It was September 29th, 2012 Stamford Hilton, Connecticut was packed with people. United for Change had arranged a conference. Notable speakers had been invited. Powerful speeches were given, stirring the souls and leaving the audience disturbed. Each speaker was revealing the true state of our community.
Another speaker appeared on the podium- wearing a winter cap, a scarf and a torn jacket. The torn jacket caught attention. One wondered if the speaker overlooked the tear while dressing up. She held a master’s degree. Her speech was slow and well-articulated, further confusing the audience as the torn clothing did not match her eloquence.
Irony with charity
The sister began her talk by unveiling life’s challenges and the tragedies that people encounter by a struck of fate. She then introduced us to a bag that she had brought – a bag filled with donated items. She took out a handheld vacuum, without a cord or battery- what purpose could it serve, the sister asked. Next, she took out canned food that someone had gifted, perhaps, while clearing out their pantry. A food item without any nutritional value is not food. She had many other tales to tell- each causing a stir and a deeper hurt. The audience was tongue-tied with eyes welling up.
She, then, took off her torn jacket. It was an item given by someone as an act of generosity, and not her choice of wardrobe for a conference. This sister was Asma Hanif, founder of Muslimat Al-Nisaa, a self-sufficiency shelter home for Muslim women and children in Baltimore, Maryland. Heading a charity, she had many accounts of people’s attitude – our attitude – towards charity.
Anybody can become vulnerable by a struck of fate. Natural disasters, family feuds, illnesses, separation or divorce, and death cause people to lose their properties and wealth. An independent, respectable life that they had been living is lost. They are now dependent on their families and communities for help.
Anybody can become vulnerable by a struck of fate. They are now dependent on their families and communities for help.
When disaster hits, temporary campaigns are launched and then it is a forgotten cause. We shell out some money and go about our businesses assuming things have been taken care of. We donated generously in 2005 when a 7.6 earthquake shook the Kashmir region. But what became of the affected families or how they are now, we have no clue.
During our annual cleaning, we take out our rags and drop them at the Edhi Center. When the food gets expired or burnt, we give it to our domestic help. Donating broken toys and non-functional appliances with missing parts, has become a norm. The requests from donation banks to be respectful of the recipients are completely ignored.
Charity and its etiquettes- in the light of Quran
1. Spend of the good things
Allah (swt) teaches the Adab (etiquette) of spending. Allah (swt) says, “O you who believe! Spend of the good things which you have (legally) earned, and of that which We have produced from the earth for you, and do not aim at that which is bad to spend from it, (though) you would not accept it save if you close your eyes and tolerate therein. And know that Allah is Rich (Free of all wants), and Worthy of all praise.” (Al-Baqarah 2:267).
How many of us will accept torn clothing, broken pieces and expired food? Allah (swt) says we will never accept it unless our eyes are closed and we cannot see what we are being given.
2. Share the spare
He also tells us, “And they ask you what they ought to spend. Say: That which is beyond your needs.”(Al-Baqarah 2:219)
After having filled your basic needs, look after those who are being tried and tested. By replacing wants with needs, we spend a fortune in the name of leisure and clothing, and fail to fulfil the needs of those around us.
3. All belongs to Him, and to Him all shall return!
He reminds us that whatever we are enjoying today is actually from Him. “O you who believe! Spend of that with which We have provided for you, before a Day comes when there will be no bargaining, nor friendship, nor intercession. And it is the disbelievers who are the Zalimun (wrong-doers, etc.)” (Al-Baqarah 2:254) If it is from Him there is a great danger of losing it one day as others have lost their properties.
4. Allah (swt) is the best accountant
While Shaytan threatens us with poverty, Allah (swt) promises us His bounty. “…And whatever you spend in good, it is for yourselves, when you spend not except seeking Allah’s Countenance. And whatever you spend in good, it will be repaid to you in full, and you shall not be wronged.” (Al-Baqarah 2:272)
5. Charity- A shield from Hell fire
Spending in for the sake of Allah (swt) is not a favour that we do, rather it is an obligation- as well as- a mean to draw closer to Him, and to save ourselves from the Fire. When people will be thrown in the Hell, they will be asked the reason for their entry. They will say that they were not of those who looked after the orphans and fed the poor.
Zakat is an obligation, but whoever does voluntary deeds, he must know that Allah (swt) is Appreciative and All-Knower. He describes multiple ways for drawing closer to Him. He commands us to believe in His Signs and give our wealth, in spite of our love for it.
“…but Al-Birr is (the quality of) the one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the Angels, the Book, the Prophets and gives his wealth, in spite of love for it, to the kinsfolk, to the orphans, and to Al-Masakin (the poor), and to the wayfarer, and to those who ask, and to set slaves free, performs As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and gives the Zakat, and who fulfill their covenant when they make it, and who are As-Sabirin (the patient ones, etc.) in extreme poverty and ailment (disease) and at the time of fighting (during the battles). Such are the people of the truth and they are Al-Muttaqun.” (Al-Baqarah 2:177)
People ask: “Shall we feed those whom, if Allah willed, He (Himself) would have fed?” We forget, while others are being tried by not having enough, we are being tested by having more than our needs.
Allah (swt) tells us, “And whosoever is saved from his own covetousness, such are they who will be the successful.” (Al-Hashr 59:9)
Let us open up our hearts, and give out generously in the Way of Allah (swt) and for His sake- seeking only His pleasure.