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The Beggars in Pinstripe Suits

The Beggars in Pinstripe Suits

To mark the 10th anniversary of Charity Week, we'll be sharing inspirational stories from across the years. These are the kind of hidden stories that go behind the numbers and the efforts. They are the kind of stories that open our eyes to the beautiful people who made this all possible.

One of the few reality shows that I don't find genuinely repulsive is “Undercover Boss.” The premise is actually genius, with the heads of large companies being asked to work incognito as an entry-level employee in the same company. Often, they are exposed to how dysfunctional things are far beyond their gaze. They realise that whilst they were too busy leading, the actual heart and soul of the company was being fundamentally altered.

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That is actually an Islamic principle and was best exemplified when the Prophet (SAW) got involved in the manual labour of building his mosque in Madīnah. Literally anyone else could have done that kind of mindless task, but the Prophet (SAW) did it to show that even the greatest man to walk the Earth was not above getting his hands dirty in physical labour.

So, a few years into the Charity Week project, I realised that I hadn't actually collected any money for some time. I was too busy organising and delegating. I decided to change that and called up some of the younger generation to ask if I could go along with them for a street collection. Street collections are interesting since every city, every borough and indeed every street has its own flavour.

The brothers I was collecting with decided to target the heart of the financial district in London. Everyone who lived and worked there were extremely well off. These were the bankers and businessmen who ran powerhouses across the world. The titans of industry. Hermes suits, Louboutin shoes, Lanvin loafers – these people were wearing clothes that would cost the average person a months salary. So you would think that they would be generous with their money right?

Wrong.

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We stayed for close to 5 hours and not a single person donated a single penny. Not a single penny. “Lets go home” I said dejectedly, but one of the brothers was adamant. “I'm not leaving till I get at least one donation. I'm just not. I refuse to believe that there isn't one person in this entire area of millionaires that will donate anything for orphans.” I could see he was serious so we stayed.

Then we got it.

A man in a shabby coat walked past us and dropped in some coins. We were elated. The brother who vowed not to leave was so happy he shook the mans hand. “What do you do?” he asked. “Me? I'm the janitor.” With that he went on his way, to clean the offices of the millionaires.

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The Prophet (SAW) said, “The generous man is near Allāh, near paradise, near men and far from hell, but the miserly man is far from Allāh, far from paradise, far from men and near hell. Indeed, an ignorant man who is generous is dearer to Allāh than a worshipper who is miserly.”

[Tirmidhi]

If you are interested in becoming part of the Charity Week team or starting the project in your school, college, University or city – get in touch. info@onecharityweek.com

allah medina

About Muhammad Wajid Akhter

Although originally from India, Wajid grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where he began learning Islamic sciences from an early age. After moving to the UK, he went to Medical School where he founded the University of London Union Islamic Societies (ULU ISoc) and the Charity Week for Orphans project in 2003. He currently serves on the Board of Advisers for the latter. He is passionate about uniting the Muslim youth in general and Islamic history in particular.

2 comments

  1. True charity is when you give anonymously without any expectation of public acknowledgment. While shows like Undercover Boss may accomplish good and be fun entertainment, it should be understood that it is really done mostly for the free 1 hour advertisement that the show accomplishes for the company in question.

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  2. That is unfortunate, but stop complaining about the actions of others and make more money so you don’t need to ask other people for money in the first place.

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