Front page news today was a picture of five Muslim women arrested in Qatar for begging:  CID Arrests Female Beggars.  For me, a shocking picture and headline. 

Muslim women arrested for begging

The story goes on to say that “The arrests were made as part of an ongoing campaign to eradicate this phenomenon alien to the Qatari society”.   In hopes of understanding why begging is alien to this society and considered against the law I did a quick check to see what I could find out.

From the website Islamonline the eminent Muslim Scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, explains in detail How Islam Views Begging, but in summary:

The fundamental attitude of Islam towards man’s position in the world is that Allah the Almighty has made the earth for his benefit. He has given him control over it. Then it becomes man’s duty to profit from this favour and to exert himself to seek Allah’s bounties throughout the earth.

It is not permitted for a Muslim to stay idle doing nothing to make a living on the pretext of devoting his life to worship or putting trust in Allah. He should know that the sky never rains gold or silver. Also, it is not permissible for him to depend on charity while he is able to earn a sufficient subsistence for himself and his family through his own efforts. In this regard, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, says: “Charity is Halal (lawful) neither for the rich nor for the able bodied.

A person should not be idle or depend on charity from others as they lose honour and dignity in doing so.  He goes one to say it was intended this way, so Muslims “safeguard their dignity, develop self-reliance, and steer clear of depending on others”. If their situation is of dire need they should go to the government or the mosque for assistance, but they should never go out in public begging .

Dignity, self-reliance, honor.  All virtues worth striving for. 

For expats like me who make up 75% of the population here, we are sponsored by employers to come into the country and work and therefore must provide for ourselves.  I presume Qatari nationals should either be working and therefore providing for themselves and their families, or if they are not “able-bodied” they can apply for incapacity benefits (allowance from the government if their medical condition prevents them from working due to a chronic illness or incapacity proven by a report from a health institution on the condition that they do not have sufficient income).

We once looked to church and community in times of need when it was more strongly frowned upon to go begging for charity.  Muslim’s beliefs seems to be similar in that they are to turn to their government or go to a mosque for this kind of support. 

In present-day situations however, this is not always the case.  Back home, our governments are now stretched to the limit providing  financial and social assistance.  Many people no longer have “church” as part of their lives anymore.  Hence the reason food banks and charity organizations are so greatly depended on in our society.  Here, in a land of such great wealth, I’m not sure why people would not be able to draw upon resources available to them.

But back to the headline.  Should people be arrested for begging? 

Where I’m from, police have to be able prove a beggar (or panhandler) is obstructing pedestrian traffic to issue them a ticket or fine.  I suppose the person could then be imprisoned if they failed to pay the fine.

I cannot judge the women who’ve been arrested as I don’t know the particulars of their situation. I feel for people caught in these circumstances as I tend to believe they would not be begging, if they had another option.  Call me naive, a bleeding heart, or whatever.   

I cannot determine what the laws should or shouldn’t be in this regard.  Living here, I accept the laws of the land and abide by them. 

I can only say that  today I learned a little more about others and their beliefs and once again, should not be so quick to judge.  And that is always a good thing.