RIYADH: Ramadan is not just about personal spiritual growth. An important aspect of fasting long hours is to help people understand the plight of the underprivileged. We abstain from eating and drinking knowing well that at the end of the day we will have enough to eat.
However, there are many in our surroundings who are never sure about their next meal. Fortunately, Saudi Arabia has a culture of helping the downtrodden, not only during Ramadan but throughout the year.
Ramadan only increases compassion toward the needy, and most Saudis step up their efforts to reach out to those needing assistance.
“Charity is not limited to (the month of) Ramadan,” Al-Sharifa Wadea’a Al-Hazza told Arab News. “It is an important part of the teachings of Islam to help our less fortunate brothers and sisters.”
She said it was perhaps due to the sacred nature of the holy month that more people gave back to their community.
Al-Hazza is a great-grandmother with little formal education, but she is fully aware of the importance of charity and its long-lasting impact on society.
Helping others is a trait that has been ingrained in her personality since childhood. She remembers visiting families in dire straits with her mother to provide them with necessities. She said they would buy groceries and put them with care and love into boxes, distributing packages among needy families.
The sentiments remain the same but methods of helping others have changed, mainly due to technology.
Supermarkets in the Kingdom offer the option of prepaid cards that can be handed over to those needing help. Malaka Al-Rifaey said her son urged her to consider it once he discovered this option. “Not only will I still be able to help the families, but it will also cut on the workload of filling up boxes for over 30 families,” she told Arab News. Prepaid grocery cards are a more convenient way of helping the less fortunate because they put purchasing power directly into the hands of beneficiaries. This Ramadan has been different because of the coronavirus outbreak and authorities restricting people’s movements to ensure their safety, but Al-Rifaey said she had been able to distribute the prepaid cards three days before the curfew was announced.
“This Ramadan I bought SR15,000 ($3,993) worth of prepaid cards and sent them over to needy families. Of course, the amount depends on each household and the number of individuals in it.” Al-Hazzaa also seeks to give out prepaid grocery cards, but says that buying groceries herself was more rewarding and fulfilling.
“I’m an old lady. I no longer have the strength but I still make sure to actively fill boxes with essential items of daily use such as flour, milk, rice, oil, sugar, and tea. I sneak in chocolates and chips for families with children and teens because I know they have a sweet tooth,” she said.
The distribution is not done in person but through a network of contacts. “We never hand out cash. Only essential foodstuffs and clothing,” said Al-Hazza. The head of her neighborhood then distributes it amongst the families.
Al-Rifaey said that many supermarkets organized sales, singling out Al-Othaim. “Every Monday they have discounts, and I tell them to buy on those days as you can buy two items for the price of one. The world is still filled with kindness and kind people who want to give back. If we are capable and able then I shall continue as long as I live. It’s a pleasure and not a duty. I’m proud to be able to serve.”