Applying Ramadan discipline to financial practices
Donations have far greater relevance when they are directed in a more integrated and meaningful way. (File photo)
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Each year during the holy month of Ramadan, the UAE joins the rest of the world in celebrating the noble values of self-discipline, sharing and kindness. This is also a time when we reflect on the world around us and work to cast off ego-centricity, pettiness, bad habits and self-centeredness.
Although these are virtues that are essential to inculcate for life, Muslims are specifically encouraged during Ramadan to practice Rahmah, meaning mercy - to help, give, share and be the best they can be. The UAE practices these virtues in letter and spirit
Reflecting the leadership's ideology, various public and private sector organisations in the country also aim to instill best humanitarian practices at a grassroots level. For instance, at this time of year, you can find Ramadan tents in labour camps that serve food and drink to all - regardless of race or religion. At its core, the month offers us a chance to live an exemplary life, do good deeds and instill the quality of taqwa (God-consciousness). Doing things ethically and more meaningfully is considered not just desirable but essential.
The same holds true for financial practices - in which Islam encourages every person to conduct good financial practices. This involves devising a sound financial plan, while saving for rainy days, spending wisely and more. This is imperative feature, as improper planning invariably impedes any effort to build a secure financial future.
Unfortunately, despite the need to practice austerity, a lot of food and money is wasted during Ramadan. A shocking majority of people tend to overspend on food for large Iftar meals, or take advantage of the special discounts prevalent during the month. While there is nothing wrong with spending money - spending in excess is frowned upon in Islam. In fact, Islam states that in terms of consumption or expenditure, each person should prioritise their basic necessities. Likewise, when spending money on luxurious goods, people should do so within reasonable limits - and only for worthwhile purposes.
A good way to build a sound financial portfolio is to select investments in halal activities and products and thereby gain a halal income - this is considered paramount in Islam. Selecting potential investments should not only be based on returns but also factor in their impact on society and the environment - so that they enrich the economy even while fulfilling basic human needs. In line with this priority, the UAE today comprises several banks that offer Islamic finance and provide ethical halal products and solutions.
It is also important to remember the less fortunate and allocate a percentage of the finance to donations or financial aid - which is of particular significance during Ramadan. However, rather than contributing to an individual, or just donating for the sake of donation itself, these donations would have far greater relevance if they were directed in a more integrated and meaningful way. This can be done by pooling resources and contributing to a well-organised and recognised institution - which can translate a more far-reaching impact on society as a whole.
For your individual donations to have a great impact, you could direct them to projects launched by a recognised Awqaf entity in the country. His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, established the Mohammed Bin Rashid Global Centre for Endowment Consultancy earlier this year for instance, to help support and grow endowments and leverage them to realising social and charitable goals throughout the Arab world.
Moreover, in the UAE we have a joint venture company called Noor Awqaf which is a partnership between Noor Investment Group and the Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation, to provide enabling services to global Awqaf entities.
By participating in these small acts of kindness, through waqf (charitable endowments) and zakah (alms-giving) during the month, people are contributing to a less fortunate family's emergencies - education of children, savings and investment. Remember, while Ramadan is a month of giving, it is also receiving - receiving love and mutual respect that is every individual's due. As the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) used to say, "He who does not show mercy to others, will not be shown mercy." (Al Bukhari and Muslim)
By Amjad Naser
The writer is the head of Shariah at Noor Bank. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy
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