By Sundus Ali
During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims worldwide are heavily involved in the act of charity (sadqa) and zakat (compulsory giving of alms). Giving of alms is one of the five pillars of Islam and is an important aspect in the lives of Muslims regardless of their social status. However, those who are more successful are likely to be largely involved with monetary donations where as others may simply donate their time.
For the past two summers, the Afghan Sponsorship Foundation (ASF) which is an NGO based out of California, has been contributing their time and services to the people of Kabul, the capital city in Afghanistan. Along with their yearly funding and program, ASF organizes an online fundraiser which they heavily promote through social media and encourage people to make monetary contributions on the internet out of the comfort of their own homes. They then use these funds to purchase basic necessities of living (primarily food, water, and hygiene products) for the neediest families. In order to determine who will be the recipient of their aid, ASF visits refugee camps, tent cities, and they also accept referrals from community members to help the poorest of the poor during Ramadan, so everybody has a meal to open their fast with. Their goal is simple “…Our goal as a foundation is to sponsor the youth of Afghanistan in order to guarantee they have equitable access to a quality education ”. Even though spending excessive time distributing aid is a threat to the lives of these young workers, they are so empowered to give back to their communities and build future leaders who they hope will continue this work.
By providing food and clean water, ASF is improving the lives of these aid recipients by reducing hunger of the children in the families, enabling them to be somewhat ready to receive an education. Children who may have never had the opportunity or hope to sit in a classroom now have the chance of improving their lives by going to school on a full stomach and being able to learn. Educating these young and very capable children encourages Afghanis to develop leaders and compassionate community members who will also contribute their time and effort to the communities that raised them together.
The work of the ASF team is a year round effort, with a specific emphasis on the importance of raising funds during Ramadan because many Muslims are both needier and more giving during this holy month. The importance of giving is highlighted in the Holy Qura’an in Surah Tauba (The Repentance):
Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah . And Allah is Knowing and Wise.
Ultimately this is an amazing victory for all. The board members and executive team of ASF are able to carry out the work of their organization and feel good knowing they are doing good, the donors are fulfilling their religious (Islamic) obligations, and the recipients of the aid are able to open their fasts, and eat well during Ramadan. If a specific family has been sponsored, they then receive a monthly basket with enough necessities to get them through the month and keep their children who are in school- on a full stomach. By providing meals, ASF is in essence sponsoring these children to have promising futures so they too can give back to their homeland.
Afghan Sponsorhip Foundation- our mission. (2012). Retrieved September/22, 2012, from http://www.afesf.org/our-mission/
Holy Qura’an. Surah Tauba (The Repentance). Retrieved from http://quran.com/9/60-60