By Mahbubur Rahman
For the first time in human history, the number of people suffering from chronic hunger has reached one billion! Today, one out of every six persons in the world is starving. According to a UN report, about 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes. More unfortunately, it is children who die most often. Even in America, 49 million people go hungry every night. The other picture, however, reveals that there is plenty of food in the world for everyone. Why then, is there such a sad scenario? Addressing the issue of hunger, therefore, is not only important—it’s imperative!
Sure, there has hardly been a time in history when hunger has not touched humanity. The question is how we can and should deal with the current alarming situation—a situation that is no less than a calamity. Given that many factors cause and contribute to famine and hunger, dealing with them is undoubtedly a daunting task. The problem becomes even more insurmountable when the hungry are trapped in systemic, silent and severe poverty.
Hunger is a ‘silent epidemic’ that is very seldom addressed in our society with utmost care, urgency or seriousness. It’s almost like a slow poisoning, where the symptoms don’t appear serious, but death is inevitable. In our society, when poor people don’t have any money or means to buy (or get) food, they are unable to nourish themselves. Persistent food insecurity thus causes tremendous health damage to both kids and adults. As they are constantly malnourished, the adults become weaker and often sick and because of this they become unable to work which then makes them even poorer and hungrier. Studies show how this downward spiral often continues until death visits these ill-fated people.
In the sight of God, harshness, carelessness or even insensitivity to the suffering of the poor, helpless and hungry is tantamount to denying the religion and the Day of Judgment.
Our war against hunger, therefore, needs to be not only stronger, but also humane, effective and comprehensive. We shouldn’t forget that the current hunger situation exposes the ugly face of our societal injustices and corrupt practices. While there is no denying that numerous organizations, agencies and individuals are working sincerely to address the challenge of hunger, it is also true that our sadist mentality of letting people suffer is much more dominant than our efforts to help people out of this hellhole. “Greed is good” is still the guiding mantra and obsession for many of us. Even when we want to take any new initiative to address hunger, we think repeating rhetoric will suffice. This is actually a sign of our insensitivity, if not insanity!
It’s time that we look at our own lifestyles dispassionately and determine if we are positioned to perpetuate hunger or committed to eradicate it. We can’t deny the gravity of the situation, our responsibility and our ultimate reality. One may ask: what is that reality? The Quran tells us, as do almost all the religious scriptures in one way or another: “Does the human being think that no one has power over him because he has at his disposal enormous amount of material wealth? Does the human being think that no one sees him?(90:5-7) In another place of the Qur’an, God Almighty warns us: But you prefer the life of this world, although the Hereafter is better and everlasting.” (87:16-17)
Sometimes people think that prayer and performance of certain religious duties will suffice for them to earn the pleasure of God. Some also believe that fighting hunger is the duty of the government alone, not theirs. But these are mistaken views, for in the sight of God, harshness, carelessness or even insensitivity to the suffering of the poor, helpless and hungry is tantamount to denying the religion and the Day of Judgment.
In the Quran, God says: “Have you observed the person who belies the religion and denies the Judgment? That is the person who repulses the orphan without care or consideration and does not concern himself nor encourages others to feed the hungry and help the needy.”(107:1-3)
In Chapter 74 of the Quran, a moving scene from the Day of Judgment has been presented in which the righteous people in their heavenly gardens ask the disbelievers and liars, who are encompassed by the fires of Hell, the reasons for their punishment. They are told that among the reasons are “neglecting the rights of the poor, letting the hapless people get afflicted by hunger, lack of clothing and suffering, and turning faces away from this suffering humanity.”
Hunger is a test for those who are inflicted by this calamity, but it’s a bigger test for those who have wealth and yet they are not helping those who suffer. To attain the grace of God, we have to be God conscious, remember our accountability to Him and be compassionate to His creation. He is indeed our Lord and to Him is our return. That is our ultimate reality!
Reprinted, with permission, from The Message International.