Story behind the Picture #4 Care in the Community

Do not be mistaken here; it is not begging as a western-bred assumption might conclude. This is Zaqat, one of the principal duties of all Muslims, to behave charitably toward those in need. It requires a person to give directly to those in need and is a mainstay for elderly people of the community who may find themselves in leaner times. The older man is not a beggar, he is aware of that, and is aware that it is his right to expect support. For his side, the shopkeeper is aware that his obligations include giving a percentage of his income directly to those in need, and that he receives blessings for his act.

An elderley man calls by at a merchant's stall
An elderly man wearing a turban, in off-white Middle Eastern dress, carries a staff to steady himself. One hand is held out toward a shopkeeper.

You will only rarely find actual beggars in mainly Muslim countries in my experience, although I cannot say this does not exist; by and large they appear to be people with psychological issues. Those with physical needs are similarly guided to channels of support. Other, future posts will look at how the transition from a working, secular life can occur in different societies, perhaps in pursuit of enlightenment.

Faith, Hope and Charity have been mainstays of many religions. In modern Western Christianity, both faith and hope are hanging by a thread, and charity almost dead in the water. A headlong pursuit of the economic and the personal life has steadily eroded the individual relationships we need to validate our place in society and the world. A direct debit in four clicks, or a text sends a fiver to a cause but we are rarely really involved. We need to re-establish the meanings of value and of worth.

Somehow, we have exchanged the right thing for the done thing; and lost something of value, of connection and of compassion. We seem to have forgotten that we are all here on a temporary basis and our greatest joy and inner peace flows from community, not from the heady pursuits of individualism.


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