During last year’s Hajj, a couple from Barbados got the idea to buy food and pass it out to the kids begging on the streets around the Prophet’s mosque. We discovered two groups. The Burmese kids and the Syrian kids, who were new to the street scene. The Burmese kids were all depressed and had been trained not to talk to strangers nor take anything from them besides cash. The Syrians had just arrived, often from regular middle class families fleeing the war. They had just become poor. It was new to them.
The Syrian kids were supposed to be selling itr, cheap roll-on perfumes, to the people entering the Prophet’s mosque, but instead they were playing games like hide and seek and man hunt, all around the area. They often stopped people to use their phones to get directions, but in reality they’d turn on YouTube and watch soccer clips. We got them pizza, figuring all kids like pizza. But the reaction we got was both amazing and hilarious.
The boy on my right in the brown shirt said, give this food to the Burmese kids they need it more. And he took us to them. All these kids new each other and the Syrians has even learned some Burmese.
The funny part was when he said, “And also, we don’t eat this food. We only eat things like stuffed squash, lamb or roasted chicken with potatoes.” We went to the Burmese kids and offered them the pizza, but they refused it. Now here’s the part that was stunning. I saw the Syrian boy whisper to one of them: “These are Hujjaj from America, just take the food so they don’t feel bad, and I will even pay you to take it.” How astounding is that. The umma of Islam is amazing. That this depth of manners and akhlaq are still being passed down is truly a testament.