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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

A life spent bringing joy to others is a life well-spent

Philanthropists who give away their wealth without a second thought set an example for us all

Young Muslim millionaire Ali Banat spent the last three years of his life giving away his entire wealth to the needy / YouTube
Young Muslim millionaire Ali Banat spent the last three years of his life giving away his entire wealth to the needy / YouTube

There comes a point in most people’s lives when they wonder what they have contributed to society and whether they have left the world a better place.

For some, that moment comes when it is too late to alter the path of fate.

For others, the need to make a difference strikes early, and deep.

In a country which holds the record as the world’s largest donor of official development aid relative to national income, it is perhaps not surprising that despite its relatively small size and population, the UAE is among the 22 countries with signatories to the Giving Pledge, the philanthropy institution founded by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet.

Indeed, the UAE accounts for 7 per cent of the 183 world’s wealthiest individuals who have promised to give away more than half their wealth and set an example for the ultra-rich around the world.

Among those who have made the pledge are healthcare innovators BR Shetty, who founded the NMC hospital chain, and Dr Shamsheer Vayalil of VPS Healthcare.

Joining them on the list are Sunny and Sherly Varkey, the founders of Gems education, Razan Al Mubarak, the director of Emirates Wildlife Society and social entrepreneur Badr Jafar.

It makes sense that donors making the pledge are already wholly committed in their careers and attitude to an altruistic approach.

Working in fields such as medicine, education, conservation and social enterprise means they are already imbued with a heartfelt need to improve the lives of others, both financially and through their hard work. They serve as an example to us all.

So, too, does 32-year-old Muslim millionaire Ali Banat, who spent his last three years on Earth sharing his wealth after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The Australian-born businessman died last week after shedding all his material possessions, travelling around the world to distribute his cars, clothes and watches and using his savings to build wells, schools and mosques in Africa.

His legacy is a lasting one, which not only bears testament to zakat, one of the five pillars of his faith, embodying the need to help those less fortunate, but serves as a sombre reminder of the fact death spares neither the wealthy nor the well-to-do, and spending what little time we have on Earth contributing to the greater good is what ultimately counts.

A life spent bringing joy to others and alleviating the suffering of those who have less is a life well-spent.