L-R: Olusesi Tajudeen; Alhaja Suwebat Kupolati; beneficiary of deep freezer, Mrs. Shittu Kudirat, and Alhaji Ahmed Olanrewaju, during the NASFAT Lagos zone one Ramadan lecture/ NAZAS empowernment programme in Lagos

In a life-changing experience, some beneficiaries went home with gift items and cash donations from the Nasfat Agency for Zakat and Sadaqat (NAZAS), a non-governmental organisation, during disbursement of Zakat to the needy in the society at a Ramadan lecture organised in Lagos recently. Funke Olaode writes

In order to create peaceful-co-existence between the poor and the rich and maintain balance in the society, Islam strongly advocates charity as a means of sharing wealth to cater for others, while it also emphasises the issue of feeding and empowering the poor.
Fulfilling this injunction, the NASFAT Agency for Zakat and Sadaqat, NAZAS, a non-governmental organisation saddled with the responsibility of taking care of the needy in the society recently empowered some beneficiaries with some gift items and cash donations.
This was done during an annual Ramadan lecture organised by NASFAT Surulere branch at the National Stadium Mosque in Lagos under the watchful eyes of some dignitaries and Alhaji Shamusudeen Oladele Afunku who represented NAZAS chairman, Mr. Niyi Yusuf.

The Beginning

Though incorporated on January 31, 2014, NAZAS commenced operations in May 2014 with the recruitment of the pioneer general and operations manager, and eight-man board of directors who are specialist in their fields. The agency was formally launched on June 21 the same year, which coincided with the first day of Ramadan.

Committed to touching lives, the agency swung into action immediately through empowerment and scholarship programmes, which cut across primary, secondary, tertiary schools, visually impaired, law school and prison inmates.
The agency’s benevolent act is not limited to individuals alone as it had reached out to the vulnerable within the society through donations of relief materials to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Also, through its public health initiative, the agency has been collaborating with the Islamic Medical Association of Nigeria (IMAN) to provide free medical services to the downtrodden in underserved locations.
Headed by its chairman Mr. Niyi Yusuf, the agency was able to achieve all of this with the support and commitments of donors and kind-hearted Nigerians who have volunteered some of their yearly earnings in form of Zakat. So far, the agency has spent over N70 million in providing succour to the less privileged in the society.

Joyful Beneficiaries

In an interview with THISDAY, some of the beneficiaries couldn’t hide their joy as they received cash donations ranging from N200,000 to N250,000 and gift items such as deep freezers, coolers, photocopy machines and so on.
For a physically-challenged young man, Lukman Oluwo from Shomolu area, it was a moment of shock, excitement and emotion for him having received N200,000 to start his water and soft drink business. Oluwo’s story was pathetic having been short-changed by a relation he once lived.
“I was assisting my mother in her petty trading when I was empowered by NAZAS through NASFAT Ikeja branch. I bought deep freezer and my business was going on fine. Unfortunately I was short-changed by a relation who took advantage of my predicament. He seized all these things, pushed me to the street and ran away. With this N200,000 from NAZAS, I will build a container and start up my business and by the grace of God I will rise again. I am grateful to NAZAS.”

A trader from Mushin area, Hazizat Adelagun Arike, who received a cash donation of N200,000, had a pathetic story to tell. She explained, “I currently sleep in the mosque but God used these kind-hearted individuals through NAZAS to put an end to my homelessness and resuscitate my business. I am a petty trader trading in pure water and soft drinks. But due to challenge I have been struggling. With this money I will get an accommodation and put my business back on track. I pray to God to continue to be with them and family.”

With a cheque of N250,000 to boost her petty trade, Shittu Sherifat enthused, “Honestly, NAZAS is God-sent. I am a trader selling lady’s wears, household utensils. I hawk around moving from one complex to another. I heard about this NAZAS through member of NASFAT Ikeja. I obtained the form in 2014 and God remembered me through them. I didn’t expect it. I didn’t know anybody among them. I got married and moved to Ibadan. This money has put an end to my hawking as I would go and rent a shop.”

Timely Lecture

The disbursement exercise was preceded by a Ramadan lecture delivered by two guest speakers, Alhaji Daud Oniyide and Alhaji Isiak Folorunsho Faagba.
In his presentation titled ‘The Benefits of Giving in Islam’, Alhaji Oniyide of Lagos State University said the lecture could not have come at a better time as it is relevant in the Holy month of Ramadan. According to him, “it becomes imperative to analyse and enumerate the importance of the lecture. Why? Because it aims at shedding more light on the concept of spending and giving; particularly in this month of blessing, forgiveness, charity and of doing good deeds.”
Speaking further, Oniyide asked rhetorically, “Have you ever noticed that life doesn’t offer equal opportunities to people as it elevates some people and empower them with abundance of wealth while some are begging for their daily food and at times dying of poverty?
Oniyide explained that giving is necessary to any man that is being denied to meet the basic needs of life; like food, clothing, shelter who can feel neglected and estranged. Poverty, he stressed, leaves its victims hopeless and vulnerable.
He said it becomes imperative to come to the aid of these less privileged and relieves them of their predicament by giving them financial, moral and emotional support at all times.
“This is why Islam has organised an institution of charity such as NAZAS to eradicate poverty and cater for the have-not. And it has become a religious obligation upon whoever Almighty Allah endowed with abundance of wealth to stand and respond to the need of such people, giving them the basic needs of life. Islam preaches that everybody should have a meaningful life.

And on charity giving in Islam, Oniyide said it can be in form of money, food, sharing of experience and spending valuable time with those who need assistance, an act he noted maintains and strengthens good relationship between the giver and the recipient.

And for Zakah, Oniyide said it is important as it was mentioned in the Qur’an 30 times and combined with salat in seven times. “Zakah is the third pillar of Islam. It is a specific payment prescribed to all Muslims both male and female, matured and saint whenever his wealth reaches a specific level and is adequately distributed to a specific group of people in the community.”
Corroborating Oniyide, Alhaji Faagba also admonished the Muslim faithful to pay their Zakat as at when due because that is the only one God accepts and the one that can redeemed one’s sins in the sight of God. The cleric said Zakat is not for boastful individual in terms of donation as they have to be modest while giving and even adopt the saying that “don’t allow your left hand to know what the right hand is doing. Be a cheerful giver.”

Enumerating the benefits of giving he said it hastens prayers to be answered by God; ensures divine favour from the Almighty and in prosperity, and that givers will never lack.
Advising the listeners to embrace humility, Faagba said “in whatever position you find yourselves, don’t be arrogant with it because God is the giver of positions, and even as Moslems be patient and persevere in the face of adversity, provocation and challenges, and above all, be like God in forgiveness, patience and mercy.”