The month of Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was sent down,
a guidance for the people, and clear verses of guidance and criterion.
[Quran: Chapter 2:183]


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Charity in Islam - A Consistent Act

Muslims are enjoined to give zakat (charity) throughout their lives. Charity is one of the five pillars of Islam. During the holy month of Ramadan, many Muslims especially desire to give charity willingly.

Narrated Ibn Abbas (): “The Prophet was the most generous of the people, and he used to be more so in the month of Ramadan when Gabriel visited him. Gabriel would meet with him every night of Ramadan until the end of the month. The Prophet would recite the Holy Qur’an to Gabriel. When Gabriel met him, he would be more generous than a swift wind (bringing rain).” [Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 126]

So Muslims being extra generous during Ramadan is, of course, a good thing.

Now, there is a difference between zakat (which can be given at any time) and zakat-al-fitr (which is a special charity paid to the needy on or before the day of Eid-al-Fitr). To find out more, please read this article.

Charitable giving should not end after Ramadan. And charitable giving need not only entail the giving of money or goods. Charity, for which the expression used in the Holy Quran is "spending out of what God has given you". Giving charity does not have to be only money. Charity can also be given by using your energy, talent, resources, money, possessions, or whatever else, to help and do good to those in need.

In Islam, charity is very often mentioned alongside prayer because just as the latter is man's relation with God, or man's duty towards God, the former (charity) represents his relation with his fellow-beings, and indeed with all the creation of God.

Prayer expresses love for God, submission to Him, and a desire to bring out the Divine qualities that lie hidden in every person. Charity is an expression of sympathy and benevolence towards God's creation, putting into actual practice the lessons you learn in prayer.

"Of their goods take alms, that so thou might purify and sanctify them; and pray on their behalf, verily thy prayers are a source of security for them."
(The Holy Quran, 9:103)

"Have you seen the one who denies the Religion? Such is he who repulses the orphan, and who does not urge others to feed the poor. Woe to worshippers, who are absent-minded to their prayer, those who make a show (of piety), and refuse to render small acts of kindness (towards others)."
(The Holy Quran, 107: 1-7)

The Prophet said: "Charity is a necessity for every Muslim".

He was asked: 'What if a person has nothing?' The Prophet replied: 'He should work with his own hands for his benefit and then give something out of such earnings in charity.' The Companions asked: 'What if he is not able to work?' The Prophet said: 'He should help poor and needy persons.' The Companions further asked 'What if he cannot do even that?' The Prophet said 'He should urge others to do good.' The Companions said 'What if he lacks that also?' The Prophet said 'He should check himself from doing evil. That is also charity".

In today's economic climate, many people are apprehensive about charity because they are fearful for their own livelihood - lack of job security, unemployment, hefty bills, mouths to feed and so on can be heavy burdens to bear. But there will also be someone out there who is in a worse condition than yourself.

Read on for some tips on how to face this economic recession, and be more giving despite your own difficulties.

Nowadays, families meticulously scrimp and save to meet monthly expenses. Luxuries are now being compromised to hold on to necessities. Promotions and job acquisitions are no-shows. The global economy is facing a crisis which is taking its toll on the peace of mind of people all over the world, as the future looks bleak and the economic forecast spells further doom.

Fortunately for us Muslims, we have Islam: the perfect religion that provides effective remedies for all depressing situations. It teaches Muslims how to strike the perfect balance in all aspects of life, so that any excess and extravagance is avoided, and everyone gets their due, leading to a thriving society and a bustling economy.

Resort to daily repentance (istighfar):

If you are facing a lack of resources and a tighter spending hand nowadays, reflect upon your past and identify possible causes for the descent of this calamity upon you. Did you abstain from giving zakaah, making flimsy excuses to convince yourself that it is not due upon you? Did you avoid giving charity when you could have, instead buying your children more expensive clothes? Did you shout at a beggar, acting arrogantly, even though you could have spared a kind word? Well, it doesn't take long for what goes round to come around, does it?

Repentance is something that brings blessings and provision from Allah. As you'll see in the Quran, even the Prophets sent to bygone nations exhorted them to turn back towards Allah sincerely, and to leave sinning, so that they may be blessed with provision. Prophet Hud said to his people:

"And O my people! Ask forgiveness of your Lord, and turn to Him (in repentance): He will send you the skies pouring abundant rain, and add strength to your strength: so turn you not back in sin!" [11:52]

Prophet Nuh also gave similar advice to his nation:

"And I said: 'Ask your Sustainer to forgive you your sins - for, verily, He is all-forgiving! He will shower upon you heavenly blessings abundant, and will aid you with worldly goods and children, and will bestow upon you gardens, and bestow upon you running waters.'" [71:10-12]

Now is the time for us Muslims to turn back to Allah in humility, seeking His forgiveness for being lax in giving charity to those less fortunate than us, and for committing other sins.

Try to do istighfar at least a hundred times a day. Leading a life of piety, in which you try to stay away from disobeying Allah as much as possible, leads to a well-provided, resourceful existence:

"And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine..."

Give zakaah and supererogatory sadaqah:

Try to meticulously calculate your zakaah this year, and give it off on time to the most deserving person or family within your clan, or in your neighborhood. Make sure you are able to search for the neediest person nearby. It will take extra time and effort, but Allah, The All-Knower, will be most appreciative of any extra sincerity you put in giving charity.

Some signs of needy people are apparent on their persona: they work at menial jobs, worry and anxiety mar their facial expression, their clothes are old and worn, and their physical health depicts malnutrition and undernourishment.

"...and give them (others) preference even though they were themselves in need." [59:9]

Further, make charity an ongoing family project. A good strategy could be making your children donate any of their old toys, clothes or shoes to poor children whenever they are bought new ones. This will not only de-clutter your home, but will also bring more blessing in it, not to mention being an effective practical Islamic training for your children.

One thing to remember is that, although giving away old things is praiseworthy in itself, sometimes, Muslims should also donate those things which they love and cherish, because Allah says that they cannot attain piety otherwise:

"By no means shall you attain piety unless you spend of that which you love." [3:92]

By Sadaf Farooqi


Special Ramadan Series

Dear Reader, Assalaamu’alaikum.

Ramadan Mubarak. We wish you a blessed and productive Ramadan! Make no mistake about it - keeping the fast and increasing our acts of worship during this blessed month is not an easy task. The physical demands of balancing work or school with fasting all day, feeling fatigued and less effective than you normally are, waking up for Suhoor, praying Teraweeh and Tahajjud prayers, dealing with sleep deficits.

But the last thing we would want is to let Ramadan pass us by without doing all that we aim and desire to. Do not allow yourself to feel guilty or regretful when Ramadan passes.

The Ramadan Series will send you emails with practical tips on how to gain and maintain the physical and spiritual energy necessary to embark on increased religious oligations so that you will reap the benefits from this blessed month. This includes special Ramadan duas to say during the month. Do sign-up today!

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