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Islam and Charity

Publishing Date : 08 May, 2018

IQBAL EBRAHIM
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM



Charity is a concept that is part of and is preached by almost every religion of the world and is a way of bringing justice to society but more especially it is one way of easing the burdens that the less fortunate people in society suffer on a daily basis. ‘……to spend out of your substance, out of love for Him. For your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer and for those who ask….be steadfast in prayer and practice regular charity….’ (Quran 2: 177)


This is the essence of any religion, as such charity is central to a Muslim's life because Islam has made charity in the form of Zakaat as obligatory and binding upon all those who practice the faith. There are different forms of charity but the basic two forms of charity in Islam are the forms of obligatory and voluntary, called Zakaah and Sadaqah respectively.


The Zakaah contribution is compulsory upon us; Of the Five Pillars of Islam the third obligation upon a Muslim is “zakaah” – charity or the poor due. Muslims believe that everything in the universe belongs to Allah and that He has graciously entrusted humankind with the earth, its resources, etc. We are enjoined to earn and spend our wealth properly and nobly.  Giving zakaah, is a religious obligation that purifies the very wealth that we possess. Zakaah is the honorable act of setting aside a percentage of one’s yearly savings, once they have reached a certain threshold, for the sake of helping the poor and needy. By giving the yearly zakaah, the believers free themselves from the chains of self- centrism, greed and sheer materialism.


Sadaqah is a very wide term and is used in the Quran to cover all kinds of charity.  Examples of other charitable deeds are; "your salutation to people," "your enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong", "refraining from doing evil to any one", or a smile or a glass of water to a thirsty person, or they may even just utter a kindly word and so on. The circle of those toward whom an act of charity may be done is equally wide.


To give food to one's wife or one's children is called a charitable deed, while to maintain even one's self is not excluded from the category of charitable deeds. The Noble Prophet said, "Whatever you feed yourself with is a charity, and whatever you feed your children with is a charity, and whatever you feed your wife with is a charity, and whatever you feed your employee with is a charity." The doing of good to any or all of creation is also classed as charity; Planting something from which a person, bird or animal later eats or even seeks shelter also counts as charity.


'By no means shall you attain righteousness unless you give (freely as a charity) from that which you love; and whatever you spend Allah knows it well.' (Qur’an 3: 92).  'Whoever does an atom weight of good he shall see it (in his book), and whoever does an atom weight of evil he shall see it' (Qur’an 99: 7 - 8). The Bible says: ‘And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity’. 1 Corinthians 13: 13.


A Muslim is urged to care for others. He or she cares for their spiritual wellbeing as well as for their material welfare and this includes care for their individual needs as well as for the community / collective or social good.  Helping others is a basic rule of conduct in Islamic living for this is how a Muslim is characterized throughout the Qur'an: "And the believers, men and women, are protectors of one another; they enjoin that which is good / just and forbid the evil." (Quran 9: 71). And: "So give the kinsman his due, and to the needy and to the wayfarer. That is for those who seek Allah's countenance. And such are successful." Quran 30:38



To be charitable does not necessarily mean giving money, Even the spirit of kindness and well-wishing is part of charity.; look around you, there are so many people who need assistance, this could not necessarily be in monetary terms but it could be doing things like giving assistance to an invalid person to cross the road, a friendly smile, lending an ear to a stressed person, visiting the sick and the elderly who need company, there are so many orphans in society, how about paying them a visit and other such works.  A kind word is an act of charity; 'Kind words and forgiveness are better than a charity followed by injury' (Qur’an 2: 263).


Going even further, even to teach someone illiterate, to take the hand of someone blind, to guide someone who is lost and to aid one who has fallen - all are acts of generosity and charity. Even to remove from the road anything, which may cause hurt is considered a charitable deed. Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said: "Most liked by Almighty Allah is the one who is most charitable and humanitarian to the people in general. And the most liked act is that of pleasing a Muslim or relieving him/her of some grief, or helping them when they are in debt, or saving one from hunger."


Due to life’s uncertainty it is much better for the Muslim to give away in charity during his lifetime before death overcomes him. Believers are urged to hurry with giving the charity and should not delay it unnecessarily. The Prophet (PBUH) was once asked about the best of all charities, so he said; 'The best charity is what you give during your life while you are in need of it.'


'The likeness of those who spend their money for Allah's sake is as the likeness of a grain (of corn), it grows seven ears, every single ear has a hundred grains, and Allah multiplies (increases the reward) for whom He wills, and Allah cares for all and is All Knowing' (Qur’an 2: 261).


The believer also should not follow up his charity by hurting the feelings of the one who receives it, for example by reminding him of the generosity. Doing so would only nullify the reward of the charity. 'O you who believe, cancel not your charities by reminders of your generosity, or by harm' (Qur’an 2: 264).


When one is unable to or may for some reason, not want to give charity to a person who is asking for it, he should kindly tell him without hurting his feelings. 'Kind words and forgiveness are better than a charity followed by injury' (Qur’an 2: 263). These are some of the Islamic etiquettes of giving charity, in the final analysis anyone who gives charity with a good intention always feels the inner peace and pleasure of having helped someone less fortunate. It is also a reminder that we should be thankful to our Creator for being blessed for being more fortunate than others.


'By no means shall you attain righteousness unless you give (freely as a charity) from that which you love; and whatever you spend Allah knows it well.' (Qur’an 3: 92). 'Who is he that will loan to Allah a beautiful loan which Allah will double unto his credit and multiply it many times?' (2: 245). There are many poor and needy people in society, let us fulfil our obligations to our Lord and Creator by assisting those in need.

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