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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

In Ramadan, the spirit of giving runs strong

The holy month is a special reminder to us all to put those most desperately in need first

As we approach Ramadan in the Year of Zayed, the spirit of the Founder is all around us. Christopher Pike / The National
As we approach Ramadan in the Year of Zayed, the spirit of the Founder is all around us. Christopher Pike / The National

UAE Founding Father Sheikh Zayed once said those blessed with good fortune would never be truly content unless they used it for the benefit of those in need. And as 2017's Year of Giving came to an end, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid echoed the sentiment when he said: “Real giving lies in making a difference in another person’s life or the life of a community or in the journey of a nation. That’s the meaning of real giving.” As we approach Ramadan in the Year of Zayed, it behoves us all to remember and uphold that same spirit of charity and altruism that formed the building blocks of the UAE and is one of the pillars of Islam. It carries a particular resonance during the holy month, when actions should be beyond censure and be imbued with only honourable intentions.

The spirit of giving is all around us. It is there in the mega-projects coordinated by the UAE to get aid to the victims of war and persecution across the region. And it is there in the simple kindnesses of people such as former police chief Saqer Al Mehairbi, who for 25 years has offered iftar in the cool shade of a tent in his Abu Dhabi neighbourhood to thousands of strangers observing the fast, and Dubai Women's Association, which collects clothes and housewares every year for those most in need. It is there, too, in the understated donations to charitable causes, made without calling attention to the act, by the likes of Egyptian footballer Mohamed Salah.

Last week saw the launch of the Abu Dhabi-based Tabah Foundation, which enshrines the principle of zakat – in which Muslims are obliged to donate a percentage of their salary in almsgiving – by offering the option to donate online to help refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. It opens another avenue to alleviate one of the biggest human tragedies of our time with a sharia-compliant way of helping the tens of thousands of families in need on our doorstep – an issue which raises strong emotions in the UAE but previously the fear of alms being absorbed in red tape, bureaucracy or ending up in the wrong hands was a concern. The foundation, which has already helped 14,000 families in Jordan, promises a vetting procedure to ensure the money goes where it is needed most.

The UAE is already the world’s largest donor of development aid relative to national income and gave more than Dh19 billion to causes last year. Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, pointed to the plight of the Rohingya as an example of a cause worthy of aid for all Muslims and humanitarians. Tragically, they are not alone in needing help. In a world where humanity’s most base, destructive instincts are too often visible and inflict unspeakable suffering, every gesture to counteract violence and hardship with kindness and generosity counts.