“O, Prophet of Allah! The rich among us have taken away all the rewards,” complained the poor Companions. “They pray as we pray, they fast as we fast, but they also give wealth in charity (while we have no wealth to spend).” (Refer Imam Nawawi’s 40 Hadith for the full narration.)
The poor among the Ummah deserve a special mention because they are more often than not overlooked, their interests disregarded and their voices ignored. Throughout human history, they have always been the first to believe in the Messengers of Allah, and they will enter Jannah 500 years before everyone else.
During Ramadan last year, at the initiative of a friend, we stood at a traffic signal giving away dates, water and laban just before Iftar time for commuting people who may not have a chance otherwise to break their fast with food. We distributed all the food packs without realizing we had kept none for ourselves, which left us with no other option than breaking our fast at a masjid nearby. The adhan was called while we were heading to the masjid.
We joined the “banquet” of a people who would seldom – if ever – join ours. They were those whose names would never find place in the sprawling invitations we give out for our lavish feasts. Yes, they were all there – the African children and the Asian laborers.
Yet they welcomed us with a smile and made space for us. They shared their Iftar, which was no more than some dates, a piece of bread that they broke into half for us, and some drinks. Being used to excess, we couldn’t imagine how the already small meal would be sufficient for them if they divided between us.
The African children, stereotyped for crimes and what not, were wonderful. A boy turned to me and passed on his can of soft drink. What should I do? I refused. “Children they are after all, who not just love, but crave for sweet drinks,” I thought. He pushed the can towards me and gestured he would share his friend’s.
These are people who we don’t even say our salaams to. The Black women scavengers are seen all around the country. They stop with their trolleys and children at the time of Salah and pray on pavements. Nevertheless, we pass them by as if they don’t exist, as if they are excluded from the obligation of saying salaams to our fellow Muslims.