Who decides who is a beggar and who is an imposter?

Published: April 22, 2014
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Their eyes are the worst. They are filled with admonition, envy and desire; they stalk you throughout the market place. PHOTO: FILE

Sameer is returning home from New York for the first time in six years. He passes the immigration counter, gets his luggage and comes out of the airport, relieved that he is finally through with all the hassle. Then, he squints around for a familiar face, anticipating a relative who’d be there to pick him up.

Suddenly, he feels a tug on his shirt and peering down, he sees two mud-ridden little girls looking up at him, hand outstretched and wide-eyes brimming with expectation. He hesitates and tries to find some Pakistani coins in his pocket to give to them. While he is still rummaging through his pockets, the girls suddenly string up a chorus,

Bhai tu amreeka se aaya ha! Daaller de na! Allah tujhe khush rakhay!”

(Brother, you have just arrived from America. Please give us dollars. God will keep you happy!)

The first thought Sameer has is,

“How on earth do these little girls know where I’ve come from?”

It’s absolutely mind-boggling.

The art of begging has become more refined than ever. Beggars at the airport keep track of the flights, as to where they are coming from and when they will land. After that, they wait till the passengers begin to stream out of the arrivals lounge. After spotting a few of people who they think would be easy to persuade, these young beggars make their move.

Some people have become thoroughly immune to their consistent pleading. They walk amidst these cries quite unperturbed. The rest of us aren’t so fortunate. We are not capable of such indifference and hence, we often become sympathetic to these beggars, especially children. These people are the real victims of this culture, who are both pitiable and annoying at the same time.

One major question that usually pops in my head is that, how can a person ever respond to such situations in a respectable manner? How can you scold them away, especially with their big, hopeful eyes?

Their eyes are the worst. They are filled with admonition, envy and desire; they stalk you throughout the market place and then are etched in your memory forever. Those who could not benefit from your gullibility, fix you with icy cold stares that reflect pure hatred and contempt.

So what should you do?

Should you keep your bank balance in mind while giving away money, or should you just give whatever you can, in the hopes that your two cents might help some kid in receiving an education?

In your dilemma of making the right choice, you turn to the teachings of Islam. However, our religion preaches that we, as Muslims, are required to help anyone in need. In today’s world of practicalities and limited resources, it can become extremely difficult to help every other person who comes our way. One often runs out of money. So the real question is, how can one help every beggar one comes across?

I can’t even get through with all the ones present at the airport.

The second question disturbs me even more.

How do you decide which beggar genuinely needs your help?

How does one pick between those who deserve the money and those who have taken begging as a profession? How can any one of us run the risk of accusing someone for something they haven’t chosen for themselves but is thrust upon them?

Should we really add to their misery by doubting their helplessness?

Islamic teachings urge us to give our money to those who are in need, in the way of Allah (swt). But how do we recognise the imposters? Even if we do, how can we deny help to someone who asks for it?

Is that what our Benevolent Creator (swt) does? We disobey and disobey and yet He provides for us.

What if He decides to provide and shower His blessings by measuring us on His scale of character and morality?

What will become of us then? We would all perish in an instant.

So then what is the solution?

It is to do as much as you can. As much strength as you can muster to love and help your fellow beings. It is the only way. Sometimes, it is just better to keep on doing your part without pondering about the balance sheets and background checks. It is better to help without discrimination.

As for rooting out the evil of begging, we need to find other ways for it and shooing away the hands in need is definitely not one of them.

Fatima Raza

Fatima Raza

The author is a Biosciences graduate and a student of MPhil International Relations. She aspires to be an accomplished writer someday.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    Liked the way you wrote this, but can not agree with your solution to the problem.
    The more you give…..the more reliant the taker becoms on the largess. I am all for charity and giving but to to those who deserve to receive it….like hospitals that dispense free treatment to the poor ( one example ).Recommend

  • Expat

    Children are one thing – though they are employed by the beggar mafia – the worst kind of beggars are the one with topis, tasbis and beards, the mullah types. Example like this, who try to blackmail you with religious justification:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4rqLMBObCIRecommend

  • ahmed

    Giving someone a couple of bucks won’t make them rich and neither will you become poor. Keep a good intention and give the money.Recommend

  • Nadia Rizwan

    If you are contributing regularly to some social cause, you will feel less guilty when ignoring the pleas of these children. You see, if you give money to a child you are not helping the child. You are making the child a “money making machine” for the adults who use them. My brother has been running a school in a suburb slum of Karachi and the people in the area are mostly beggars by profession. The most challenging aspect of his school is to convince the parents to send their kids to study. These parents do not see their children as liability, they see them as a “resource”. So if you have first hand experience of this phenomenon, you will never give money to a child but to NGOs that helps these street children. Needless to say, he struggles in gathering fund to sustain the school (even though he has a track record of 12 years) because people would rather place Rs 10 on a child’s palm than fund a child’s education. Think about it.Recommend

  • Necromancer

    I don’t even know what to comment on this one, and ET you could publish this why can’t you publish mine this is so unfairRecommend

  • Azzam

    Nicely writtenRecommend

  • Arsalan Azhar

    “Sometimes, it is just better to keep on doing your part without
    pondering about the balance sheets and background checks. It is better
    to help without discrimination.”

    just play your part without any judgement.Recommend

  • Sane

    I agree that we must help those in need. But, begging now has become a profession. I remember a beggar some 15 years back having a work area of Bahadurabad, Karachi. He confessed to earn around Rs. 15,000/- per month average and double in month of Ramadan. Beggers on streets are those who are professionals and apply tactics to earn sypathy to increase their earning. Mostly are drug addicts and involved in petty crimes too.

    To help people in need, you need to find genuine ones. Or you can contribute your money on regular basis to some institutions like Alamgir Welfare Trust, Sailani Welfare Trust, Edhi, Chhipa etc. They give justly to the right people.Recommend

  • Waqar Ali

    Main thing is that, we have to
    find the mafia behind these children, and take steps to stop or even eliminate this mafia. Some one has to sacrifices. I hope I am one.Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Genuine beggars or not , stop giving money to these children / adults who beg on the streets. . Instead, give them food or used things ( like slippers etc., ). When they see no ‘income’ coming , they will stop this begging and turn to other things like charity run institutions . There are plenty of such institutes for training / earning in the subcontinent . If we give money to such children, it means indirectly some one some where is getting impetus to kidnap some child and train him/ her for beggary.Recommend

  • M Ali

    I have no problem donating a few thousands to CHHIPA or Edhi or Saylani – organizations whose work is prominent here in Karachi, but the only thing you should give to these beggars – especially the children – is perishable food items. Fruits, kulfis, ice cream, NEVER ANY MONEY, not even one rupee – because it goes right in the pockets of the begging cartels who kidnap, maim and use these kids. Sadly, sometimes the parents of these children are also involved.Recommend

  • Anushe Noor Faheem

    The Question now is that how can we think that begging is business? no one can opt it as a profession, they are all needy. The ones who are helpless,always beg.It can be any form. People still use it as a profession, but in a country like us,it seems legit.Recommend

  • Oats

    By giving to beggers, you are only encouraging this type of behaviour. Give to a reputable charity but by giving to a begger you only reward people who are not working and disrespecting those who work hark for a living. Ask yourself how often you give money to beggers in New York City or any Western City. I avoid giving these people money whether they are in Pakistan or in North America. In the West, a lot of these people can get state welfare and they are only feeding a drug habit or some other anti social behaviour but the same is true in Pakistan where these people are part of organized crime. I am sure “Sameer” in this story came across countless beggers, panhandlers and similar people on the streets of New York. I am sure he doesn’t give to everyone who asks him for a few bucks in New York City.Recommend

  • Sunila

    I think one shouldn’t waste time on finding if the beggar is genuine needy or not and try to help everyone if you can because at the end, it’s between Allah and you and He will sure bless you with the reward for your good ‘niyyat’ :)Recommend

  • Sharmeen

    I agree with you on the point where you have mentioned the sensitive part of a lot people, my heart like a lot of others literally cries out for these young souls. However If we have the resources and a little will power, we had better do a productive part than just giving money to these kids. Giving some coins to these little creatures might be a temporary healing but we can always play a vital role by just funding one kid for his education or provinding grocery items to a few familes, some of us can also volunteer and show these kids the right direction. Begging is indeed evil and we all know it and eradicating this evil disease is also our duty.Recommend

  • Master Mind

    Me think, it is nothing but the failure of govt. Authorities. Law enforcing agencis are performing the domestic tasks of Ministers, diplomats, secretaries and big Fishes. Is such situation what is happening is not mind-boggling.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    agree with your views….Recommend

  • Malik Abdul Rehman

    education is not what poor people need ……….they need employment,money educates people not books think about itRecommend

  • Qazi

    your good intention will eventually produce a burden of already creaking backbone of economyRecommend

  • an indian

    What nice work your brother is doing. I’m impressed.
    I agree with your last sentence..forking over money to kids is a lazy shortcut to actually supporting charities.
    Contributing money to beggars fuels child trafficking,kidnapped children,missing children & kids who’re brutally maimed ,with limbs broken,or eyes put out ,by traffickers/cartels/criminals.
    Cash should only be given to organizations & not even a penny to beggars.
    I have a friend who writes cheques to orphanages,womens shelters,old age homes & cancer hospitals.She also drives around twice a week looking for homeless,old people/rag-pickers & hands over plastic bags (with 1biriyani+1 egg+6 bananas+1litre bottle cold mango drink+1packet namkeen+3 packets of salted & cream biscuits+ 1 toilet soap ) She makes 6 individual packages hands,per drive. She never gives money to kids at traffic signals( to not contribute to further kidnapping) ,but specifically looks out for aged homeless people who sleep at shop entrances at night,after closing time.
    Recommend