“The best of the people are those who are most beneficial to God’s creation.” – Prophet Muhammad (saw)
Does poverty exist in the UK?
When we read this statement – “poverty in the UK” – what images pop up in our minds? Is it the bleak green ‘job centre plus’ logo? Or perhaps, the miserable thought of a man in a Sports Direct winter jacket and a tattered sleeping bag, resting under a bridge? To some in the UK, this statement may nothing short of a mythical fallacy; a misleading notion fostered to strategically bring down the country’s governing party. Surely, poverty cannot exist in the world’s fourth richest per capita country?
The reality is that poverty in the UK is very pertinent, existent, and often ignored – more so than you or I may have initially thought.
The Office for National Statistics conducted some research to determine that between the years of 2011-2014, one in three people in the UK had experienced poverty at least once. This grim actuality is not restricted to adults alone, with over 3 million children in the UK today facing poverty too – that’s more than three times the population of Birmingham. In total, there are 13 million people in poverty in the UK.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where the most economically neglected are also the most looked socially frowned upon. We often hear – “don’t give them money, they’ll spend it on alcohol”, or even, “why can’t they just get off the street and get jobs?” It’s at this point that we have a responsibility as citizens to become conscious of socio-economic constructs – what circumstances may have led to people having to face food poverty or homelessness? Is the UK government’s welfare system truly effective or innately flawed? Is the UK’s minimum wage actually a living wage? The Guardian recently produced an insightful clip to touch on this.
Changing the world we live in
Beyond all of the negativity, there are always opportunities to support one another, giving and sharing to grow together, and to instil love into the very same society which has provided for us. As Muslims, we have been recognised to be the UK’s most philanthropic community, due to the teachings of the Holy Prophet (saw) and his blessed family. Yet, our psychology towards giving must change – it should be a daily deed to give to those truly needy in your own postcode, as well as those in dire situations suffering in war-torn countries.
“Spend (in charity) out of the sustenance that We have bestowed on you before that time when death will come to someone, and he shall say: “O my Lord! If only you would grant me reprieve for a little while, then I would give in charity, and be among the righteous.”
– The Holy Quran, 63:10
One should really do their best to make someone’s day just that little bit happier – this can mean buying them a hot chocolate, offering some small change, stopping to briefly chat with them, or even a simple smile and good morning. It means a great deal to those on the receiving end to feel your sincerity first hand.
In response to those who may critique the act of giving to someone on the street, there is absolutely nothing wrong with giving to those who need it. This should be a culture that is encouraged and morally supported. It will soften your heart and brings love into your everyday actions. There are countless incidents in the life of Imam Ali (as) where he did the exact same – when local rumours starting spreading to slate Imam Ali’s actions, the Holy Prophet (saw) would tell the Imam to keep being sincere and supportive, for an act of sincerity can make a world (and an akhira) of difference!
I implore you to make a pledge to yourself, going into the new calendar year, that you will make an extra effort to give. There are numerous charities and organisations that are working towards social empowerment of the needy. Organisations like ‘Who is Hussain?’ are based globally and inspire random acts of kindness, like feeding and giving haircuts to the homeless, and are always looking for volunteers. Muslim Student Council run an annual ‘Hungry for Justice’ poverty awareness and food collection campaign, spread across 35+ universities in the UK, which is taking place over the next few months. Whether it is volunteering at a food drive, university, or grabbing a hot drink for someone in need on your way to work, we can all contribute somehow.
We pray that together, we can make this world a better place through actions of goodness, and we thank Allah (swt) for all that He has and continues to bless us with.
Well done. It’s people like you who make society a warmer place to be in.
by Ahmed Gokal