By Imad Alassaad
The instance of giving that I have chosen to discuss involves the Islamic religious holiday of Eid. Eid can be described as being the combination of Christmas and New Years, in the sense that, it celebrates the end of the lunar calendar and a month’s long fast (Ramadan). On this day, Muslims worldwide practice the art of philanthropy by offering monetary and nutritional gifts (trays of rice and meat) to related family members, friends and fellow community strangers that undergo the act of pan handling. The term Eiddiya is used to describe the generous donations and gifts received from another individual on Eid day. During my stay in the United Arab Emirates (1997-2001), I have seen large gatherings of local citizens lining up on royalty estates (prince’s, kings and wealthy elite members of society) in order to wish the head of that estate a happy belated Eid. As a token of appreciation, the head of that estate would generously hand out an envelope of money. Further, during the month of Ramadan, those royal and elite estates open their kitchens to the public and individuals unable to cook or earn their nutritional needs can get enough food to fulfill their entire families need. They do not enforce limitations nor are they stingy. Simply lining up and having a tupperware are all the requirements needed to receive this act of philanthropy.
In light of these acts of philanthropy, I was impressed with Middle Eastern culture, particularly that of the U.A.E. History has shown us that the Arabian people were once contentious Bedouins and that the Islamic religion has been the common element used to unite all the Arab nations under one umbrella. In essence, it was this element that has helped civilize them into a caring, generous and passionate people. The Islamic religion has the common theme of philanthropy strongly rooted in its core values and beliefs; it clearly recognizes the difference between a guanine philanthropic act and one performed for some form of reward or expectation.