A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

season’s greetings: Ramadan and the zeal for charity

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on September 27, 2007

Dar al-Aytam al-Islamiyya (The Islamic House of Orphans), also known as Social Welfare Institutions in Lebanon, is one of Muslim Lebanon’s longest-running charitable organizations. I see its schoolbuses on the roads and read about its various fundraisers here and there – including an early summer feature in Cedar Wings, Middle East Airlines’ in-flight magazine.

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As the name suggests, Dar al-Aytam is a Muslim charity, although its website drops the “al-Islamiyya” and the only reference to “Islam” I can find on the English-language site is its “commitment to the humanitarian principles of Islam such as justice, tolerance and abhorrence of confessionalism and sectarianism.” I’m not sure whether Dar al-Aytam helps non-Muslims – or whether non-Muslims would seek it out for help even if help were offered. Like most things here, charity seems to be religiously segregated, and I doubt that the Christian charities go overboard helping non-Christians (or even Christians of differing denominations) either.

Regardless, I live in a Muslim neighborhood and Ramadan is definitely the time for charities like Dar al-Aytam to solicit donations – and I am a willing donor. I was raised by parents who taught us to donate to any reasonable cause – whether by buying popcorn from the Cub Scouts, cookies from the Girl Scouts or sending a check to the local food pantry. So when my doorbell rang this afternoon, I was happy to bring out my wallet.

I’m sorry, the man at the door said when I presented him with a crisp Lebanese note, shaking his head. It is not enough.

What? I said, raising my eyebrows and thinking “what happened to “beggars can’t be choosers” or “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”?

You do not understand, he said. Perhaps you do not understand English very well.

I raised my eyebrows again. The concierge, who was standing nearby, started to laugh. And really – how often in Beirut does anyone suggest that I don’t speak English? It was pretty funny.

It is very expensive to take care of orphans, the man told me, pulling out an album of photos. For each one it costs $2,000 per month. You must give $2,000.

I do understand that children are expensive – that’s why in the United States they count as tax deductions. But I’m fairly expensive, too – and I couldn’t spend $2,000 on myself in one month in Beirut if I tried.

I’m sorry, I said, but I will not give you $2,000.

He sighed and filled out the Dar al-Aytam donor receipt for the amount I had given him. And then – ensuring that he had the final word – he removed the sticker he had placed on my door frame, which would indicate to other solicitors that I had donated already. If God loves a cheerful giver I suggest His workers on earth look elsewhere for the next day or two, until I get over my sticker-less fit of pique!

3 Responses to “season’s greetings: Ramadan and the zeal for charity”

  1. intlxpatr said

    Holy Smokes! that’s some fund-raising technique!

  2. […] wrote an interesting post today on seasonâs greetings: Ramadan and the zeal for charityHere’s a quick […]

  3. […] 18, 2007 During Ramadan I wrote about Dar al-Aytam and its charitable giving solicitor’s unflattering assessment of me as uncharitable. When the Red Cross/Red Crescent came by last week, I was better […]

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