Our religious teachings inculcate in us a deep sense of caring and compassion for those who are in need, vulnerable and at-risk in our society. However, it seems that our approach to caring for this special population such as the elderly, the orphans, the widows, and the street children and people, seems to be one which is too general, almost without focus.
Think about it. How often have you known the names and identities of people for whom you have been asked to make du`aa’ because they were sick or they lost a loved one? We pray to Almighty Allah in a most general, ambiguous sense, “O Allah, grant healing to those who are ill, ease the pain of those who are suffering.” Who are these people? Do they not deserve to be known, identified?
Even in dealing with the deceased, we do not take the time to be informed and often we pray the funeral prayer for “someone in the community” who passed away. We might barely get information about the gender of the person since that determines the approximate position of where the Imam will stand when he leads the funeral prayer.
It is time we past this sort of faceless interaction with those in need of our care and compassion. This year let us strive to make the day of ‘Eid a true celebration for everyone.
The Importance of Caring and Compassion
In the Qur’an, Almighty Allah tells the believers in a most direct and unambiguous manner that achieving nearness to Him, seeking His countenance, striving to be worthy of His pleasure, are all goals which can be accomplished by submitting to Him, loving Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), fulfilling our duties to Almighty Allah, to His messenger, to our family and community, and by being caring and compassionate towards the most vulnerable and at-risk in our society.
There are countless reminders in the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) which enjoin upon us the importance of being consistently and constantly involved in the struggle to strengthen our faith and to engage in righteous and charitable conduct.
It is therefore truly an imperative upon all Muslims to strike a balance between thinking about the well being of ourselves and our families and that of people such as the elderly, the orphans, the widows and the people of the street.
Knowing Those Closest to Us and In Need
Without a doubt, the people closest to us and perhaps in need of our good company, of caring for them, and of providing for them are our parents and other members of our immediate and extended family. If being charitable and thoughtful means we start with our own family members first, there is no problem in that as Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) allowed people to do so.
In this excerpt from a much longer hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) allowed a man to give charity to his own family when the man said, “By Allah; there is no family between its (Medina's) two mountains who are poorer than I." The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) smiled till his pre-molar teeth became visible, and then said, 'Feed your family with it." (Al-Bukhari)
The essence of this hadith is that if in our own family our parents are elderly, or we have children of divorce, or relatives who are orphans, it is acceptable to begin with them and to make plans to help them celebrate ‘Eid with new clothes, a healthy meal, and games and toys for the children. Often we take on the burden of helping others and forget that those in our family deserve more of our attention.
Knowing Our Community
Long before the day of ‘Eid, we need to have an actual count of who the people are in our community for whom we will try to make ‘Eid a special day. We must reinstitute the practice begun in the administration of `Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) of maintaining a census of our community. We should know who is not well, while respecting the privacy of the family and not necessarily inquiring about the details of the illness.
We should know who desires to come to the ‘Eid prayer and celebration but will be unable to do so due to problems with transportation. We should know who lives at home but is unable to join the ‘Eid prayer and celebration but could benefit from a brief social visit on the day of ‘Eid. We should know that anyone who is in hospital will be unable to join the ‘Eid prayer and celebration, and will benefit from a brief social visit on the day of ‘Eid.
We should especially know about children who are either bedridden at home or in the hospital who will not be able to enjoy spending time with members of the community at the ‘Eid prayer and following celebration. We should know about people who might be at the ‘Eid prayer but who will require a sign language interpreter so that they can make the most of the ‘Eid khutbah.
Planning For a Special ‘Eid Celebration
While the focus of this article is on what we can do to make ‘Eid special for our family and those who are from among the elderly, the orphans, the widows, and other vulnerable and at-risk members of our community, it is just as important for us to offer financial support to registered organizations who will be able to make ‘Eid special for Muslims in other parts of the world.
If giving financial support is not an option for us, then we should at least remember those in need during the last ten nights of Ramadan and especially on the day of ‘Eid. When planning for those in our community, it is most important to have a committee of like-minded people who are able to devote the required time and energy to such an endeavor. The committee should have a clear division of labor so that some members can focus on the collection and distribution of charity, others can focus on the elderly, others on the children, and so on.
The infrastructure of the local masjid will most likely be helpful in terms of the collection of the zakah and sadaqah but this committee will be instrumental in helping with the timely and responsive distribution of charity. In addition, there must be emphasis on organizing transportation for all those who are unable to come on their own to the ‘Eid prayer and celebration.
Within organizational and human capacity, the idea should be to brainstorm on how best to make the day of ‘Eid memorable for the various community members identified by the census. Sometimes it is better to choose one or two ideas to implement than to try to do too much for too many people and end up not doing anything well.
Each of us can do our share in helping to remember the vulnerable and at-risk members of our community, starting with those closest to us in our family and proceeding outwards into the community. Islam enjoins upon us the goal of striving to strengthen our faith and to engage in righteous and charitable conduct.
Therefore, we should be doing our best to plan on how we can make ‘Eid a special day of celebration for everyone.