Philanthropy is commendable as long as it’s done right, an organization of Muslim clerics said in Indonesia, who just issued a fatwa (religious edict) declaring that giving money to street beggars is haram (forbidden).
The South Sulawesi chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI)— the highest and most influential clerical body in the country — issued the fatwa this week, based on its interpretation of Islamic laws and teachings. According to the council, giving money to panhandlers only enables them to continue in their begging ways.
“Giving to street beggars supports those who exploit the beggars while failing to educate the beggars to develop good character,” South Sulawesi MUI General Secretary Muammar Bakri said, adding that the act is sinful for both the giver and the receiver.
There have been numerous reports of syndicates taking cuts from money given to street beggars, including children, in Indonesia. On the flip side, there also exists a phenomenon of well-to-do individuals traveling to big cities to beg because profiting off of people’s sympathies is easier than regular work.
In its fatwa, MUI warned that those who beg despite being physically and mentally able are subject to even greater sin. Furthermore, the presence of street beggars could also be disruptive toward safety and order at public spaces.
MUI advised the public to direct their money through trusted and certified charity organizations instead.
Social workers in the South Sulawesi capital of Makassar welcomed MUI’s fatwa, saying a religious motivation could be what is needed to discourage people from giving to street beggars and contributing to their proliferation. Regional bylaws forbidding the practice have gone largely ignored over the years.
MUI has yet to issue a similar fatwa nationally, though it already has the support of the House of Representatives (DPR), who are also calling on government officials to ensure the social welfare of beggars and protect them from exploitation.