Thursday, May 04, 2006

Charity - A Muslim's Obligation

With over 1 billion people in the world living with a consumption level below $1, and nearly 3 billion with consumption levels below $2, poverty has become a global catastrophe. Poverty wears many faces, changing from place to place, and has been described in numerous ways. Poverty is a call to action, a call to change the world so that more people may have enough to eat, have adequate shelter, or access to education and health.

Charity as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary: 1: benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity. 2: generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also: aid given to those in need

Charity as defined by Islam: One of the Five Pillars of Islam. An aspect of our din that is so important it is specifically mentioned in 57 different ayat in al-Quran and 284 sahih hadith from Bukhari and Muslim.

There is Zakat which is obligatory upon every Muslim; however we often forget the rewards of everyday charity. Giving above and beyond what is required of us. In Islam we understand the varying degrees of charity and whom they apply to; One should work and offer of his earnings, if one can not work, then they can volunteer their time and efforts to the poor and needy, if at last the can not do that, then they should encourage others to do good deeds.

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Amr:
A person asked Allah's Apostle "What (sort of) deeds in or (what qualities of) Islam are good?" He replied, "To feed (the poor) and greet those whom you know and those whom you don't know." Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 2, Number 27

As you can see, the virtue of charity is looked upon with the utmost importance. The often forgotten attribute of our Islamic character, charity is so important that time and time again in the Quran Allah ties prayer and charity together in the same verses.

And be steadfast in prayer; practice regular charity; and bow down your heads with those who bow down (in worship)” Holy Quran 2:43

“But those among them, who are well-grounded in knowledge, and the believers, believe in what hath been revealed to thee and what was revealed before thee: And (especially) those who establish regular prayer and practice regular charity and believe in Allah and in the Last Day: To them shall We soon give a great reward.” Holy Quran 4:162

In the second Surah of the Quran, Al-Baqara, the references to prayer followed by charity is mentioned no less then 5 times. Is this by accident? No, we know that Allah chose for us the most perfect message in Al-Quran and the lessons he repeats throughout are the lessons that are more important then others. Should not we take heed to these words? The command for charity, for support of your family, friends, and community is something fundamental to the Muslim Ummah.

Narrated Anas:
The Prophet said, "None of you will have faith till he wishes for his (Muslim) brother what he likes for himself." Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 2, Number 12

The command for charity is something that is something that is enjoined upon every Muslim, often referring to both men and women, or to “people” in general making his commands universal:

“For those who give in Charity, men and women, and loan to Allah a Beautiful Loan, it shall be increased manifold (to their credit), and they shall have (besides) a liberal reward.” Holy Quran 57:18

Narrated Haritha bin Wahab:
I heard the Prophet saying, "O people! Give in charity as a time will come upon you when a person will wander about with his object of charity and will not find anybody to accept it, and one (who will be requested to take it) will say, "If you had brought it yesterday, would have taken it, but to-day I am not in need of it” Sahih Bukhari Volume 2, Book 24, Number 492

Charity is something best done for no other reward then the pleasure of Allah; No want of reward or expectations should be placed on charity because it is a good deed meant for the heart of the giver and the recipient. Islam asks for and rewards selflessness.

“Those who (in charity) spend of their goods by night and by day, in secret and in public, have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” Holy Quran 2:274

Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet (p.b.u.h) said, "Seven people will be shaded by Allah under His shade on the day when there will be no shade except His. They are: …
(6) A person who practices charity so secretly that his left hand does not know what his right hand has given (i.e. nobody knows how much he has given in charity). Sahih Bukhari Volume 2, Book 24, Number 504

The act of charity is something meant for all of mankind to participate in for the benefit of all mankind. Muslims have been commanded by Allah and shown the examples of the Rasool Allah, we can not and should not want, except for wanting Allah; we should not need, except needing Allah; Our duty, our desire; For Allah, for ourselves and for all mankind let us endeavor to put and end to crisis of world poverty.

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