What's in a Serviette?


Serviettes come in a variety of sizes, colours and styles. One may buy a basic white serviette or one could opt for an elaborate “designer” serviette – a larger full colour one with exotic patterns. Serviettes are generally used to wipe one's hands after eating. A few wipes, followed by some squashing and crumpling, and the serviette is then thrown away. Unlike many other luxuries, there are no additional tangible benefits in a more eye-catching serviette. A basic simple serviette can do the job just as well as one with beautiful patterns on it. The only imagined extra benefit is that the fancy serviette will impress the guests!!! The various serviettes of different sizes, colours and styles vary greatly in price. The most basic serviette, if purchased in bulk, costs less than five cents per serviette. A slightly larger version (the ordinary white serviette) would cost about thirty cents per unit from a retailer. The fancy printed variant costs approximately R1.80 each. Other types cost anything in between. The more popular choice at functions and occasions is a serviette which costs much more than one rand each.



Having understood the cost difference, now do the sums. Every week dozens of Muslim functions, where meals are also served, take place throughout the country. These are attended by thousands of people. A serviette is placed for each person's use. As per the popular choice, more than one rand extra (above the cost of a basic serviette) is spent per person to wipe their fingers. A reasonable estimate is that on many weeks approximately ten thousand rands EXTRA is spent – merely to wipe people’s fingers. We can now answer the question “What’s in a serviette?” Every week hundreds of meals that could have been fed to starving people have been crumpled up and thrown away — all in the serviettes of those who have wiped their fingers after having eaten to their fill. In the squashed serviettes is the money to pay for the water and electricity of those who cannot even afford these basic services. The EXTRA amount spent on fancy serviettes in one month would have paid for a borehole in a rural area where people have to walk a long distance to fetch a bucket of clean water.



It is time to sit and ponder over these realities. Let us strive to make an impression in the court of Allah Ta’ala. At least save the EXTRA money that is being “wiped into the bin” and pass it on to those who are looking for food in bins. This will bring great barakah for us in this world and immense rewards in the Hereafter.

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