ABDUL GHANI HARON is not a millionaire or corporate figure. He is a retired teacher and well-known in Tikam Batu, a small town between Sungai Petani and Pantai Merdeka.
In November, he became an overnight sensation when he announced that he was giving away free petrol to motorcyclists. His Facebook announcement went viral, with some Netizens wondering whether it was real.
Many people found out the next day that it was not a joke.
In the early morning of Nov 4, more than 1,500 motorcyclists thronged a petrol station in Tikam Batu to get a full tank of petrol for free.
Since then, Ghani has become a hero of sorts to the people, in particular low-income earners who benefit from his extraordinary charity efforts. He also has strong support from well-wishers who chip in to help his noble cause.
Ghani also distributes essential items such as rice, chickens and cooking oil to the needy monthly.
At least once a month, people swarm his family home in Kampung Masjid, Tikam Batu, to receive the items. Not only locals get the aid as even people from Seberang Perai Utara and the Penang mainland drop by.
Despite his “fame”, not many know that Ghani has been involved in small-scale charity work for decades.
The philanthropist has inspired many others to be charitable.
Said Ghani: “I was born here in Kampung Masjid, Tikam Batu, in 1956. My late father, Haron Nyan, was a padi farmer, while my late mother, Salasiah Abd Rahman, was a housewife.
“I am the third of five siblings. I started my schooling at SK Tikam Batu, attended secondary school at SMK Tikam Batu, and later SMK Khir Johari in Sungai Petani. I then furthered my studies at Universiti Malaya.
“Upon graduating, I started serving at schools in this district. It was fortunate that I was based at a local school when I started my teaching career here as it allowed be to be close to my parents.
“My father wanted me to stay near him so that I could look after him and my mother.
“I am married to Che Su Desa and we are blessed with nine children and six grandchildren.
“I started teaching at SM Sultan Mohamad Jiwa in 1980. In 1988, I was transferred to SMK St Theresa, Sungai Petani, before going to SMK Amanjaya in 1999.
“I became the principal of SMK Bukit Selambau in 2006, followed by SMK Sungai Pasir a year later. In 2010, I was made the Kuala Muda and Yan District Education officer. I retired in 2011.
“After retiring, I ventured into catering, which I still to do today.
“I got involved with charity after being inspired by my father, who served as a siak at the Kampung Masjid mosque. As a mosque committee member, he looked after the mosque’s cleanliness and other daily affairs. After university, I helped him with most of his duties at the mosque. He was already in his 70s then.
“From then, I began doing charitable work by collecting and distributing used clothes and giving out free water and ice cubes. I also started giving out free cooking oil, rice, chicken and free fuel for motorcyclists.
“Islam teaches us to take care of those around us, especially the needy. Prophet Muhammad had set the highest standard on how one could do good things for others without being wealthy.
“His compassion and love for others made Islam a great religion, and we are duty-bound to follow in his footsteps although we are far from being as perfect.
“I was born to a poor family. My father owned a small padi plot (half a relong, or 0.1ha), which he toiled to support the family. He also worked at other padi plots to earn some extra income. My mother sold laksa to supplement my father’s income.
“During my childhood, I sold nasi lemak to schoolmates to help my parents. Despite our poverty, my parents told me to work hard in my studies so that I could give back to the family.
“My parents decided that I must further my studies to the university level even though my siblings had to stop schooling after primary school as my parents could not afford to support their schooling.
“My siblings sacrificed their future so that I could further my studies. It was a huge sacrifice and my mother often reminded me to help my siblings.
“So, when I started working, I began paying my dues to my siblings and helped the needy.
“Upon retiring, I ventured into catering so that I could continue to fund my charity work.
“Islam teaches that in every person’s rezeki (sustenance), a part of it belongs to the needy. The needy are helped through zakat (alms), sedekah (donation) and other means.
“With this in mind, I started helping my relatives, then the people in my community.
“For me, charity can be done in many forms. That is why I use social media to urge others to join me in this quest.
“I strongly believe that there are many kind people who wish to do charity. I decided to make my initiative public so that I can get more people to help other needy people.
“Doing charity puts in motion a chain of good deeds. If someone does a good deed, he or she inevitably creates a chain reaction that will encourage others to do the same. And it goes on.
“I was surprised with the attention I got from Netizens. I am touched and honoured by all the support.
“I shared my experience in Bicara Hati books, which is in its fourth series. I did not fix a price for the books because my focus is on sharing my experience and knowledge and not on profit.
“I am grateful that the amount I raised through the books has reached more than RM100,000. I have channelled all that into charity work.
“My journey had its challenges too. In Islam, we are told that the path towards righteousness is full of challenges. There are people who accuse me of trying to gain publicity.
“I have also been accused of trying to lay a path into politics, with some saying I plan to contest in the next general election. I have no idea how they come up with such things.
“My son recently died from cancer. For two years, my wife and I took care of our 21-year-old son. During that period, we organised donations and did charity work from our own home.
“His passing was a great loss. It touched my heart to know that his final wish was for his belongings, including his wheelchair and motorcycle, to be donated.
“I have to undergo dialysis three times a week as one of my kidneys has failed. I hope God gives me strength to continue the work that I do.
“I pray that people who come forward to help me with my charity work are rewarded by God in this life or in the hereafter.”