Commentary on Islam’s Tenet on Helping the Poor

Written on September 16, 2012, the following will be released on YouTube and as a press release, titled Tragedy Occurs When Muslims Do Not Adhere To Muslim Principals:

Commentary on the Question of Islam’s Position on Helping the Poor, and on the Failure of Muslims to Act According to the Teachings of Islam, as Millions of Children Die of Starvation Every Year

Let me begin with a concise presentation on the basic Islamic tenets on helping the poor, with information taken from Wikipedia, the Encyclopedia of Islam, and other sources.

In Islam, the practice of giving a portion of one’s income to the poor is known as zakat, and it is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The Koran, Islam’s most holy book, talks about the zakat in more than 30 different verses.

Zakat is considered more than charity – one must give zakat for the sake of one’s own salvation. Neglecting to give zakat can result in damnation in the afterlife, while those who give zakat can expect reward from God in the afterlife. The giving of the zakat is considered a means of purifying one’s wealth and one’s soul.

In Islamic terminology, the term hadith refers to reports of statements or actions of Mohammed, or of his tacit approval or criticism of something said or done in his presence. The commentaries found in various hadiths are records of sayings of Mohammed, sometimes direct quotes, other times comments of those who knew Mohammed or from Islamic scholars.  They are a necessary tool in understanding Islam.

In addition to the Koran, the hadith also admonish those who don’t give the zakat. According to the hadith, refusal to pay zakat is a sign of hypocrisy, and God won’t accept the prayers of such people. The hadith assert that the poor wouldn’t be hungry if the rich gave zakat. But they also state that zakat purifies those who give it. Those who give zakat, God safeguards their property from ruin. On the day of Judgment, those who didn’t give the zakat will be held accountable and punished.

Now, considering that the are about 1.7 billion Muslims in the world, the question comes to my mind as to why there is so much poverty. Why is it, given that about two people in nine is Muslim, do so many people die of starvation each year? Are Muslims not practicing zakat, one of the Five Pillars of their faith?

Every year, millions of people, and millions of children die of starvation, despite that about 23% of humanity are Muslims. What causes this?

Does the failure of Muslims to feed the starving reflect widespread hypocrisy in Muslims? Or is it a sign of apathy, or of negligence, or of ignorance of their scriptures, or of disobedience to their God? Why do Muslims fail so miserably to do what their holy scriptures and authoritative commentaries command them to do? Why do Muslims largely remain unresponsive to the terrible need of the world’s poor?

Remember that we are not now talking about those that lack much of the comforts that the wealthy enjoy, but of the many millions who every year succumb to the drawn out suffering caused by starvation, dying after a period of physical torture, as though thrown on the refuse heap of humanity by their loveless fellows who do not do as their God instructs.

All of these many millions who die each year, after suffering a debilitating, slow torture that brings with it desperation, weakness, pain, disease, and dejection, could be avoided if only those who claim to follow the God of Islam would do as that God tells them to do. So what are we to think about Islam, based on the behavior of Muslims?

Now, I realize that these comments must cause significant agitation among many Muslims. After all, agitation is commonplace among them when they are criticized, despite the truthfulness of statements made against them.

But let me add this:

What I have said with regard to Muslims, to the Islamic tenet on helping the poor, and to the failure of Muslims to help the poor, is all just as true with respect to Christians, to the Christian tenet on helping the poor, and to the failure of Christians to help the poor.

The Holy Scriptures used by Christians contain numerous verses that teach, encourage, and warn Christians to help the needy and feed the poor, which are found in a number of the Proverbs, and such verses as James 1, verse 27 and Matthew 25, verses 31 through 46.

James 1:27 states, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

And in Matthew 25, Jesus Christ warns that those who do not help the needy will go off into destruction. But too many Christians seem largely as hypocritical, apathetic, negligent, ignorant of their scriptures, and unresponsive as the Muslims who do not do what the Koran commands.

There are in the world about as many Christians as there are Muslims. So almost half of the population of the world claims to believe either in the Bible or in the Koran. And yet millions of children die of starvation, while half of the world fails to act in agreement with the values which that half claims to hold.

Muslims fail to feed the starving. Christians fail to feed the starving. So who will feed the starving millions who die each year. In fact, hundreds of millions lack enough food to live a healthy life. But it is completely avoidable and unnecessary for this tragedy to persist. Starvation is not a mysterious plague whose causes we cannot discover. Starvation persists because we allow it to persist. We do not care enough to do what we claim is the right thing to do. And so they die.

Starvation is the one plague humanity faces that could be eradicated if we simply cared enough to each give a very small portion of our income. It requires an average of less than 50 cents per day from each Muslim and from each Christian to provide sufficient food and clean water for every one of the hundreds of millions of starving humans to live.

The cure is to care. Resources exist already in sufficient quantities to end this man-made plague. We can end starvation simply by caring and collaborating to put an end to it. There is a silver bullet to end the suffering: Care.

So the question that remains is: Do you care? Do you care enough about the values you claim to hold, about the God you claim to worship, and about the children He loves, to sacrifice a very small amount to save them from starvation?

Or who will do the job, if Muslims and Christians refuse to act? Will atheists do it? Maybe they will. Maybe they will put all the Muslims and Christians of the world to shame by doing what religionists fail to do. Or maybe most of you will continue to fail to do what God wants us to do, and will have no answer to give God on the day when He will ask, “Why did you not feed them?” That would be a sad and tragic day.

My name is David Rosenthal. I appeal to you, in the name of the starving, to care. The organization I represent End Starvation Foundation, intends to feed the starving, provide wells for drinking water, and establish relief centers and orphanages where needed, in nations where starvation is rampant. But we need you to collaborate. If you do not give to End Starvation Foundation, find a reputable group that really helps the starving, and give.

And God will bless you.

Although I can‘t really carry a tune, I will close by singing a song I wrote about the problem of worldwide starvation, titled A Dollar a Day. Please listen to the lyrics and let your heart be moved.

[The following are the lyrics to the song]

Millions of children are dying right now

For lack of some beans or a bowlful of grain

The cost of survival’s so low but somehow

It seems that so few are aware of their pain.

I think that so few are aware because I

Prefer to believe they don’t know what goes on

Don’t know that so many poor people must die

Because they don’t have enough food to live on.

And I think that because the world isn’t aware

That for this sole reason the world doesn’t give

And that it’s not because they just do not care

That children are dying whom we could help live.

If the world knew the starving ones all could be fed

Sufficiently on what we daily discard

On some black beans and rice or a loaf of stale bread-

I know it’s not due to their hearts being hard.

I know that you will do what’s within your power

To transform the world at this critical hour

When one person in nine is now fading away

For the terrible lack of a dollar a day.

A dollar a day is what it takes to feed

A starving young child in this hour of need

For a dollar a day you could be that ones saint

Save his life, change his world, and end his lament.

A dollar a day you now throw away

A dollar a day you don’t need

But a dollar a day is a miracle

That all of the starving could feed.

A beautiful sunset bore witness today

Of one hundred thousand who faded away

Because they had nothing to drink or to eat

They starved slowly to death and fell at our feet.

Millions of children are starving to death

As one in nine people are starving on Earth

And we could save them all with a dollar a day

But we avert our eyes while they’re fading away.

Remember we’ll stand someday before the throne

Of the One whom these victims describes as his own

And his anger will burn as He judges those who

Did not feed his sheep as He told us to do.

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