By Khwaja Mohammad Zubair
3 August 2011
The joy of giving is overwhelming when one shares his wealth with the less fortunate during the holy month of Ramadan. And it is in this month that the act of charity in all its manifestation is seen most at every Muslim home.
Charity towards man, in its widest sense, is laid down in the Holy Quran as the second great pillar on which the structure of Islam stands. Spending out of whatever has been given to man stands for charity in a broad sense, i.e., for acts of benevolence to humanity in general. For what God has given to man is not only the wealth which he possesses but all the faculties and power with which he has been gifted.
The Quran not only lay stress on such great deeds of charity as the emancipation of slaves, the feeding of the poor, taking care of orphans and doing good to humanity in general, but gives equal emphasis to smaller acts of benevolence. And in a similar strain, the speaking of kind words to parents is referred to as an act of charity, and generally the use of kind words is recommended as in itself a charitable deed in many places in the Holy Quran. The Quran also speaks of extending charity not only to all men, including believers and non-believers, but also to the dumb creation.
Charity, in the sense of giving away one’s wealth, is of two kinds, voluntary and obligatory. Voluntary charity is generally mentioned in the Quran as ‘Infaq’ or ‘Ihsan’ or ‘Sadaqah’, and though the Holy Book is full of injunctions on this subject, and hardly a leaf is turned which does not bring to mind the grand object of the service of humanity as the goal of man’s life.
A charitable deed must be done as a duty which man owes to man, so that it conveys no idea of the superiority of the giver or the inferiority of the receiver. Love of God should be the motive of all charitable deeds, so that the every doing of them fosters the feeling that all mankind is but a single family. Only good things and well-earned money should be given in charity.
Charity has value only if something good and valuable is given, which has been honourably earned or acquired by the giver or which is produced in nature and can be referred to as bounty of God. These may include such things as are of use and value to others though they may be of less use to us or superfluous to us on account of our having acquired something more suitable for our station in life, for example discarded clothes, or an old horse or a used motor car.
But if the horse is vicious, or the car engine is so far gone that it is dangerous to use, then the gift is worse than useless; it is positively harmful, and the giver is wrong doer. It applies to fraudulent company promoters, who earn great credit by giving away in charity some of their ill-gotten gains, or to robbers (even if they call themselves by high sounding names) who ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’.
Charitable deeds may be done openly or secretly, although the latter form is better. Those who do not beg should be the first to receive charity. Obligatory charity is generally mentioned under the name of Zakat. Zakat is wealth which is taken from the rich and given to the poor.
The giving away of wealth to the poor members of the community, while, no doubt, a source of blessing to the individual, also increases the wealth of the community as a whole, and at the same time it purifies the giver’s heart of the inordinate love of wealth, which brings numerous sins in its train.
The two commandments, to keep up prayer and to give zakat, often go together and this combination of the two is met within the earliest chapters of the Quran as well in those which were revealed towards the end of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) life. Not only are prayer and charity mentioned together in a large number of passages but also these two are treated as being the basic ordinances of the religion of Islam.
The service of humanity and the amelioration of the condition of the poor have always been among the principal aims and objects of all religions. It is, however, true that the same stress has not been laid on this principle in previous religions, and, moreover the institution of charity like every other principle of religion, has been brought to perfection, along with the perfection of religion, in Islam.
Source: Khaleej Times, Dubai