Islamic Approach Should Be Studied And Considered In Addressing Homeless People Issue

By Noor Farhana Ahmad Norain

KUALA LUMPUR, July 12 (Bernama)-- Individuals fast asleep at bus stops, five-foot ways and benches in front of rows of business premises seldom escape the notice of passers-by in the city.

Despite numerous help and contributions given to the homeless, the problem remains and in fact, more of the destitute have resorted to living on the streets.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak went down to the city streets recently to personally talk to some of the homeless to find out the extent of the problem, showing exemplary leadership in Islam.

Dr Fadlan Mohd Othman, a senior lecturer at the Quranic and Sunnah Studies Department of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's (UKM) Islamic Studies Faculty, said Prophet Muhammad's approach should be seen as a model solution.

"A hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah mentioned the Ahlul Suffah, a group of the Prophet's followers including the poor and homeless who mostly migrated to Medina and stayed at the verandah of the city's mosque.

"Ahlul Suffah were considered as guests of Islam during the time of the Prophet, and the public treated them with love. The group was often visited by the Prophet himself and other leaders and this point should be emphasised by our leaders in the country," Fadlan said.

He said the homeless should be given motivation and spiritual fulfilment to be patient in facing challenges and to change for the better.

"People don't opt to be homeless, and this also happened during the time of the Prophet but in different circumstances. During the migration, they were with no family, so there was a place given to them.

"The Prophet often visited and taught them about Islam and the proper way of reading the Quran," he said.

Secretariat executive director of Ihtimam Malaysia Foundation, Zakuan Sawai said the spiritual approach would be more effective in engaging with problematic groups such as homeless people.

"We should apply the concept of friendly engagement and not punishment. We need to identify the causes; why they end up homeless and the information obtained to be channelled to the relevant agency or ministry," he said.

Ihtimam Foundation, with 300 registered volunteers, was established in 2011. It has been actively assisting people with problems such as drug users, transgender, sex workers and the homeless through various activities and programmes.

Zakuan also proposed the establishment of a coordinating agency to monitor the efforts of various Islamic non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and urged local NGOs to also play their role.

"Usually, this group of people are unsure of who to turn to, and we are duty-bound to provide them guidance and to refer them to the relevant authority.

"The issue of 'street friends' does not only exist in Kuala Lumpur, but also in other cities. These people need compassion. We cannot solve this problem overnight, so the efforts must continue," he said.

Meanwhile, Fadlan said the role of the zakat institution should also be enhanced to ensure those eligible for aid among the homeless were not left out.

He said the role of mosques should also be expanded be being a community welfare institution as well and not just as a place of worship and religious education.

Various efforts have been made by the government in addressing the homeless people issue, including the creation of e-Kasih, a database for poor families to help in the planning, implementation and monitoring of poverty-eradication programmes since 2007.

The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development had established 'Anjung Singgah' in 2011, as a one-stop intervention centre to assist homeless people.

The ministry through the Social Welfare Department is expected to launch 'Op Qaseh' this month to also help tackle the problem.

However, the Islamic approach should also be emphasised to encourage vagrants to change their lives for the better and not take the easy way of remaining as homeless people constantly cared for by the benevolent in society.


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