Open Your Hearts to Charity

give1It 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.

Pearls of Peace – An extract from Surah Araaf

pearlsWith this message we begin Surah Al-Araf. Allah (swt) says, (This is the) Book (the Quran) sent down unto you (O Muhammad (sa)), so let not your breast be narrow there from, that you warn thereby, and a reminder unto the believers.” (Al-Araf 7:2) How fortunate we are that we have the Quran, which is an anti-depressant; yet how selfish we are that we do not communicate its gems and wonders with our friends and families. We recite the Quran, learn it, preserve it in our hearts and keep the knowledge to ourselves. The Prophet (sa) said, “The best among you is the one who learns the Quran and teaches it.” (Bukhari) If someone informed us that there is a university where from if we graduated we will get $150,000 per month we would have rushed to enrol ourselves in it. The Prophet (sa) is calling us to something better and we are not moved.

We have read Harry Potter and other similar books. We wait for their launch and fantasize the stories; but have we also read the Quran? If we have not read the Quran ourselves, how can we teach it to others and be amongst the best? This is the Book of Allah (swt), the word of the Creator which we have not even attempted to learn. That is why we don’t have peace in our lives.

We need to be careful of the devil’s plot. Shaytan says, “Then I will come to them from before them and behind them, from their right and from their left, and You will not find most of them as thankful ones (i.e. they will not be dutiful to You).” (Al-Araf 7:17) He beautifies sins for us and makes us fall for them. May Allah (swt) bless us the insight to distinguish between the straight path and the trap of Shaytan. Ameen.

Adam (as) and the treachery of Shaytan

Allah (swt) then mentions the story of Adam (as) that how he lost a certain place in Paradise due to the treachery of Shaytan. This teaches us an important lesson: if we fall for Shaytan, Allah (swt) will take away the blessing that He gave us. In this story, we also learn about clothing; which is both an adornment and a covering.

Clothe with piety

When we are invited to our friend’s house or some renowned politician, businessman or anyone famous, we pick up the best clothes that we can. We make sure our hair and our accessories are in order. We check ourselves out several times in the mirror before leaving the house. But how do we approach Salah? When the Maker of everything invites us to stand before Him for a private conversation that guarantees us everything that we desire, what clothes or condition are we in? Sometimes for Fajr Salah, we simply roll out of our beds, throw water on our face, perform a quick Wudhu and stand up in prayer in our sleeping pyjamas. Is that an attitude of gratitude towards Him Who rewards one good deed up to ten times?

Allah (swt) says, “O O Children of Adam! Take your adornment (by wearing your clean clothes), while praying and going round (the Tawaf of) the Ka’bah, and eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not Al-Musrifun (those who waste by extravagance).” (Al-Araf 7:31) Do not be extravagant in your clothing. When one looks today at the prices of bridal and semi-formal clothing, he wonders where the money is coming from. An ordinary dress with trimmings of silk or Banarsi fabric and some embellishments is priced at 50,000 rupees or even more. Lawn which was the clothing of common people is now sold at Rs. 6,000. Allah (swt) says, “And the raiment of righteousness, that is better.” (Al-Araf 7:26)

Not only should the clothing be sanely priced, but also, it should serve the purpose for which it was created. And that is “covering”. Too tight, too short, too revealing is not the clothing of people of Taqwa. If Salah is not accepted in such clothes, how can one step out of their house wearing those welcoming gazes of strange men?

Choose the appropriate attire

If one has to shed their clothing in order to appear attractive in front of others, then they should know twenty years later, they will not have the same appearance. So why not attract people by your character and Taqwa, instead of superficial things? If we dress up according to how Allah (swt) commands us, we will, Insha’Allah, attract those who are best for us in the Sight of Allah (swt). Who doesn’t want a righteous companion? Everyone does! The righteous companion pushes us to give our very best to Allah (swt). Thus, let us not attract the filth and dress appropriately instead.

Allah (swt) has promised us that He will send messages and reminders to us in various forms. Some fortunate ones lived in the midst of the messengers. For later generations, there were people who had acquired knowledge from the messengers and disseminated it to others. And that is how it reached us.

What should be our attitude towards Allah’s (swt) messages?

Allah (swt) says, “O Children of Adam! If there come to you Messengers from amongst you, reciting to you, My Verses, and then whosoever becomes pious and righteous, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Al-Araf 7:35)

Two actions are required: Taqwa and reform. By being conscious of Allah (swt) and rectifying our faults, we will be free from anguish.

Dialogue between the dwellers of paradise and hellfire

Then we learn about a dialogue that takes place between the people of hellfire and the people of Paradise: “And the dwellers of the Fire will call to the dwellers of Paradise: Pour on us some water or anything that Allah has provided you with. They will say: Both (water and provision) Allah has forbidden to the disbelievers.” (Al-Araf 7:50)

What actions lead to hellfire?

Allah (swt) says, “Who took their religion as an amusement and play, and the life of the world deceived them. So this Day We shall forget them as they forgot their meeting of this Day, and as they used to reject Our verses (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.).” (Al-Araf 7:51) Materialism took over them. They were more attached to the material things than to their Maker. The love of Allah (swt) should exceed our love for every other being or thing. People who have taken religion as play and amusement, have chosen to ignore Allah (swt) (may Allah (swt) protect us). Hence, on the Day of Resurrection, Allah (swt) will disregard them.

How does one ignore Allah (swt)?

By not abiding to His rules and regulations, by not abstaining from His prohibitions, and by not following the commandments that He has ordained upon us. Move towards Allah (swt) even if it’s inch by inch. Our Prophet (sa) would say: “O Allah (swt), make faith appear beautiful to us and adorn our hearts with it, and make Kufr, sin and disobedience abhorrent to us. Make us of those who are rightly guided. Ameen.”

Befalling of a calamity – boon or bane?

Again we learn about calamities. One thing to remember is that a calamity is not always a punishment. While some people drown and die in floods, there’s someone in the same city who died in the state of prostration. Your heart gauges whether a calamity is destruction or a blessing. If you find contentment and peace in your heart, then you are blessed. It could be a mean to raise your status in the sight of Allah (swt). So be pleased with His decree.

Sometimes we see images of calamity-stricken areas and we notice almost the entire settlement has perished, except one house. Why it is that one house is saved while all the other houses collapsed? It could be because the resident of that house was engaged in enjoining good and forbidding evil. He did his duty, he forwarded the knowledge that he had acquired. If people didn’t pay heed, he would not be held accountable for it. Look at what Allah (swt) says, “So when they forgot the reminders that had been given to them, We rescued those who forbade evil, but We seized those who did wrong with a severe torment because they used to rebel (disobey Allah).” (Al-Araf 7:165)

Lesson to learn

The key to stay protected from Allah’s (swt) punishment, after we have reformed ourselves, is to remind others. Tell the brothers to come to the Masjid for Salah. Advise the sisters not to dress in a certain way. Remind, for reminders benefit the believers.

Pay full attention to the Quranic recitation

How would one feel if the CEO of the company is talking and no one is paying attention? Sometimes, we turn on the Quran recitation and continue chatting on the side; paying absolutely no attention to what is being said. Allah (swt) warns us about this in the Quran, “So, when the Quran is recited, listen to it, and be silent that you may receive mercy. (I.e. during the compulsory congregational prayers when the Imam (of a mosque) is leading the prayer (except Surah Al-Fatihah), and also when he is delivering the Friday-prayer Khutbah).” (Al-Araf 7:204) Listening to Quran results in receiving Allah’s (swt) mercy, Subhan’Allah! Our mind and heart both should be attentive. Know that the one who receives the mercy of Allah (swt) is a person of high rank.


An Incident to Reflect

Opened_Qur'anIt is impossible to praise the Quran the way it deserves. The excellence, that the Quran portrays, makes all the words written about it seem very minute. When you keep reading and understanding the Quran, a strong relation is developed between you and the Quran. It becomes the mind with which you analyze things. It becomes the eyes with which you see the world. It becomes the heart with which you understand the world around you. You face a situation and all of a sudden you remember a verse. Sometimes a situation makes you understand the true meaning of a verse, which is not fully understood by reading the tafseer alone.

For example, Allah (swt) says that on the Day of Judgement, if a person would wish to give the whole world in ransom to free himself from the hellfire, it will not be accepted from him.

“Verily, those who disbelieve, if they had all that is in the earth, and as much again therewith to ransom themselves thereby from the torment on the Day of Resurrection, it would never be accepted of them, and theirs would be a painful torment.” (Al-Maida -36)

Moreover, that day will be so fearful that a person would want to give away his son, his wife and his close friend in ransom for himself but all of this would be in vain.

“That Day shall a man flee from his brother,And from his mother and his father And from his wife and his children. Everyman, that Day, will have enough to make him careless of others.” (Abasa 34-37)

 We however tend to forget that  we are performing at the center of the stage; every word that we speak with our tongues and every gesture that our body makes is being recorded.

Recently, we came back from a very long journey by road. We were exhausted and needed immediate rest. However, our lives are a test and most tests from Allah (swt) come at a time when we are emotionally venerable.

Arriving home we found out that there was some major fault with the electricity. This meant no fans! No fans meant no sleep. Alhumdulillah, we cannot thank Allah (swt) for all the blessings that He has bestowed over us. My brother went to start up the generator. Forlornly, he came and informed us that it was out of fuel.  Every one of us faces such drastic situations. We however tend to forget that  we are performing at the center of the stage; every word that we speak with our tongues and every gesture that our body makes is being recorded.

My mother at that time did not have enough cash for the fuel. At that moment I made an offer I would have never made in normal circumstances. I said, irritated, that I will give the money. I offered money from the precious treasure that I had earned on Eid: of course, the grand Eidi. I had made so many plans of spending my Eidi, but at that moment, all I wanted was the fan to start. I would have given every single penny I owned just for me to get relaxed.

I had made so many plans of spending my Eidi, but at that moment, all I wanted was the fan to start. I would have given every single penny I owned just for me to get relaxed.

There and then this verse came to my mind, that on the Day of Resurrection, a person would be ready to give every single possession he owned to save himself from the terrible heat of hellfire. As the thought revolved in my mind, I shivered and was shocked. I looked around. I was in my home. If there was no electricity, at least there was a cool breeze. I had cold water to drink and my stomach was well-fed. I was not standing bare-foot on a scorching ground. I understood the depth of the verse and got a small picture of the circumstances we have to face on the Day of Qiyamah.

May Allah (swt) enable us to inculate the Quran in our daily lives and understand the depth of its meaning as they apply to us.