By Moin Qazi
You will not attain righteousness unless you give of that which you love.(Q 3: 92)
The idea that helping others is part of a meaningful life has been around for thousands of years.For Muslims. Charity is a central aspect of their faith and practice. In Islam, a culture of giving is interwoven into the fabric of its forms of worship. Helping people experiencing poverty is a religious mandate. The traditions of humanitarian stewardship and egalitarian values are the foundation of Islamic beliefs. Governed by a worldview in which all things come from God and finally return to God, Muslims are taught to live as trustees of God’s blessings. Islam is a way of life, and one important facet is the duty to serve those less privileged than us. The equitable division of society’s wealth and the earth’s bounty between all people, regardless of their social station, through the instrument of charity is seen not just as an act of piety but as a cardinal obligation for Muslims. Ramadan is the focal point of philanthropy: during this month, Islam’s commitment to give to people experiencing poverty intensifies.
Muslims are taught to live as trustees of God’s blessings. Along with fasting and prayers, charity is also a cardinal act of piety.The Quran provides both a spiritual framework for possessing wealth and practical guidelines for dispensing. The Quran says if we believe all things ultimately belong to God, it is necessary to spend everything following the plan of God. Frugality in our own lives and generosity with others underpins the Quran’s message of charity.
Muslims give in the form of either zakat, mandatory giving, or sadaqa, voluntary and meant to go beyond mere religious obligations. Ramadan brings nearly 2 billion Muslims worldwide together under a common tradition. This social bond is deepened in Ramadan through zakat. Zakat is more of a social contract between rich and poor societies where serving others in distress and hardship is an unconditional moral command. The idea of zakat is based on the direct, legitimate claim of the poor on the wealth of the rich. Zakat means purification and comes from the Arabic verb zakat, which also signifies “to thrive,” “to be pure”, and “to be wholesome.” Muslims “purify” their wealth by giving a portion of it every year to charity. As the Quran says, “Of their goods, take zakat so that you might purify and sanctify them.” (Quran 9:103)
In Islam, spending for the sake of God purifies the heart of the love of material wealth and sharpens benevolence. In a way, the man who spends his wealth reaffirms that nothing is dearer to him than the love of God and that he is fully prepared to sacrifice everything for his sake.
The Quran emphasizes, “And be steadfast in prayer and regular in charity: And whatever good ye send forth for your souls before you, ye shall find it with Allah.” (Quran 2:110)
Deeply embedded in the Islamic concept of zakat are the notions of welfare, altruism and justice, which can be seen as a way of harnessing the human potential to resolve insurmountable challenges to human society. In other words, charity and altruism are rooted in the primary concern for the welfare of others. At the same time, Islam has added the notion of justice, which is seen as building a just and equitable society. In the Quran, the significance of zakat appears to be equal to prayer as an expression of faith.The two are often mentioned simultaneously in the symmetrical rhythm of the holy book’s verses.
A well-known saying of Prophet Muhammad illustrates the importance of every part of a person’s body performing a charity.
The real magic of giving lies in the way you present. It must not be with an eye on the returns; giving with attached motives nullifies one’s happiness and burdens the receiver. After planting your seeds, you should expect absolutely nothing in return. It is nobler to follow the biblical injunction, “Let not thy right hand knows what thy left-hand doeth.” You are as nourished as the receiver when you give to someone with no strings attached.
Kahlil Gibran emphasizes that we should give with our whole being, with our entire heart, a pouring out of our genuine love — remember, half a seed cannot germinate. He writes in “The Prophet,” “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” He further suggests, “Give while the season of giving is here so that your coffer is not empty when you die.”