Charity (Zakat) Reflections

Lessons from a 10-year-old Beggar work last week, I decided to take a trip to the local coffee shop. I ordered my iced latte and began my walk home. Coffee in hand, I found myself sandwiched by two small children. I turn to the young boy on my right and smiled, instantly realizing they were walking by my side because they wanted money. Because I had the coffee in my hand, it was a bit difficult to pull out a few pounds to hand over to the young children, so I decided to make conversation as I tried to pull the coins out of my wallet.

“What’s your name?” I asked the boy.


“Abdullah! What a nice name! How old are you?”


I took a deep breath of air as I began to think about what I was doing at the age of ten. I was running around, carefree. I was going to the swimming pool weekly and riding my bike to the park. I was ordering pizza on Fridays and going out to eat on Saturdays. I had no idea what this boy’s childhood felt like, because he didn’t have any of those things. His childhood was rough, filled with asking for money not only for himself, but also for his family.

I finally found what I was looking for and handed the boy 5 shiny pounds. As I passed them over to him I said, “Share with your sister,” and pointed to the girl on my other side. The boy looked at me, shouted, “She’s not my sister!” and took off running.

I instantly felt a pang of sadness. I didn’t have any more money for this girl, and she was standing there, waiting. She continued walking by my side, hoping that I would somehow come up with more coins. After about a minute I noticed Abdullah, standing on the sidewalk, looking at me. I put a smile on my face and said, “Abdullah, come here please.” He walked over without any hesitation. “Abdullah, I gave you 5 pounds right?” Instantly he began defending himself. “Yes, but I have a family! I have a sister! She’s just a baby and she’s sleeping!”

I continued to smile at him and nodded my head as he spoke, until he was finished. “Abdullah, I gave you 5 pounds so that you could share with her. It’s up to you now. You decide what you are going to do. You can be stingy, or you can be generous. If you are generous with what Allah has given you, He will put people in your path that are generous with you. But if you are stingy with the blessings that Allah gives you, then He will put people in your path that are stingy and don’t ever share anything with you. What we do always comes around in another form.” Abdullah looked at me as he was processing this new piece of information that I gave him. He began to look from me to the coins and then back at me again. He then confidently nodded his head, took 3 of the 5 coins that he had, and gave them to the young girl, smiling.

Abdullah learned something that day, but even more so, I learned something. Abdullah wanted to keep what he had been given of this life. He wanted to be stingy and hold on to his old ways and his desires. But when he was advised and given a new perspective, he didn’t allow his ego to get in the way. He didn’t block out any new ideas because they didn’t fit his way of thinking. He didn’t try to justify himself further. He listened, he pondered, and then he acted. While watching this young child, I couldn’t help but think that this is how we, as adults, should be as well. How many times have we been advised by caring individuals, yet we block out their advice before even considering whether or not this advice is true? How many times have we chosen to listen to our desires rather than listen to a voice of wisdom, be it internal or external? How many times have we allowed our egos to take the lead role in our conversations rather than our hearts?

Next time we find ourselves in a situation in which we are being advised, be it an internal voice of reason or another person standing before us, we should think back to this young boy, Abdullah, and try to follow his example: listen to the advice, process the advice casting aside our desires and our ego, and, if we find that it is best for us, immediately act upon the advice.


About the author

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref grew up in a small Texas city and was unexpectedly uprooted to Cairo, Egypt. The shift of countries precipitated a shift in her outlook on life; this, with her enriching experience in community activism—specifically social service, youth work, and Qur’anic Studies—provides for a rather enlightened perspective. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. Thankfully, her main outlet and therapeutic tool is to write, write, write! She keeps her own blog, contributes regularly to various publications, and – most importantly – you’ll find her entries on this site.


  • Jazakallah khair for sharing this beautiful story with us! Indeed the moral of this story was very deep and meaningful! I think that many of us as adults don’t listen to good advice because are ego prevents us from doing so!

  • ASA This is indeed the month of revelation. I read this post and felt sad at the title and then the 5 pounds handed over to the young “beggar”. Their having to divide this money up by putting the guilt and pressure on the “young beggar boy” was tough to take as well. I felt this twing of elitism, albeit your intention was to relate a story to us, the reader so we would ponder and reflect. The latte, though to be well deserved in most westerners minds, was probably more expensive than 5 pounds. Also, the reality of the status of these children and hoards of other children in these decrepit conditions many times is the result of foreign intervention and a rape of the wealth of the country. I pray Allah statements like “Black but comely” (Shakespeare) will be seen for what they are…not a compliment at all but rather a statement of superiority…May we allow this month to help us all to follow the way of our Prophet Muhammad (saw ),as he points us to the way of Allah, swa. May we all take good naseeha when we hear it. This I believe , was the object of your piece. May Allah reward us all with Jannah firdous. Ameen.

    • wa alaykum as salam warahmatullahi wa barktuh,

      May Allah forgive you and me and us all. As you said, subhan Allah, this is indeed the month of revelation. And that Revelation and the one it was revealed to (sal Allahu alayhe wa sallam) teaches us to have the best thoughts of our brothers and sisters, to support them, to appreciate them.

      While you coated your criticism in dua and seemed to intend it as nasiha, where is the benefit- for anyone- in accusing someone of demonstrating elitisim? Do you know her intentions? Perhaps you’re reflecting what you read into someone else’s words, based on your own context, or what is in your heart and casting it onto a beloved sister. You straight accused her of arrogant elitism with your Shakespeare quote.

      Where is the benefit in ASSUMING that the latte was more than 5 pounds and implying that she was not as generous because she had bought one (which she “probably justified as being well deserved since most westerns think like this.”)?

      Your comments reflect a complete disconnect for the situation Reehab actually went through as it happened. Having lived where Reehab lives and experienced this too many times to recount, her story is a breakthrough.

      May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala forgive you as you hurt my feelings. You hurt my feelings as Reehab is one of my role models and closest friends and I would defend her sincerity and generosity before I would do that for my own.

      Be careful of what you say, especially in a public space where anyone can read your comments and assume similarly incorrect conclusions simply because of something you suggested without proof, even if it was not your intention. ESP online, because even if it’s not what you meant, it’s what comes off and what sticks when people read it once and then never come back. No one even knows your name. You are completely anonymous. No one is publicly accusing you of things unintended and clearly not there. Reehab made herself vulnerable in hopes of encouraging others in Ramadan.

      At least, at the very least, if you want to give nasiha, do it with adab, without making assumptions and implications and follow the methodology of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhe wa sallama.

    • Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! With such blatant self-righteousness you scold the author for being elitist? Perhaps you would have powdered the author to renounce all of their belongings and donate it all only to be another poverty stricken resident of Cairo’s streets? Anyone who has lived in the so-called third world knows that beggars constantly surround people and most don’t even look at them. Instead, the author choose to give EVERYTHING she had and spend time taking to them. Step off your soapbox and tell us what marvels you’ve done for the less fortunate. It sounds like you wouldn’t exactly shy away from the chance to. SMH.

  • Can I just ask where you are? I’m just wondering why you don’t seem surprised to see two kids begging on the streets and realised straight away what they were doing :/

    And mashaAllah! May Allah bless Abdullah and the little girl 🙂 we can learn allot from kids.

    • Actually many places have children on the streets begging, not only that but also living on the streets alone without parents, raising each other! It is not only in my location but in many countries across the world! SubhanAllah it really is life changing to come across so many needy children and realize how different our childhoods are. It makes me rethink all the blessings that Allah gave me and thank Him for many of the things we take for granted.

  • Hmmph, if it was me, after teaching the boy a “lesson” or value, I’d top up that remaining 2 pound with tenfold the amount just to prove my point. I mean come on, poor kid. What do u expect? :p Bcoz anyway if the author really believed in generosity & retribution himself, Allah SWT will multiply our charity & loves kindliness & perfecting our deeds. The above story is the kind of lesson I’d use more for well-provided children when sharing toys or gift vouchers etc, beggars… mmmh…

    • You clearly have not dealt with poor children in Egypt. Reehab’s lesson, the child’s reaction and this story is an incredible breakthrough than the reaction of the average child in such poverty. She would have given lots more if she had it, but, as stated, she didn’t. May Allah bless her.

      I am so offended right now. You have no idea who this incredible, inspiring sister is, and then you have the audacity to tell her what she should have done in a situation that you were not there to witness.

      May Allah bless you with many, many, many opportunities to give to the poor and to teach lessons to the well-provided and bless you with humbling yourself through those experiences to appreciate the efforts of your brothers and sisters who are trying to do good for His Sake and encouraging others to do the same.

      • Sorry to offend u. I have a tendency to be very overprotective to weaklings & kids & perfectionist attitude. Sorry. May Allah SWT bless her & u.. =)

  • Should also have adviced the kid that there is no loss in wealth from charity & sharing, Allah will increase his blessings & barakah. Quote Quran verse. This could instill confidence in givers especially a poor person. Also, its weird for a beggar. We as Muslims in some instances are told to give charity after we have set aside for our needs because even doing good deeds we are taught the manners & precision, the priorities- that charity to family comes 1st & has manyfold hasanah than non-blood ties, that one should not be miserly to family while generous to outsiders. So for really poor people, taking all that into account, even for a boy in restained circumstances, its understandable. He’s just saving for family…

  • To offer that iced latte to the kids eyeing whatevers at hand. Probably a luxury they can’t afford. Thats a better “lesson to teach” to poor kids! Feed the hungry for a day in their life is better too. Someday, when they grow up & better off, they’;; be moved to do the same; touching a persons life will have far meaningful deeper effect that will carry on into the future. Than just telling something thats might be accepted 50:50 when you’re in desperate state…

    • You need to check yourself. Act on your own advice and then you can write an article with lessons we can all learn from inshaAllah.

      Until then, let Allah reward sr.Reehab’s incredible effort and continue to bless the children and their families.

      • Sorry if I was clumsy & blunt. I’m just quite impartial to suffering kids. I think theres different types of lesson but theres a place & time for everything. When lifes a painful struggle, it gets tricky to teach different level of understanding or values. N yea, I do act on that advise when it comes to kids. I do give whatevers at hand when kids come running to me, anything I have, I distribute as much as I can. I believe there are different emotional states to cater to when instilling sharing and when giving each person fairly. Still, I am sorry! I guess it was impulsive of me… May Allah reward all good deeds big or small…

        • ok, fine, i was very emotional when writing this. Like i said, i’m bias towards suffering kids. I get overwhelmed whenever i hear of children beggars. I apologize to the author & anyone else I’ve offended. I have no right to judge. Only Allah SWT does. Its the first time ive posted this kind of negative comment. Apologies to everyone. Sorry. Hope yall have a wonderful Ramadhan!

    • My God! What is wrong with you people? Do you sweat rosewater? Thank you, sister Maryam, for being a well needed voice of reason.

    • hindsight is really 20|20. if i had the presence of mind to dig up from my head what Reehab said when suddenly thrust into that situation, let alone deliver it with the right body language and tone, i’d be chuffed to bits, never mind what the 100% Most Ideal Sermon would have been.

      also, i don’t care if it’s a luxury they can’t afford, it is still irresponsible for an adult to give a young child coffee, it is not good for them as their brains and bodies haven’t grown sufficiently to deal with it. so, since no to the coffee and she had no money left, i really don’t see what else she could have reasonably given.

  • There’s a dua to recognize falsehood from evil.

    اللهُمَّ أَرِنَا الحَقَّ حَقّاً وَارْزُقْنَا التِبَاعَةَ وَأَرِنَا البَاطِلَ بَاطِلاً وَارْزُقْنَا


    Oh Allah show us the truth as truth and grant us the following of it, and show us the falsehood as falsehood and grant us aversion to it

  • i learned another lesson while reading this article. that the writer actually talked to the boy and shared something valuable, instead of just walking away and leaving that girl without anything. regarding giving more, i think the writer would have given more if he had more cash on hand. but that’s not the point of this article (he did give whatever cash he had). and about giving the ice latte, hmm, i guess this is subjective. maybe the writer would be rewarded for feeding a poor child and Abdullah would have quenched his thirst momentarily, but by stopping to share with Abdullah about generosity, Abdullah learned something more that day which he hopefully will remember for the rest of his life insyaAllah.

  • Pls sisters, uphold the spirit of Islam and this beautiful month, leave all the judging to Allah and accept and appreciate the good out of this well- intentioned article.

  • It is never easy being in a place where many children are accustomed to ask for money from strangers. The first time I went to India it was heartbreaking and I did what I can. However, each time I gave a child money I could not help but think am I really solving anything by merely giving them money? If the author had more money she would have gave it but we are missing the point. She engaged the children had conversation and at the same time taught Abdullah something he might have not learned otherwise. Giving money is easy, engaging and trying to change a mindset is definitely harder.

  • Assalamu Alaykum,

    Rather than reply to the 3 of you individually, I’ll just some it up in one post and I pray that we all benefit.

    First of all, thank you for taking the time to post and share with me your thoughts. Although the manner of the advice was a bit harsh and many conclusions were come to without proper evidence, your advices did make me think and re-ponder the situation, Alhamdulilah! 🙂

    Second, while speaking on the internet it is very easy to assume negative connotations or assume the tone of the speaker because there are not verbal tones and facial expressions to go along with it…so while you are reading this I want you to know that I’m smiling :)–so imagine a happy and non-confrontational tone.


    I’d like to start by saying that I think the point of the story was completely missed. The intended point was to see the pure innocence and submission to the will of Allah and the trust he had in Him. I did not force him to give the money. I was speaking to him in a friendly manner with smiles and nods (as I said in the story). And when he handed over the money (He gave THREE of his 5 pounds because he was convinced.) He too was smiling. He, in those few moments was able to grasp the power of Allah and knew that whatever he gave would come back to him in another form.

    It was mentioned that I should have given them more, as I stated and as Maryam so kindly pointed out, I didn’t have anymore. And I wasn’t intending to mention this as the story was about the lessons I learned from the boy, not about my actions, I immediately went to a near by atm, pulled out some money and went searching for the boy to give him more as a reward, but I couldn’t find him, Qaddar Allah. May Allah reward him and provide for him in this life ten folds over :).

    “I mean come on, poor kid. What do u expect? :p Bcoz anyway if the author really believed in generosity & retribution himself, Allah SWT will multiply our charity & loves kindliness & perfecting our deeds. The above story is the kind of lesson I’d use more for well-provided children when sharing toys or gift vouchers etc, beggars” – fleur

    That’s a really interesting point. Thank you for bringing it up :-).

    Being here in Egypt, some of the most generous people I have met are people who have next to nothing. Generosity is not just for the rich, and we see this in the Seerah and the stories of the companions. At times when they had next to NOTHING, they would extend their generosity…and when they gave, Allah provided for them. Even in a hadeeth about food the Prophet mentions “Food for one is enough for two.” He doesn’t say “when you have food for 10 then you can feed 20.” While it might be a nice lesson to teach to wealthy children, don’t children who are not so wealthy need to learn life lessons as well? Don’t they need to learn to be generous with one another? Many of these children don’t have parents to raise them or their parents are so busy trying to make ends meet that they don’t have time to instill these values in them. As you said, feed a man to fish you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish–you feed him for a life time. Should we not take a moment to feed them intellectually and spiritually as well? And perhaps in this giving, Allah will provide for them more than they ever expected–if not in this life then the next.

    I’ll be honest, when I first came to Egypt a few months back, I didn’t know how to deal with this new addition to my life, coming into contact with people asking and pleading for money. It’s not something that I was used to living in Houston Texas. Even more so, it was not easy to see YOUNG children doing this. Can you imagine every time walking into KFC or into a McDonalds, finding a row of young children just waiting for you to come out to ask for some money? Can you imagine walking out of the local super market and finding Mothers with their children waiting for you so that they can ask for some money? At first, I wouldn’t make eye contact, even if I did give them something. I couldn’t make eye contact. It broke my heart. I really just didn’t know how to deal. So I began to make dua, and still make dua, that He guides me to the best interaction with them. And later I realized that these children need smiles, these children need kind words, they need to be dealt with as the beautiful human beings that they are. Not just the children though, but also the adults who are asking. They are in need of a kind word EVEN if I don’t give them money. And in this place that I live now, honestly it isn’t possible to give each and every person I meet a shiny pound or some amount of money–but it is possible to smile and ask them how their day is going. It is possible to try to have a decent conversation with a young child and convince him that he’s worth more than people have let on.

    It’s very easy to sit in a place where you don’t ever see children roaming the streets and think “well if I was in a situation I would…” but the reality is, reality is so different. Reality makes you grow and realize that the thoughts that I might have had sitting on a coach in a wealthy country, is not the same thoughts that I would have while walking the streets and meeting at LEAST 20-30 people asking for money each day.

    Lastly, but most importantly, something that I had thought about after it happened, and again after all of your advices (may Allah grant me the wisdom to understand the lessons that Allah intended me to learn from the event and the comments thereafter 🙂 is that nothing…absolutely nothing…happens without reason.

    When I was in the situation, it never occurred to me that they were not brother and sister. I naturally assumed that since they were together, that they were siblings.

    While this was a slip on my part, I have seen in life that even in our slips Allah places immense wisdom. While the slip was a fault of mine, thinking back on it I can begin to contemplate on why Allah allowed me to have that small slip of mind….

    Perhaps it was a lesson I needed to learn on controlling my desires and my ego and actually listen to others when they speak just as Abdullah did.

    Perhaps it was so that Abdullah could learn a very important lesson and learn about the concept of generosity.

    Perhaps it was because Abdullah needed someone to smile in his face that day and discuss things like the human being he is, instead of the way some people treat the children like him.

    Perhaps it was so that I would see the event, write this article and some person who is beloved to Allah would read it, make dua for Abdullah, and his life would then be filled with wealth and blessings.

    Even in our slips there are wisdom, perhaps it was one of the above…and perhaps it was more than that. Allahu alam.

    Barak Allahu feekum 🙂

    • I agree with u on the article. I’ve come to realize I was totally overreacting & analytical to a simple story. Me dealing with children beggars once in a while is TOTALLY DIFFERENT than dealing with them EVERYDAY of your life, at every corner. I forgot to realise where this took place too. The response & reaching out when poverty is rampant in a society. I only came to Egypt once but only as a tourist, met families living in mudhouse with barely enough milk powder for their dollfaced toddlers, girls who’d beg me for anything to give even my lipstick. Back in my country, poor kids get mthly pocket money fund, free milk books sch supplies, public transportation funded & any kids beggars or homeless are immediately housed in welfare homes or fostercare as per law, prohibited. So kids begging are such a rare occurence for me. Thank u for sharing ur experiences & sharing with public makes one vulnerable subject, for being open to my mean harsh criticisms & me jumping to conclusions. U should delete my previous comments k… =) Jazakallah khairn

  • Assalaam alikum..very interesting story and equally interesting comments..I just want to say that when we give the poor money we give them that momentarily happiness…thats what I think, we give them happiness at that particular moment…even that is a big thing.Allah taala knows best.

Leave a Comment