Poverty and Hunger

 

The poor will grow in number. (Amal al-Din al-Qazwini, Mufid al-`Uulum wa Mubid al-Humum)

 

 

Gains will be shared out only among the rich, with no benefit to the poor. (Tirmidhi)

 

 

Three years before the appearance of the Dajjal, there will be exceedingly stressful days and hunger will rule �
(Muhammad ibn `Abd ar-Rasul Barzanji,
Al-Isha`ah li Ashrat as-Sa`ah, p. 220)

 

Many hadiths of our Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace) mention the poverty and hunger that people will suffer before the Mahdi comes. Of course, poverty and hunger have existed throughout history, but the poverty of the End Times will increase enormously all over the world. This situation will herald Prophet Jesus' (pbuh) second coming.

(bottom left) 25 Thousand People Die of Starvation Every Day (Ozgur Gundem, October 17, 2002)
(bottom right) (Herald Tribunbe, July 30, 2003)

Today, many people live without sufficient amounts food and water, as well as in unhealthy conditions all over the world. While most of these people are located in Africa, Asia, and South America, they are also quite numerous in such rich counties as America and those of western Europe. As only a small portion of people live in great prosperity, nearly 2 billion live below the poverty line. This article, written at the start of the year 2000, explains the global situation, as follows:

As we enter the new millennium, we bring with us a world in which 35,000 children die each day from causes related to poverty. That is one child dying every 2.5 seconds. We face a world in which the total number of people below the poverty line is growing each year, and now stands at around 1.5 billion. This is greater than the population of China, four times the entire population of the European Union.

The combined wealth of the world's richest three families� is more than the annual income of 600 million people in the least developed countries. Moreover, in more than 80 of the world's poorest countries per capita income is lower today than it was 10 years ago.12

In the world today, poverty has reached alarming proportions. A recent report by UNICEF stated that one in four people live in "unimaginable suffering and want."13 Moreover 3 billion people struggle to survive on less than $2 a day.14 Approximately 1.3 billion people lack safe water, and 2.6 billion people are without access to adequate sanitation.15

According to a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), for the year 2000, 826 million people did not have enough to eat. In other words, one in six people are hungry.16

Hunger reached serious dimensions all over the world, particularly in Africa. The story of people who died of starvation and violence along the Zaire-Rwanda border was the cover story of Time magazine on August 1, 1994.

Over the last ten years, the injustice of income distribution has increased more than one can imagine. United Nations reports show that, in 1960, the 20% of the people of the world who live in the richest countries had 30 times the income of the poorest 20; by 1995 it was 82 times . 17 As an example of the collapse of social justice, the wealth of the world's 225 richest individuals is equal to the annual income of the poorest 47%.18

Such current statistical data point to what the Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace) said about the increase of poverty. In the hadiths, it is revealed that poverty and hunger will be among the signs of the first period of the End Times. Obviously, that period indicated by the Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace) describes conditions in our day. If we look at past centuries, we see that the difficulties and anxiety brought about by drought, war and other calamities were temporary and limited to a particular region. However, today, the poverty and difficulty of earning a living are permanent and endemic.

Certainly our Lord, Who has endless compassion and mercy, does not wrong people. Indeed, this unjust state of affairs shows clearly that the world is stratified on the basis of selfishness and greed rather than on religion, moral values, and conscience.

Indeed, with the verse, "Corruption has appeared in both land and sea because of what people's own hands have brought about, so that they may taste something of what they have done, so that hopefully they will turn back" (Surat ar-Rum, 30:41), God informs us that the reason for this corruption is humanity's turning away from His religion.

With the dawning of the Golden Age, all of these problems will disappear. Hunger and poverty will give way to wealth and plenty. In that age, nobody will be poor or needy, for religion will be lived in the manner God describes in the Qur'an and people will share their goods with those in need, as revealed in the verse, "And beggars and the destitute received a due share of their wealth" (Surat adh-Dhariyat, 51:19). In any case, it is impossible for some people to be wealthy and others to be poor in a society that lives by Islamic values. If a person believes, then that person will be afraid of falling into the position of "nor did he urge the feeding of the poor. Therefore, here today he has no friend" (Surat al-Haqqa, 69:34-35). This is a means by which great social justice, well-being, and plenty can come about in society.

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12. John Sayer, "Millennium Article (for South China Morning Post)." Online at www.oxfam.org.hk/english/resource/document/millennium.shtml.
1 3. "Children and Poverty: Key Facts" (UNICEF: 2000). Online at: www.unicef.org/copenhagen5/factsheets.htm.
1 4. www.globalissues.org/TradeRelated/Facts.asp#1
1 5. "Children and Poverty."
1 6. "The state of food insecurity in the world" (FAO: 2000). Online at: www.fao.org/FOCUS/E/SOFI00/sofi001-e.htm.
1 7. "Human Development Report 1998" (New York: United Nations Development Program, September 1998). Online at www.oneworld.org/ni/issue310/facts.htm.
1 8. "World Statistics."

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