When I was in college (and even today), I had no problem going out to eat by myself or being on my own. Give me a book or Sudoku and I am perfectly at ease, no matter how big the crowd. I never understood why people are so afraid of being along in public, but that’s another issue. I was in my last year of college and had gone out to eat sushi. I was halfway through my meal when all of a sudden this big hand clamped on my shoulder, and I heard “sister please, I need your help.”
Naturally, I was confused (and not just a little annoyed.. can’t you see I’m eating and reading?) and turned around, bewildered, wondering who the heck would go into a restaurant to ask someone for help. What I saw was a huge mustache and enormous belly of a man holding the hand of a young boy. He proceeded to tell me how his wife was having a heart operation and they had no money for any other expenses. I listened to him sympathetically, and said that I could call around the local mosques and see if anyone could do anything for him and his family. He had portrayed himself as a Muslim, so I spoke to him as such, using words and phrases that most Muslims are familiar with. I’d given him a bit of money, and as I listened to him asking me for more and more (he kept saying he needed $1000… no way, I’m a poor college student), it became more and more obvious that he wasn’t Muslim, especially when he quickly left when I mentioned that I’d called someone who could bring him to the local mosque to speak with the Imam.
Luckily (unluckily for me?) this was not my last encounter with Gypsies. Now let me say that I have no problems with any group of people, but I dislike it when people try to take advantage of others, particularly a group that is predisposed to giving charity. At my local mosque on day during Friday prayers, there was a woman outside who carried a sign and refused to enter the mosque. She was dressed in a long skirt with a matching shirt and scarf, and gave pitiful glances to anyone who looked her way. Several people tried speaking to her and couldn’t identify her language, so they came and got my mom to speak with her (she speaks several languages and can identify many others). My mom began by asking her in English what language she spoke. The lady said something that sounded like Arabic, so my mom spoke to her in Arabic. The lady shook her head and went into another language. My mother asked her, “Bosnian?” and when she nodded her head, my mom called one of her Bosnian friends and handed her the phone. When that gibberish ended (the lady on the phone later laughingly told my mom that nothing made sense) my mom switched to different languages. All in all, my mom (and others) tried Arabic, French, Bosnian, Urdu, and I believe three other languages with this woman, and each time she would nod and then switch to different gibberish.
A few months later when the Muslim community was celebrating Eid, my family and I went to a mall after prayers to find some gifts for friends we were planning to visit later in the evening. Imagine my surprise when this same Gypsy lady showed up with the same sign in the mall, dressed again as a Muslim, and made a beeline for us! As her sign mentioned needing food, we gave her the box of cookies we were holding. She gave us a bad look and walked away with the cookies. But this is not all! We went to Washington D.C. for an Islamic conference that summer, and guess who we saw outside the convention in the same outfit with the same sign! It has to be more than a coincidence, right? Hahaha we laughed over that one for quite a while.
It appears that my old friend has become a bit smarter about the local mosque. We now have a tag team that alternates Fridays, but they always bring a young child with them. One week when I wasn’t there, I was told that we were visited by a man with a big mustache and huge belly. I had a good time explaining why I found that hilarious 🙂
I will never tell anyone not to give charity. So go on giving, even if the recipient seems a bit shady. It’s never wrong to be a good person.
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle (peace be upon him) said, “A man said that he would give something in charity. He went out with his object of charity and unknowingly gave it to a thief. Next morning the people said that he had given his object of charity to a thief. (On hearing that) he said, “O Allah! All the praises are for you. I will give alms again.” And so he again went out with his alms and (unknowingly) gave it to an adulteress. Next morning the people said that he had given his alms to an adulteress last night. The man said, “O Allah! All the praises are for you. (I gave my alms) to an adulteress. I will give alms again.” So he went out with his alms again and (unknowingly) gave it to a rich person. (The people) next morning said that he had given his alms to a wealthy person. He said, “O Allah! All the praises are for you. (I had given alms) to a thief, to an adulteress and to a wealthy man.” Then someone came and said to him, “The alms which you gave to the thief, might make him abstain from stealing, and that given to the adulteress might make her abstain from illegal sexual intercourse (adultery), and that given to the wealthy man might make him take a lesson from it and spend his wealth which Allah has given him, in Allah’s cause.” Sahih Bukhari, Book 24, Hadith 502.