Social media and apps are platforms for good deeds during Ramadan

Joy of Youth has expanded volunteer work to include free medical checks for people and projects during Ramadan. (Supplied)
Updated 13 May 2019

Social media and apps are platforms for good deeds during Ramadan

  • Holy month an active season for charity work
  • Social media promotes volunteering

JEDDAH: The holy month of Ramadan is seen as a time for giving and improving one’s moral character, leading to many charitable and volunteering activities taking place across the Kingdom.
Social media platforms and apps — despite being blamed for social ills and mental health problems among the younger generation — have a role to play in spreading the Ramadan messages of selflessness.
“Ramadan is definitely an active season for us. We prepare a special new campaign for Ramadan every year,” Saeed Azhar, founder of a volunteering non-profit, told Arab News. “The technology of today has greatly helped to define the roles of voluntary groups and to show their impact both locally and globally. Apps and social media provided better channels for communication among those interested in volunteering and raising awareness of its importance and positive impact in society.” 
His non-profit, Joy of Youth, has an Instagram account with more than 24,000 followers and a Twitter account of more than 9,000 followers. The group has distributed iftar food packages and handed out gifts to departing pilgrims — just two out of 55 campaigns successfully completed in the five years since it started.
“We have more projects in Ramadan, which means the opportunities we create increase greatly, and consequently the number of our volunteers also increases.”
Joy of Youth was started in 2013 by Azhar and a group of young Saudi students in the US. The group began by distributing iftar meals in Jeddah and then gradually expanded, its work reaching 10 cities in the Kingdom including Jeddah, Makkah, Tabuk, Dammam and Alkhobar.
Joy of Youth has developed the type of services offered, and this year launched a health campaign.
“Human Health” aims to raise awareness in poorer neighborhoods by distributing bulletins and brochures, and offering free medical checks for people.
Azhar said social media platforms helped Joy of Youth attract young people who wanted to contribute to improving the lives of others, as well as sponsors and charities wanting to play their role in Saudi Arabia’s social development.
“We have been able to spread our message and invite those who believe in it to join us. We saw the desire of many to leave a positive impact on their communities and their surroundings, which pushed us to expand outside the western region of the Kingdom in response to the increasing demand to participate in our initiatives,” he added.
Azhar said the downside to social media — as far as Joy of Youth was concerned — was that the group could not include as many “passionate volunteers” as it wanted to in its campaigns.
 “Twitter is the most interactive platform among volunteers and those who wish to join us,” he added.
The Khadoum app is another social initiative that was developed by a group of young Saudis driven by their sense of community responsibility - and taking volunteering to another level.
 “Khadoum was created in an effort to spread civic engagement and community participation among youth,” the app’s co-founder Dania Al-Masri told Arab News. “The iOS and Android app takes users on a journey that will later result in an increase in their overall empathy level and sense of leadership. It also motivates participants to acquire a higher sense of responsibility and honesty.”
She said social media had helped to spread the concept of volunteering in Saudi Arabia and inspire the public to do good. “It has been a very powerful tool used to shed light on certain causes that need intervention, and we are very happy to see more and more aware individuals use this powerful tool to advocate for a community challenge or a cause.”
Al-Masri and Khadoum co-founder Fidaa Al-Hassan started the app as a tech-based solution to civil society issues. Although the app began in Jeddah, the duo want to reach people across the Gulf.
 The app enables users to unlock a set of volunteer ideas and community challenges. People are encouraged to provide solutions to the presented challenges, or complete the volunteer ideas and provide proof of completion.
 The volunteer ideas and community challenges are updated on a regular basis through the app, and participants are encouraged to complete them and upload a verification photo or video. An app admin views the verification method presented, and either approves the completion of the mission or rejects it.
 Upon approval of the mission, the user gains points that are equivalent to community hours and can get certificates for their work. Khadoum certificates are issued by the Oyoon Jeddah Charity.

 Khadoum will be three years old in July. “Khadoum started out from the sole motivation of wanting to provide a window of opportunity to anyone who would like to volunteer. We truly wanted to make volunteering a daily habit that is convenient and accessible to all,” Al-Masri said.
She added that more people are looking to volunteer and do good deeds during Ramadan.
“We do notice an increase in the engagement level. We find Ramadan the perfect opportunity to partner up with brands and help them achieve their corporate social responsibility goals through collaborating with Khadoum,” she said.

How Saudi Arabia turned back to the future

Updated 3 min 18 sec ago

How Saudi Arabia turned back to the future

  • When Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledged to bring back moderate Islam, he referenced a time before the developments of 1979 halted the Kingdom’s progress

Saudi Arabia was on a roll in the 1970s, enjoying the social and cultural developments that had begun in the previous two decades, and buoyed by the rising price of oil and the Kingdom’s first Development Plan.

But 1979 changed everything. Saudi Arabia took a conservative turn, prompted by two events: the Iranian Revolution in February, which brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power, and the siege by religious extremists of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.  As Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told 2017’s Future Investment Initiative: “We were not like this in the past. We only want to go back to what we were, the moderate Islam that is open to the world, open to all the religions … And quite frankly, we will not waste 30 years of our lives in dealing with extremist ideas … We want to live a normal life, a life that translates our moderate religion, our good customs.”

And that’s what has happened. Under Vision 2030 and a flurry of life-altering developments – movies and concerts, greater freedom for women, fitness in schools, to name just a few – the Kingdom is on a trajectory back to the future.

— THEN —

1955 - Saudi Arabia’s first private school for girls, Dar Al-Hanan, is founded in Jeddah by Princess Effat, with the support of her husband, Crown Prince Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, amid a social outcry. 

Read more: Saudi schooling goes back to the future

1960 - Royal decree approves public education for girls; schools are established in Riyadh, Makkah and other cities.

1962 - The non-profit women’s organization, Al-Nahda, is established by Princess Effat and a number of prominent Saudi women.


  • The Council of Ministers approves a project to establish television in the Kingdom.
  • The Department of Youth Welfare (previously the Department of Sport) creates four federations: volleyball, basketball, athletic and cycling.

1965 - King Faisal approves the first national television broadcast, a reading of the Qur’an, amid protests from conservatives.

King Faisal (right) and US President Richard Nixon.
  • The first TV broadcast in Saudi Arabia is launched from the US Consulate in Dhahran; “The Eye of the Desert” is broadcast in English and only to the Dhahran area. 

Read more: Saudis look back on the dawn of broadcasting on Saudi National Day 


  • The Kingdom’s first institute of higher education, King Saud University, is opened in Riyadh.
  • The launch of Aramco TV, with a wider broadcasting range that reaches Al-Hofuf and other areas across the Gulf. Broadcasts are in both Arabic and English.

OPINION: The 1970s — a seismic decade for Saudi Arabia’s economy  (Frank Kane)



January 22 - Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and his wife leave Tehran.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

February 1 - Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returns to Iran from exile in France.

February 11 - Khomeini officially assumes power when troops loyal to the shah surrender.

February 16 - Iran’s revolutionary authorities start executions of leading supporters of the shah, including four top generals.

November 4 - US embassy in Tehran stormed by Iranian students who take 52 Americans hostage, demanding the extradition of the shah.

OPINION: Why Iran’s ‘Awakening’ created a nightmare for the Gulf  (Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami)


November 20 - A well-organized group led by Saudi militant Juhayman Al-Otaibi storms the Grand Mosque with weapons smuggled in coffins and vehicles using members pretending to be there to pray. Al-Otaibi is a member of Al-Jamaa Al-Salafiya Al-

Militants arrested after the Makkah Siege of 1979 are escorted to prison. (File photo) 

Muhtasiba (Salafi Group that Commands Right and Forbids Wrong), which is angered by Western social influence, women’s presence in the Saudi workforce, TV and other issues. Worshippers are prevented from leaving after the announcement of a takeover over a microphone. Hostages are forced to pledge allegiance to the group’s leader, Mohammed bin Abduallah Al-Qahtani, Al-Otaibi and their followers.

December 4 - The siege lasts for two weeks and ends after an intervention by Saudi special forces and their allies, leaving hundreds dead, including Saudi officers, soldiers and civilians as well as Al-Qahtani and his followers. Al-Otaibi is arrested and executed on Jan. 9, 1980.

Read more: ‘The air was heavy with fear’: Memories of Makkah’s Grand Mosque siege resurface on Saudi National Day


— NOW —


  • Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveils Vision 2030, a road map for Saudi Arabia’s future.
  • The Saudi Cabinet approves a new law restricting the religious police from questioning, pursuing or arresting violators; they must instead report them to the police or anti-narcotics officers.
  • Princess Reema bint Bandar is appointed vice president for women’s affairs at the General Sports Authwority.
  • Kariman Abuljadayel is the first Saudi woman to compete in the 100-meter event at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.
  • The General Authority for Entertainment and the General Sports Authority are established by royal decree.


  • King Salman appoints Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince ofSaudi Arabia.
  • The Saudi Stock Exchange appoints a woman, Sarah Al-Suhaimi, as chairperson for the first time.
    King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at work. (SPA file photo)


  • In one of the first public music performances in many years, Mohammed Abdo performs for a men-only audience in Jeddah.

  • Giga-projects are launched: NEOM, a $500-billion megacity in theTabuk region, and the RedSea tourism project (right).
  • Saudi state schools announce that they will offer physical education classes for female students.
  • At the inaugural Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledges a return to moderate Islam.


  • Female fans are allowed to attend football matches for the first time in Saudi Arabia; the match was Al-Ahli vs. Al-Batin in Jeddah on Jan. 12. 
  • Ending a 35-year ban on cinemas, the first commercial movie theater opens in Riyadh with a screening of “Black Panther” on April 18.
  • A ban on Saudi women driving is lifted on June 24.
  • An anti-harassment law, approved by the Shoura Council, receives praise from around the world.
  • King Salman launches plans for Qiddiya, expected to be the world’s largest entertainment city.
  • The Culture Ministry, headed by Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al-Saud, is established (right).
  • Al-Ahsa Oasis is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Weam Al-Dakheel becomes the first Saudi woman to anchor the main evening news on Saudi TV.
  • Enrique Iglesias, Amr Diab and the Black Eyed Peas are among the first international performers at the Formula E in Riyadh, for which the first trial tourist visas are granted.
  • The WWE’s Royal Rumble takes place at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, beginning a 10-year partnership with the General Sports Authority.


  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launches a mega tourism project in AlUla which will include a resort designed by renowned French architect Jean Nouvel and a nature reserve dubbed Sharaan.


  • Lubna Al-Olayan becomes the first Saudi chairwoman to run a Saudi bank, a merger between Alawwal and Saudi British Bank.
  • Saudi Arabia’s first female ambassador, Princess Reema bint Bandar (top center), is appointed to Washington.
  • The Saudi Cabinet approves a “Privileged Iqama residency permit,” which will allow foreign nationals to work and live in Saudi Arabia without a sponsor, offered to highly skilled expatriates and owners of capital funds.
  • By royal decree, Saudi women no longer require permission from a male guardian to travel or obtain a passport.
  • A lineup of superstars perform in concerts across the Kingdom: Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson and 50 Cent in Jeddah; Andrea Bocelli in AlUla; Pitbull and Akon in the Eastern Province.
  • High-profile sports events include the Italian Super Cup between Juventus and AC Milan; Fight Night between world boxing champion Amir Khan and Billy Dib; and the largest Battle Royale in WWE history.