Who decides who is a beggar and who is an imposter?
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.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.