Reality… Not Imaginary

The New York Times Newspaper wrote a report in its issue on Tuesday 23 January 1997 about Charles Feeney, one of the most eccentric self-made wealthy men in America. The report cast a spotlight on the man’s donations of more than $600 million during the past 15 years on charitable programs discretely. The businessman made his fortune by establishing chain stores in airports in Europe and America. Although economic magazines estimate that his fortune exceeds a billion dollars, the truth is that it does not exceed $5 million, after he transferred most of his capital money to his two charities.


After years of secrecy, the businessman had to admit to his charitable donations, when his company’s files went public as he intended to sell his company.


It tuned out that his two charitable institutions gave donations to many schools, universities, vocational education, teachers training programs, hospitals, medical research institutions, elderly homecare, orphanages, anti-crime and anti-drugs programs and many international aid organizations.


When asked about the reason behind his generous donations, he answered “I believe that I own enough money, I decided a long time ago that I should not let money control my life or own me, as I am the one who controls it and owns it.”


Although there are many wealthy people in America who donate millions of dollars, the way that this man made his donations and his care for secrecy and concealment is a first, and it could be even prohibited.


Some people might think that the reason behind these donations is tax evasion, but the strange thing is that the man donated all that money after paying taxes in full.


Harvey Dale, a University Professor of Philanthropy and the Law at the New York University School of Law, who announced the distribution of these donations in 1982 in complete secrecy, said that Mr. Feeney does not own a house or a car, travels on tourist class and his hand watch is worth no more than $15.


A lot of times in our Arab societies we think that nobody on earth is as generous as we are, and a lot of times we depict the West with materialism and selfishness, but examples like this one compel us to revise our revise our calculations and our outlook and ask ourselves some questions!


These examples are not imaginary. Our history is abundant with even better examples than that. The prophet’s companions are great examples, such as Othman Bin Affan and Abdul Rahman Bin Awf, who during their times were considered as the wealthiest people of our times. Even though they were already promised paradise, they did not dawdle to spend generously when necessary. It is enough to say that Othman Bin Affan – may God be pleased with him – took the responsibility of preparing and equipping the army of Al-Asrah (the hardship) out of his own pocket.


Abdul Rahman Bin Awf, the successful and faithful wealthy merchant, donated a whole convoy of 700 riding animals with carriages to the people of Al-Medina, when he heard Ayesha saying “I heard the prophet saying that he dreamed that Abdul Rahman Bin Awf will enter paradise crawling.” That reminded him of what the prophet (PBUH) said to him “O Bin Awf! You are one of the wealthy, and you will enter paradise crawling, so make a deal with God and He will release your legs.” It was also narrated that he was so generous that it was said “Dwellers of Al-Medina are all partners in Bin Awf’s wealth; he lent money to one-third of them, paid loans for one-third and donated and gave money to the rest of them.” His generosity and charity made him nothing but wealthier, he once said “If I left a rock I could find gold and silver beneath it.” Kindness is always rewarded with kindness. He instructed that 50,000 Dinars of his fortune should be given away after his death for the sake of God, to be distributed among Badr survivors, who took their shares including Othman Bin Affan despite his wealth, saying “the money of Bin Awf is pure and Halal, and spending it is a bless and verdure.”


The responsibility of the rich and wealthy towards their societies does not stop at what they are obligated to give by law, but goes beyond that to what is required by brotherhood, solidarity, consolation and pushing society and nations forward.


With such individuals, nations prosper and gain victory.