ali was busy in a religious and social discussion with his followers. In between, a person told him about Hatim, a famous generous man of the 6th century. Ali asked him to tell any story related to Hatim. The person stood up and told that Hatim had built a palace with nine doors just for the purpose of charity. Hatim directed his courtiers that every needy should be given from all nine doors. After hearing this, Ali said that was not charity. He said had Hatim given that much from a single door so that the needy didn’t need to go to the next door, then he would have been called a true generous. Instead, he built nine doors to show off his generosity. This was not true charity, Ali said.
The above incidents give us a similar message about religion. That is to make a person self dependent is the biggest charity, to make him capable of taking care of his family. But the devotees of these holy men, whatever they donate in their name, do things just out of their faith in them. Either it is gold or money for the construction of temples or mausoleums. Either it is a silver chariot for the simplest person like Sai Baba or it is for daily meals in the temples. But the poor remains where he was. He doesn’t get anything out of it. I mean to say that neither that charity in the name of god reaches the god, nor is it able to make anyone self dependent. Even public meals can fulfil the hunger of a needy for some hours only.
Last days I met a radical maulvi (cleric). He knew something about Islam. But he was presenting every piece of information that he had in such a way as it was god’s saying and the last truth. He said that a person without skull cap, beard, namaaz, roza etc. was not even a human, forget about being a Muslim. When I asked him about the Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Laureate Mohammad Yunus, he was unaware of him. It’s obvious when he is not aware of the name, how he would know about the work of Yunus. I told him about the microfinance scheme run by Mohammad Yunus and also that he was aiming at removing poverty from the world without taking into account anybody’s caste or religion. I told him that Yunus neither has a beard, nor he wears a skull cap. In my view today’s angels are people like Yunus who want to do something creative and experimental for the social good. They don’t believe in donation, charity & one time meal. But notwithstanding my lecture, the maulvi was stuck on his stand that whatever be the case, since Yunus doesn’t follow Islamic ideals he can’t be called a true Muslim. Ultimately I got rid of that maulvi by saying that whether he calls Yunus a Muslim or not but the entire world know him as a great human being and this is the biggest achievement of his life. Millions of people across the world have become self dependent by his efforts and are living a respectable life. Yunus considers his work as true religion.
Recently the Microsoft chief and the world’s richest person Bill Gates toured India and visited Amethi in Uttar Pradesh and Khagaria in Bihar. He was interested in starting social schemes in such places. Reports say that he has spent a large part of his wealth in such social schemes. Though it may not be entirely true, but we haven’t heard any Christian donating gold at any church. Yes, for cancer and AIDS control, computer education, poverty alleviation etc. maximum contribution comes from those people only. International Red Cross Society is one such example which is today helping millions of people across the world daily.
Therefore, it is necessary that we do charity because it is related to our faith and beliefs. But we should also take care of society’s good as true religion while making any charity or donation.
The author is a columnist based in India. His articles have been published in different newspapers, websites & newsportals. He can be contacted at Email : firstname.lastname@example.org