Charity Does Indeed Matter: Al Waleed and Al Ghurair
21 July 2015
By Tariq A. Al Maeena
Two significant philanthropic gestures in UAE and Saudi Arabia uphold the
spirit of Ramadan and further the cause of social welfare
Ramadan is a special time of the year — a time when Muslims around the world
take a step back from their daily routines and focus on community, charity,
fasting, and prayer. It is recounted in several authenticated hadith that
Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was the most generous of people, and even more so
during Ramadan. It is a month to show your compassion to people who endure
all levels of suffering and isolation.
This generosity is not confined to money or gifts. It can come in the form of
many variants such as being generous with your time to a family in your
neighbourhood that you have not seen in a while, or someone in a strange new
city. It could be helping out a new Muslim who is fasting for the first time
or assisting an elderly couple who cannot get to the mosque? Even the
smallest gesture of kindness and charity can make a huge difference in
It is in this month that two high-profile charitable causes were announced
that received considerable attention beyond the borders of their respective
countries. In the first instance, Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal of Saudi Arabia
pledged his entire fortune, estimated at more than $30 billion (Dh110
billion) to global charitable causes over the coming years. He said that the
"philanthropic pledge will help build bridges to foster cultural
understanding, develop communities, empower women, enable youth, provide
vital disaster relief and create a more tolerant and accepting world".
"With this pledge, I am honouring my life-long commitment to what matters
most — helping to build a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable world for
generations to come," he said. The focus of his charitable activities would
be towards causes such as disease eradication, inter-cultural understanding,
women's empowerment, disaster relief and providing electricity to remote and
In recent years, his charity has invested in $3.5 billion worth of projects
in more than 92 countries and has contributed to research studies at a number
of leading world universities. Within the country, Al Waleed's projects
include providing 10,000 housing units to Saudi citizens as part of his
development housing initiative, in addition to granting Saudis 10,000 cars,
bringing the total number of beneficiaries among Saudi men and women to
100,000 in 10 years.
"What I possess is a gift from Allah. I was born and brought up in this dear
country, the most precious place for me to give and share with its people. In
whatever I do, I am thankful to and seek the countenance of Allah," he said.
In the nearby Gulf Cooperation Council state of the UAE, another Arab
business magnate pledged one third of his wealth to charitable causes.
Abdullah Ahmad Al Ghurair, whose vast business interests include banking,
food, construction and real estate, unveiled the Abdullah Al Ghurair
Education Foundation, a philanthropic institution dedicated to the
advancement of young men and women in the UAE and the Arab world, with a
capital investment of Dh4.2 billion.
Speaking on the occasion, Al Ghurair said that "Education is the cornerstone
of prosperous, progressive and inclusive societies and essential for the
sustainable development of our nation and the empowerment of our future
leaders. For many years, the UAE has been known for helping less fortunate
countries and individuals. The launch of the Foundation, therefore, is an
extension of what our leadership is already committed to doing. Improving the
quality of education and equipping our youth with the skills to succeed in
the 21st century are keys to reducing unemployment — among the Arab world's
most pressing challenges — and to building peace and prosperity in our
"And it is through education that we will effectively tackle inequality,
enabling the youth from low-income families to fulfil their individual
potential and to help their communities thrive," he added. The Abdullah Al
Ghurair Education Foundation will target UAE nationals and Arab citizens
living in the UAE before expanding to include Arab youth across the Arab
He reminded the audience during the press conference that "the leadership of
the UAE has always prioritised the welfare of its people and has been a
champion for the wider Arab community and in recognition of their vision and
as a continuation of their legacy, my family and I have accepted a greater
responsibility to open the doors of opportunity to the next generation".
Both Al Waleed and Al Ghurair are to be highly commended for their charitable
deeds. But there are millions of others who also perform acts of charity
albeit on a much smaller scale that often go unnoticed. The rewards for them
are no less though.
The holy Quran says: "Those who spend their wealth by night and day, in
secret and in public, shall have their reward with their Lord. On them shall
be no fear, nor shall they grieve" (2:274), and "By no means shall you attain
righteousness unless you give freely from that which you love. And whatever
you give, Allah knows it well" (3:92). Charity does indeed matter.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.